Fall Foliage Photography 101, Part 1

fall-leavesTo many, the arrival of fall means football, pumpkins and the unmistakable noisy crunch of fallen leaves. It also happens to be one of the best times of year to take out your camera or snap away on your smartphone. The brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves provide ample photo opportunities, whether as the subject or as a backdrop or prop in portraits. In this two-part series, we’ll take you through the basics of fall foliage photography as well as some more advanced tips guaranteed to take your fall photos to the next level.

Tip #1: When Should I Photograph?

When trying to capture the brilliant colors of fall foliage, keep in mind that time of day, weather conditions and peak foliage season all play significant roles. Experts recommend photographing during the first and last hours of sunlight. The warm, golden light at sunrise and sunset especially brings out the reds and golds in the leaves.

If you’re stuck with an overcast day, don’t despair. Cloudy days are often unfairly overlooked. Clouds mean that the sun won’t drown out the brilliant leaf colors, plus you’ll get softer shadows throughout the composition.

Finally, don’t worry if you miss peak leaf-peeping season. Sometimes the best shots come just after the leaves have fallen. Try taking a photo of a tree with just a few remaining leaves, or the carpet of leaves covering the forest floor, for example. If you’re near water sources, look for streams with rocks covered in leaves – the contrasting colors can make for a great photo.

Tip #2: Scatter the Leaves Yourself

You may be content leaving things up to chance, hoping to stumble on the perfect arrangement of leaves in the perfect location, but shooting fall foliage is one of the few times you’re not at the mercy of nature. Instead, gather fallen leaves as you make your way to your shooting location, and then strategically arrange them however you want. Be careful that your arrangement still looks natural, though. Too many leaves placed color-side up are a dead giveaway that you’ve interfered with Mother Nature.

If it’s too windy to create the leaf composition you want, bring home some leaves to create your own “leaf studio.” Tape leaves to a large window with lots of natural sunlight, and you can take amazing close-up shots.

Tip #3: Capture Color Combinations

Capturing the contrasting colors so characteristic of fall scenery can be tricky but worth the effort. Red and yellow leaves framed against the bright blue sky create stunning contrast. On an overcast day, focus on streams or waterfalls, where bright leaves may be scattered on gray rocks or debris. And if it starts to rain, don’t pack up too quickly – a little bit of drizzle can really help saturate autumn colors.

Tip #4: Make a Mirror Reflection

If you come across a body of water, try photographing the reflection of autumn colors in it. You’ll get the best results on a windless day, when the mirror is as crisp as possible. An uninterrupted mirror image can create too static a picture, however, so look for logs or rocks in the water to break up the reflection a bit.

You’ll also want to be sure you’re backing up and sharing your photos with friends and loved ones using the Fasetto app. In our next post in this series, we’ll delve into even more compositional ideas, as well as advanced technical tips for the more seasoned photographer.


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