Top Ten Tips For Photographing Fall Color

Sleepy Hollow Barn, Woodstock, Vermont



When it comes to getting great autumn images there are many things that you can do to achieve success. The following list is just a brief summary of the top tips to adding impact. I encourage to go out and shoot as much as you can this fall and come up with your own top ten next year.


1)  Use the light to your advantage: It is necessary to consider the light when trying to maximize color when shooting fall foliage. The golden light of early mornings and late evening sunset work best. Avoid the harsh contrast light of midday light that strips subjects of their color. Also, do not be afraid to shoot in overcast weather just be careful not to include too much sky in your shot.

Wonder Lake, Denali National Park, Alaska

2)  Find colors that are complementary: Finding color in autumn is easy; trying to make visual sense is not. This means you need to consider how you arrange the colors in your image. Look for ways to match complementary colors or color contrasts. More specifically, I will choose compositions that accentuate the red of the leaves against the green grass or blue sky.


3)  Try different perspectives: The best way to achieve this is to use a variety of lenses and focal lengths. There are many ways to showcase autumn; don’t lock yourself into one approach. I always shoot both wide-angle and telephoto. The wide-angle does a great job of showing the larger landscape and the color within its environment. It gives the viewer a better understanding of the whole scene. On the other hand, the telephoto is great for isolating smaller details against contrasting textures. Both give a completely different feel to the mood but equally effective.


Tumwater Canyon, Leavenworth, Washington

4)  Shoot with a polarizer: always shoot with a polarizer to maximize color: Using a polarizer can really add an immediate impact to your image. The polarizer deepens the color of blue skies, provides more saturated colors, and reduces glare and reflections in bright or sunny conditions.


5)  Include reflections in the visual design: in a sense look for ponds, lakes, or any body of water to mirror the impact of color doubling the beauty. Water adds a sense of dimension and motion that adds to the depth and substance of the image.

Unusual Perspective, Vermont

6)  The tranquility of water and its reflection brings a subtle mood to your autumn images. When photographing using water don’t be afraid to break the rules of thirds. This is the time to go with a 50/50 in terms of composition.

7)  Use color in the image to tell a story: Use color deliberately in your story telling. Color is important but it is how we use it that really tells a story. Use the strongest colors in your foreground to grab your viewers attention; from their find patterns of color that connect the foreground to the background to really connect the image and tell a story. Too often we see one part of the image bold with great colors and nothing elsewhere. The image falls apart.


A Glimmer Of Hope, Vermont

8)  Shoot fall colors after a period of rain: Although not mentioned a lot in tips about fall photography. I have found my most successful fall images right after a rainstorm. The reasoning behind this is simple; the wet leaves are at their most vivid and the addition of rain adds another dimension to the image. Remember to combine this with a polarizer to reduce glare and reflection.


9)  Look for unique perspectives: Too often we see the same type of fall photography. The stock image of the fallen leaf on the ground; the forest of aspens, or the collage combination of several colors along a backcountry road. Challenge yourself to step out of the box and come up with something completely new. Creativity is what will set your photography above others.

Peak Color In Stowe, Stowe, Vermont


10)              Remember to not forget about the basics of photography just because of color: Although hard to describe I believe this is the most important tip to fall photography. Too often I become overwhelmed with the color and start shooting at the first sign of color. Because of the power of color I forget everything else in terms of composition. It is important to step back and take a deep breath. Maybe take a day to take in the sights without shooting. Once you have become accustomed to the color then you can coordinate color with composition. Remember color is just one part of what makes fall photography so interesting. Look for ways to bring all of your set skills into the image.

Alaskan Tundra - Denali National Park, Alaska

So that is a small list of tips to improve your fall photography. It is important to combine these tips with your style of photography to come up with a winning combination. Keep pressing the boundaries of creativity and develop a style that people can recognize as your own.

Changing Seasons, Owens Valley, Bishop, Eastern Sierras, California


~ by photocascadia on October 1, 2011.

5 Responses to “Top Ten Tips For Photographing Fall Color”

  1. Beautiful images… and a nice essay to get us all excited about the upcoming season!

  2. Such a great set of fundamentals that should be a big help to anyone’s fall photography. This really distills it down to the basics nicely. And your photography is excellent as always! Thanks for the helpful article Kevin.

  3. Excellent list. I especially like the suggestion of looking for color contrasts. I feel this is a subtlety a lot of people overlook, not just with fall foliage, but with landscape photography in general. For example, when it comes to the classic sunset landscape shot, a lot of people always go for making everything as red as they can get; however the red parts will stand out much better if you include other colors to contrast them against.

    The same can be said about fall foliage, and it’s one of the reasons I consider “peak” to actually be the time when there is still a lot of green in the trees, especially those wonderful sugar maples that tend to turn half-orange while the other half is still green. When everything is orange, it’s not as impressive.

    I’d also add… this is the best time of the year to shoot waterfalls (assuming the waterfall has sufficient flow). Not only can you get the color surrounding the waterfall, but a lot of times you can find colorful leaves floating in the pools below the waterfall.

  4. amazing colors !

  5. Excellent post and that lead image is fantastic. I wish tips #9 and 10 would pop up on my camera’s LCD when I turn it on.

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