Fall Photography Tips

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Fall is a great time of year for photography, with the changing colors, early misty mornings, and the days closing in means you don't have to get up at an unearthly hour capture a nice sunrise. In this article I'll share some tips to help you get better Fall photos.


You can capture some great fall photos by photographing the colorful trees reflected in water. For a mirror-like reflection, you are best photographing in the early morning as the sun comes up. At this time of day there is less wind, so the water will be stiller than later in the day.

Reflecting on the change of seasons - Autumnal reflection in a puddle (HDR)
Reflecting on the change of seasons - NJ by b k on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

If photographing both the trees and their reflection, try to frame the shot so that there is a rock or log, or something else in the water that breaks up the reflection.

Rivers and moving water can also provide great photos when reflecting the fall colors. The blurred colors in the moving water can create some nice abstract effects, especially when contrasting against static objects such as rocks. You will need water that is not bumping over too many rocks below the surface for this effect, as otherwise the water will be too frothy to reflect the colors well.

Earlier and later in the day, when the sun is at a more oblique angle, you will often find that the sun hits the trees, whose reflection can be seen in the water, while the water itself is in shade. The contrast in color between the warm tones of the sunlit trees and cool tones of anything in the shaded river can make for a great photo.

Swan on lake with golden autumn leaves reflected in the water
Liquid gold by Steve-h on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

Sunrise & Sunset

As well as being a time when there is less wind, the soft warm light of sunrise and sunset can make a great difference to your Fall photos. The warm color temperature of the light at this time really helps to accentuate the naturally warm red and yellow hues of autumnal foliage.

Morning Light on trees in fall color
Wicked Morning Light by Martin Cathrae on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

Sunrise can be the best time to get some misty shots. The warm sunlight hitting the mist from a low angle creates a lovely effect. The mist will often disappear as the day goes on, so if you miss sunrise you risk missing the mist.

Through The Arches - misty Fall morning
Through The Arches by James Whitesmith on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Detail shots

Although photos of large numbers of trees all in autumn color can be stunning, don't neglect to take shots of the smaller details. Photos of groups of leaves backlit by the sun, fallen leaves on rocks, and one or two isolated leaves are all classic fall photos. Many plants and trees also have brightly colored berries at this time of year that can make for some nice detail shots.

Red Maple branches
Red Maple branches by Dendroica cerulea on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

No deciduous trees, or trees already lost their leaves?

When the trees have lost most of their leaves, there are still plenty of autumnal photos to be had. Colored leaves carpeting the ground can look particularly vibrant just after rain. A bare tree with just a few leaves left hanging on shows the transition between autumn and winter.

Don't think it is only trees that worth shooting in Fall either. Treeless landscapes can change dramatically, with dying grass and bracken turning a golden brown, and heather turning a darker brown. Many smaller shrubs and bushes also change color and loose their leaves.

Bramble leaves in Fall color
bramble [ˈbræmbəl] vb: to gather blackberries by jenny downing on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

Written by Discover Digital Photography

November 13th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

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