With the change of seasons upon us, fall imagery is in high demand. Whether you’re looking for traditional symbols or outside-the-box imagery, keywords are the primary, and most crucial, elements of your image search. With this fall keyword guide, you’ll see how to maximize Shutterstock’s search features to uncover the perfect fall imagery.

1. Search for Autumn Symbols and Emotions

You don’t have to search deep within your soul to uncover the season’s iconic symbols: leaves, pumpkins, cider, and sweater are all fitting keywords that guarantee a wide array of fall-centric photos. But it might be worth dusting off some personal memories of the season to find those less obvious keywords. Do these memories lead you down a less traditional path?

For example, many people might have memories of travel in Fall (I think of the Hogwarts Express, which I unfortunately was not on, but which set out for Hogwarts each Fall to begin the school year). And when you think of travel, you might think of cars, train tracks, maybe bicycles. All of these, combined with the autumn keyword, get you somewhere beyond the typical foliage shot.

<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=385027252&src=lb-49571689?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by Naumenko Aleksandr</a>
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=283600490&src=lb-49571689?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by iravgustin</a>

Pictured: [1] Image by Naumenko Aleksandr [2] Image by iravgustin

You can also use adjectival or emotion keywords, which let you search for images with a specific feeling attached to them. Some characteristic fall adjectives are cozy, earthy, spooky, rustic, or brisk. Pairing adjectival keywords with a symbol keyword is a precise way to search for images. For example, you may search for happy and leaves separately, but when you search for them together they return a much more specific batch of images.

girl playing leaves
Image by Philippe Put

Try a simple emotion + autumn pairing — each will return unique results. Here’s cozy + autumn.

cozy autumn cat
Image by Alena Ozerova

Find more ideas for unique fall keywords here.

2. Search for Seasonal or Unexpected Colors

No season has a stronger color palette than fall: orange, red, yellow, and brown are intrinsically linked to this time of year, especially when used together. Images with these distinctive colors will automatically trigger fall feelings — even if there’s no fall symbolism attached. Our Palette tool is an excellent way to find abstract patterns and photos in this vein.

birds flying migrating sunset
Image by Protasov AN

You can also play around with cool tone colors to find unexpected images with an autumn feeling. Try this directly in the search bar: autumn + blue, a non-traditional color for the season that brings some unique imagery to the front page.

<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=211328317&src=lb-49571689?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by Number1411</a>
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=328962305&src=lb-49571689?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by flil</a>
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-310506674.html?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by </a>

Pictured: [1] Image by Number1411 [2] Image by flil [3] Image by


3. Search Illustrations for Innate Charm

Autumn imagery doesn’t stop at photos. There are millions of images in the Shutterstock collection that can capture the spirit of Fall in ways than an image cannot. Try the above search method, but toggle on the vector or illustration option in the “Filter by” tab.

<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=476869579&src=lb-49571689?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by Svitlana Siabrenko</a>
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=87619789&src=lb-39199625?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by IR Stone </a>
<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-225839257/stock-vector-hello-autumn-seamless-texture-with-cute-fox-and-oak-branch-vector-illustration-225839257.html?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by happy_fox_art</a>

Pictured: [1] Image by Svitlana Siabrenko [2] Image by IR Stone [3] Image by happy_fox_art

You can narrow down the illustration/vector search by keywording a specific art style. For example, search autumn + watercolor for a specific crop of illustrations, or try autumn + flat design for modern looking fall vectors.

autumn lighthouse flat design
Image by sub job

4. Search Backwards With Reverse Image Search

This is an excellent way to source images based on the inspiration you find online or in-person. Whether you snap a quick photo of a fall landscape or find one on Pinterest that you can’t license, here’s a simple way to find a similar image for your project.

We found this photo of Central Park on Pinterest. Reverse image search lead us to this photo in our collection:

<a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/pic-336333407/stock-photo-central-park-and-manhattan-upper-west-side-with-colorful-fall-foliage-the-aerial-view-includes-buildings-of-central-park-west-the-lake-and-the-jacqueline-kennedy-onassis-reservoir-new.html?src=undefined-1-2?pl=CONTENT-blog&cr=keywordsautumn">Image by Francois Roux</a>

Pictured: Image by Francois Roux

Sometimes there’s no time for search — that’s we’ve curated tons of fall-themed lightboxes for you. Check out Autumn in the City for an urban look at fall, All for Autumn for fall patterns, vectors, and illustrations, or simply Autumn for all the best things in the season.