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Colorful Captures: Fall Photography Tips

Fall is such a photogenic time of year. Make the most of your seasonal snaps with these pro tips and techniques.

fall photography

“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – Anne of Green Gables.

Fall photography is my favorite. It is the best time of the year to hop in the car with my camera and see where the road takes me. With fall comes cooler weather, changes in leave colors, magical fall light and active wildlife. On a hike, a road trip or in your own backyard, the views are always great, the inspiration endless. 

Planning Ahead

Check Fall Color Reports 

First, you want to make sure you are seeing peak fall foliage.

Check your local fall color report to find out when leaf peeping is prime. I call Minnesota home and our Department of Natural Resources site offers a foliage report with daily updates and pictures of the various state parks and how the leaves are progressing. You can even compare with past years to try and plan your travels in advance.

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The Northeast region is well-known for its grand fall color displays, so you are sure to find great foliage throughout the season. SmokyMountains.com provides a useful map of the entire United States with leaf peak predictions and current updates.

Pro Tip: If you plan to visit a popular fall color destination, I highly recommend booking your trip up to a year in advance. Campgrounds and hotels can book quite far out. 

fall photography

Fall Photography Tips

Recommended Gear

You want to be able to shoot wide and close-up for a variety of shots. Wide-angle lenses are great for landscapes. I recommend a 16-35mm or anywhere in between. For a zoom lens, I like 70-200mm; it is a great lens for portraits and wildlife. 

Best Time to Shoot

There really is never a bad time for fall photography. I like shooting at all times of the day. A sunny day will yield brighter colors and more contrast between darks and lights. An overcast day will yield muted colors but more even light. Don’t let a rainstorm deter you from venturing out either. Storms can produce crazy clouds and rainbows. Sunset and sunrise and the hour beforehand (aka golden hour) are a must-do for beautiful, warm fall photos. 

Pro Tip: You can find sunset and sunrise times from all over the world on this website. 

fall photography

Warm Up Your Photos

You can add warmth to your images by adjusting your camera’s white balance. This will really help make those fall colors pop. Most cameras come with preset white balance options. Look for the shade or cloudy white balance option and switch your settings to one or the other. For the best results, try them both out to see which looks better. 

You can also warm your images up later in post-processing by adjusting the white balance in a photo editing program like Photoshop or Lightroom. To do this, move the blue/yellow white balance slider towards the yellow side. 

Learn more about white balance and other camera setting options here.

Creative Techniques 

If you want your fall photography from ordinary to extraordinary try out some of these creative techniques. 

Slow Shutter Speed

Use a slow shutter to catch leaves as they fall from the trees. A slow shutter creates a blurred effect which adds some visual interest to images. In the image below, my shutter was set to 1/30 second. If there are no leaves falling, try staging it by using a tripod and throwing a few in front of the lens. I like this tripod by Rangers as its small and lightweight, making it perfect for travel. Alternately, if you want to freeze the motion of the falling leaves your shutter speed should be above 1/300.

fall photography

Capture the Details

When it comes to fall photography, it’s all about the leaves. Shoot the leaves close up to show the intricacy of the leaves. I recommend a large aperture for this – f/2 is a good starting point.

fall photography

Creative Framing 

Use branches and leaves to creatively frame your subject. You can even hold leaves up to your lens to aid in framing your subject.

fall photography

Find Different Viewpoints

I like to look for hikes that will take me to a higher vantage point. To research hikes, I recommend checking out AllTrails

fall photography

Fly High

If you really want a unique viewpoint, rent a drone to take with on your adventure. Make sure to check the state’s regulations on drones. A lot of State Parks frown upon it and National Parks have banned them. 

Fall is fleeting, so make sure to soak up every little moment that you can. Happy snapping!

Beth Mancuso is a professional photographer. All photos are hers. 

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