Wondering how your favourite landscape photographer gets such stunning Instagram worthy fall pictures? Read on for 9 pointers to enhance your autumn photos.
Autumn is probably the most eye catching time of the year for photography. The bright colored leaves are irresistible and the weather is usually in your favor so you’re not suffering from the heat or cold. Unfortunately this season passes so quickly that you want to make the most of it before the all the leaves have fallen. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the fall season this year in case you’re struggling with Fall Pictures.
Best Time of the Year for Fall Photos
The best time to take fall pictures is when the leaves have turned colors but the majority have not fallen yet. This usually only leaves you with about a two week window for the absolute best photos. The best time of year to capture these colorful leaves will vary depending on how far north or south you are from the equator. Anywhere between mid September and early November is going to be the prime time to enjoy the colors in the northern hemisphere. For those living in the southernmost states, late October to early November will be the best time, while those living in the northernmost states up to midway through the Canadian provinces can expect peak viewing times of late September to mid October.
Best Locations to View Fall Foliage
The wonderful thing about fall is that it affects all deciduous trees. As long as you can find some deciduous trees, you will be able to take some fall pictures. Local parks are great locations for pretty scenes, however you may want to venture a little farther from home into a state, provincial, or national park for the highest concentration of colorful leaves. A quick online search will help you locate some beautiful parks near you. Sometimes even taking a short drive to a quiet country road will reward you with some beautiful views.
Best Time to Take Photos Outside
The best lighting one can hope for in outdoor fall pictures (and any other type of photo) is golden hour. This is the 1 hour period following sunrise and the 1 hour period prior to sunset. This will give you the softest and most flattering lighting of the day. The light also tends to be warmer (more orange) which complements the colorful leaves well. You won’t have harsh shadows during this time, which will help you clearly see all the parts of your landscape in your shots.
Best Weather for Outdoor photos
There is no best weather for fall pictures! Sunlight can be amazing for colorful leaves because it can make those colors seem even more vibrant, especially if you use the sun to back light your leaves. However, don’t shy away from overcast skies. Much like golden hour it softens the light source and eliminates harsh shadows in your image which will allow you to clearly see all details in your scene. As an added bonus, having grey skies for your photos rather than washed out sunny skies can add nice contrast to colorful leaves, making them pop even more. A third option is to add a whole new atmosphere to your scene by capturing some early morning fog or mist in your shot! This can add an air of mystery to your scene, or a feeling of freshness.
Climbing up a bit of an elevation will always give you a fantastic view of the fall scenery! Sometimes this might mean climbing a mountain, and sometimes it might mean climbing a small hill or a boulder to get a bit of height. Either way will give you a great perspective of your scene that not everyone would think to look for. You can get a better sense of the whole landscape this way and often capture way more trees in your shot than if you had stayed at your original ground level!
Sometimes so much fall foliage has no beginning or end in sight, so adding a leading line into the photo will help bring the eye’s focus exactly where you want it in your fall pictures. Leading lines can come in the form of streams, roads, pathways and even branches and can help bring some order to your image. Change the angle you’re taking the photo from so that the leading line is sitting in the exact right location within your photo.
Focus on the Details
In addition to getting beautifully in focus landscape shots, you can go for a clean look by focusing on the details within your fall pictures. Get a close up shot of a few individual leaves, or go even closer to capture the macro details of a single leaf. Using a large aperture will allow you to blur your background and put the viewer’s focus on a specific element of your scene. It’s a wonderful way to simplify your image.
Still water has a way of drawing the eye of the viewer! Water can make it appear that there is even more color in your fall pictures by reflecting already existing color back at the viewer. To get a clear reflection, you’ll want to go to a pond or lake or puddle that is sheltered from the wind so that you don’t have ripples in the water. Otherwise you’ll want to go very early in the day before the wind starts blowing. Make sure you have a small aperture (high f-stop) and high shutter speed to capture the scene in crisp detail.
One of the most beautiful types of landscape photography are long exposure photos of moving subjects like waterfalls or streams of water. Taking these types of photos in combination with colorful fall leaves can be a photographer’s dream! Long exposure shots take a lot of trial and error to get right, so give yourself lots of time to work with and be patient with yourself if you don’t get it perfect on the first shot. Even seasoned photographers often take multiple shots with different settings before they are satisfied with their settings for perfect fall pictures.
Long exposure photos require you to work within your camera’s manual mode. By definition, long exposure shots have your camera shutter open for long periods of time, which can lead to your daytime image being so over exposed that your highlights are blown out and the image is too bright. It is impossible to tell you which exact settings to use on your camera during a long exposure, as the settings vary greatly based on the amount of available light, however the settings below are a great starting point during daylight for you to fine tune while out in your chosen landscape.
ISO: leave this as small as possible (ie 100). This will reduce your camera’s sensitivity to light which will help prevent your image from being too bright or blown out. In low light situations a small ISO will help minimize grain in your photos.
Aperture: When shooting long exposure images during the day, it is generally better to work with a small aperture. On your camera your aperture may also be called an F-Stop, and you should set your F-Stop number as high as possible (ie F22) in order to get a small aperture. The reason we want a small aperture is because we want LESS light making it into the camera, so that we can have the camera shutter open for a longer period of time, which will allow you to get motion blur in your photos.
Shutter speed: Now that we have the aperture and ISO setup, we will experiment with the shutter speed. This is where the number will vary greatly based on the amount of available light. A shutter speed of ½ to 1 second long might be a good starting point for your camera to be able to capture some movement in the scene without completely overexposing your scene. You can make the shutter speed longer if your image is not too overexposed to try to capture more motion in your image. All cameras won’t be able to keep your shutter open for very long during the day without blowing out your image so to fix this problem some photographers will invest in a neutral density filter.
Neutral Density (ND) Filter: This is a glass filter that attaches onto the end of your lens that reduces the amount of light that passes through your lens. Different ND filters will allow different amounts of light to pass through, so it is best to consult an employee at a local camera store to help you determine which ND filter is best for your needs. I would like to stress that ND filters ARE NOT necessary to take most types of photos, they are only worth the investment if you can afford it and if you plan to use it quite often for taking daytime long exposure shots.
Have fun with it
Remember to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and scenery while you’re out there! Don’t be afraid to play around with your settings and try new things in your photos. Photography is an art form so follow your gut and get inspired!