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10 Tips for Colorful Fall Photos

October 21, 2021 by Marie Joabar

Autumn provides shutterbugs of all levels the chance to photograph any and everything with a colorful fall back drop. Although it’s a bit slow this year, soon we’ll be at peak so get your cameras ready for some beautiful fall landscapes and seasonal portraits of family and friends.

Consider these 10 tips for exciting fall photos.
1. When shooting portraits (formal or informal) frame your subject against a background that expresses the mood you want to convey; bright and cheery, dark and moody, or fun and whimsical. Use a large aperture such as f2.8 - f4 for a shallow depth of field to help blur the background. For group shots, use a midrange aperture (f8) so that everyone’s face is sharp. (Portrait photo by Cat Simmons).

2. For your landscape shots of colorful vistas, use a small aperture such as f11, f16 or f22 to capture as much detail as possible, especially if you have an interesting foreground. A wide-angle lens is a must if you want those expansive shots with extended depth of field. The closer your foreground, the smaller the aperture should be to render everything sharp.

3. Shoot from different angles for a unique shot. Get low to the ground and frame a pathway of leaves leading up to the trees in the distance. Look up and frame yellow or orange leaves against a bright blue sky. 

4. Fall is a great time to use a macro lens for extreme close ups showing the tiny details on leaves, fall flowers, seed pods, etc.  If you don’t have a dedicated macro lens, try close up filters. Although not as sharp as a macro lens, they offer an affordable way to get super close to your subject.

5. Get Creative! 
- Try camera movement for some abstract colorful shots filled with reds, yellows and oranges and you’ll have a lot fun doing it.
- While shooting zoom the lens (zooms), turn the camera (swirls) or move it up or down (swipes). Set a small aperture (f16 or 22) and a low ISO so you can use a slow enough shutter speed for the intended movement. You may need a polarizer to help prevent overexposure. 
- Take photos that are intentionally soft focus. Give a dreamy effect to a winding forest path with soft focus. A soft filter, a piece of lace covering the lens or even a little breath on the lens can produce this effect. The selective soft focus from a special effect lens like the Lensbaby lets you control sharpness very precisely and the effects can be stunning. Multiple exposure is another option to help with soft focus, just move the camera ever so slightly between shots.

6. Early morning and late afternoon offer the best and most colorful light to work with. The sun is lower in the sky and its light is golden adding a beautiful richness to an already warm scene. There is also less contrast at these times.  Also, plan your destinations by the time of day. For example, plan to shoot a west facing scene in the morning for a scene bathed with warmth. Shoot an east facing scene in the afternoon when it is lit from the west.

7. Fall provides some of the best opportunities to find fog around rivers, ponds and streams as the cool morning air moves over the water. It also occurs in areas without water because the longer nights cool the air and increase humidity. Take advantage of this and get out early to capture it.

8. Celebrate cloudy days for the soft light they offer. The larger the light source, the softer the light so think of a cloudy sky as a giant softbox diffusing the light, eliminating dark shadows and the jarring contrast of a sunny day. This light works beautifully for posing couples and family. If you have no choice to shoot in the harsh midday sun, consider carrying a large diffuser and also an off-camera flash to ‘fill in’ the shadows.

9. A circular polarizing filter will help to remove glare on the leaves, even on a cloudy day. They’ll also add increased saturation and contrast. If shooting near water, it can allow you to see through the water by removing the glare and reflection. Don’t leave home without it.

10. Try setting your cameras White Balance to Cloudy to warm up the color of the leaves. The WB setting of Shade will warm it up even further and exaggerate the reds, yellows and oranges.

You don’t have to venture far for exciting fall shots, look no further than your downtown area or your neighborhood streets to capture fall decorated shops, porches or city scenes.

No matter where you are, work an entire scene and capture all that it offers; from the wide shot capturing an expanse of vibrant colors, to a lone showy tree, to the intricate detail of a single leaf.