Shoot During The Golden Hours
The warm, golden light of the sun when it’s low in the horizon—in the few hours before and after sunrise and sunset—is wonderful for all types of photography. This type of light is especially beautiful when shooting autumn colors. At these times of day, the light is warm toned, helping to enhance the warm fall colors.
So, for especially saturated fall colors, shoot in the first and last hours of daylight. In fact, here’s a good guideline: Shoot when the sun casts a shadow of you that is longer than you actually are.
Use A Polarizing Filter
A polarizing filter can make all the difference for fall photography in terms of the color saturation. A polarizer will eliminate glare and haze and will make the colors in your scene more vibrant and dramatic. The reds will be redder, the yellows more golden, the skies a richer shade of blue.
If you are looking to capture fall photos with rich, saturated hues, a polarizing filter is essential
Shoot on Overcast days
Overcast days can be a great time to capture the colors of fall.
The light on an overcast day is soft, even and diffuse. That means that there are no strong shadows and the contrast is low. So colors come out rich and real. And the overcast lighting can add a romantic, almost ethereal mood to your images.
Keep in mind, though, that overcast lighting tends to have a cool, bluish cast and that can clash with warm fall colors. So be sure to adjust your white balance to take this into account. Try switching to the “Cloudy” white balance setting or opt for a custom setting if that doesn’t work for you. Better yet, you may want to try shooting in the RAW format so you can fine-tune the white balance to your heart’s content at a later time.
But Don’t Rule Out Sunny Days…
While you are usually better off avoiding the harsh sun of midday, there’s still something to be said for shooting on a bright fall day. Specifically, clear fall days can often mean deep blue skies and the contrast between those skies and rich fall colors can make for an awesome photo.
On these types of days, take advantage of the occasional white, fluffy cloud to diffuse the sunlight or look for areas of open shade.
Be on the Lookout For Images that Showcase the Contrast Of Colors
Be on the lookout for compositions that show the play of contrasting colors.
We already talked about photographing autumn reds and golds against a deep blue sky. That type of color scheme—one that features the fall colors along with a single contrasting hue—can really punch up the interest factor for the viewer. An example of this might be gold, red or orange foliage against the backdrop a lush green pine tree.
Go Big and Small
There’s so much to photograph in the fall—a groove of fiery red trees, a kaleidoscopic landscape, a stunning autumn lakeside sunset… But with all these grand vistas, don’t forget to go small too.
Keep an eye out for small objects and especially those that you can get up close and personal with, capturing the details.
So watch out for colorful patches of leaves, interesting rocks, the autumn-colored reflections in a calm pond.
Experiment with White Balance
You may need to work with and adjust your white balance setting to get the most of the fall colors. The best setting can change with the time of day, the weather and the lighting.
Generally, you’ll want to use the “Cloudy” or “Shade” setting if you are shooting on an overcast day since that light tends to be cool and bluish. Clear days can sometimes be shot using the “Daylight” white balance setting, but you may also want to experiment by using the “Cloudy” setting then too and see how that looks.
Whatever the setting, remember that the goal is to enhance the warmth of the autumn hues. So check your photos often and adjust the white balance setting, making note of how the change affects your photos. And don’t be afraid to experiment with different white balance settings to see if your like the effect.
Consider Shooting Raw
If you have the option, consider shooting your photos in the RAW format.
When you shoot in RAW, the camera records everything seen by the image sensor. And you have all of that data available to you in the editing process. This means that you have a lot of options in terms of adjusting your camera settings after the fact. So if you don’t get the white balance right, if your color saturation isn’t quite up to snuff, if you need to slightly tweak the exposure, you can change all of these things and more later on if you’ve shot the image in RAW.
Shooting in RAW gives you more latitude if you plan on editing your photos.
Use A Tripod
Using a tripod is an easy way to improve your fall photography.
Images of autumn landscapes come out better if you use a tripod because it eliminates camera shake. A tripod is a necessity when you are shooting in low light, which you often are when you are photographing in the hours around dusk and dawn.
If you want to zoom in to capture the details of the fall foliage, a tripod will be your best friend because zooming in magnifies camera movement as much as it magnifies your subject. A tripod can eliminate that movement. Shooting on a tripod allows you to shoot at a lower ISO setting, which keeps graininess to minimum.
Don’t forget the Composition
Colorful fall leaves can be a lot of fun to photograph.
But there’s more to autumn than just the leaves. And there’s more to creating a strong image than rich color.
So consider your composition as well as the color. You can add interest, texture and perspective to your fall pictures by including other elements— fences walls, buildings, water, and rocks. By doing this, the fall colors remain the primary component of your image, but the other elements help to tell a bigger story.
Finally, don’t Poo Poo Post Processing
If your images don’t come out as you had hoped, there’s always the option for post processing.
There’s nothing wrong with editing your photos—with Photoshop Elements, Lightroom 5, PaintShop Pro or the like—to enhance them. You can you’re your photo, kick up the saturation, sharpen it and enhance the colors with different filters. And this is especially true if you’ve shot your images in the RAW format.