Try these tips and tricks from expert photographers and capture the stunning colors of fall foliage—even when it’s the wrong season.
As the seasons turn from summer to fall in the Northern Hemisphere in the next few weeks, now’s the time to get out there and capture the colors of fall foliage. Whether you’re in Canada or northern parts of the United States, northern Germany or Romania, in Russia or in the far East in Sichuan, China or Seoraksan, Korea, autumn’s splendor is all around.
We asked some of our contributors who have spectacular examples of fall’s beauty in their portfolio to share some of their tips and tricks on how to capture this short, but brilliant season.
Timing is everything
Contributor DrivingJackPhotography said one of the keys to taking pictures of foliage in autumn is about timing and luck with the weather. “I try to plan trips during the times of peak color. Northern U.S. is typically late September to early October. It migrates southward as the season progresses.”
But if it does rain on your photoshoot, then no worries, work with it, he adds. “If that’s the case, go for puddle reflections. Or wait for sunrise and get the water droplets on bright colored leaves.”
Likewise, Shutterstock contributor Roman Brechko said to take advantage of fall’s foggy and rainy weather as they show the colors as more pastel. “Autumn is so polyhedral that you can find interesting and moody stories almost any weather,” he said.
Roman added the best time of day to shoot is during the “blue” and “golden” hours towards the end of the day. However, compared to other seasons, Roman said the autumn light isn’t as harsh as other seasons, allowing photographers to shoot during a lot of the day.
Early in the morning before daybreak can also be an opportune time to capture fall’s splendor, according to Shutterstock Contributor Ondřej Prosický. “I like most mornings in the countryside and I don’t mind the time shortly before the daybreak.
This is the time, when the temperature is the lowest and it causes the best visibility without any haze from dispersed humidity, which reduces contrast if we capture the landscape by a telephoto lens. Similar conditions can occur shortly after the sunset. In both cases the first and the last sun rays can be perfectly used.”
Scout your location
Roman said he looks for locations where autumn colors will be particularly bright and tries to visit these places during the fall season. Roman said he often plans the location for his fall shoots throughout the year so that when the short but spectacular bursts of color show, he doesn’t miss them during their peak.
DrivingJackPhoto said in order to show autumn in all its beauty, you should look for a location that’s rich in autumn colors. For example, trees like larch, birch, maple, beech, and some fruit trees are known for having bright fall colors.
Choose the right gear
DrivingJackPhoto said he likes to use long exposure to capture vivid color. And if it’s a far enough distance, he shoots f/5, 6-f/6.3, but typically will stick to f/16-f/22. He also doesn’t have any special equipment other than a tripod and an ND filter.
Roman said he doesn’t use any special equipment in particular but recommends using polarizing filters to help make colors more saturated, contrasting, and brighter. He also advises using wide angle and telephoto lenses as well as a tripod for capturing that perfect fall shot.
Ondřej also recommends a polarizing filter. He said this type of filter helps to remove the reflections, which results in much bolder colors. He added that a polarizing filter also helps reduce a great range of light and shadow and can be particularly effective after rain or even during a light rain.
So get out there and make the most of this short but intense period of the year when you’re bound to capture something truly astounding!
Top photo by Vadim Georgiev.
Want more tips on shooting fall colors? Check these out.
- 8 Photographers Share Their Adventures in Forests around the World
- 5 Tips for Taking Stunning Wildlife Photos in Autumn
- 5 Photographers on the Best Places for ‘Leaf-Peeping’ in Fall
- Natural Light Photography: How to Take Photos at Any Time of Day
- 7 Photographers on Shooting Outstanding Botanical Shots