Fall Foliage Photography Tips

Watching the leaves change color is one of the best parts of fall, but it can be hard to do it justice in photographs. The colors are very fleeting and can change a lot depending on the time of day and how early or late it is in the season. Here are some tips to help you capture the beauty of the autumn. 

1. Choose the right day. 

Peak fall foliage season is usually in October. Depending on the weather, this peak can last up to two weeks. If there’s rain, snow, frost, or wind, the leaves can fall early, so it’s best to take your fall foliage photos as soon as you can. Weekends can be busy if you live in an area popular for its natural beauty, so if possible, try to travel on a weekday.

You can find the specific dates for peak fall foliage in your area here

2. Choose the right time.

Golden hour, or the hour before and after sunset, can really help to bring out the warm hues of the fall leaves. With the sun low in the sky, the light is tinged gold and there are long dramatic shadows that add dimension to a photo. 

Don’t give up on taking photos just because the day is cloudy, though. An overcast sky can have interesting textures that can make your photo stand out. The moody lighting could also give the photo a unique feel. The grayness of the clouds contrast well with the bright colors. 

3. Location, location, location.

Lakes or other bodies of water look beautiful in the fall as they reflect the colors and/or the sky. The main downside is that other photographers know this and you might have some competition to find the perfect spot. 

If you live in an area that gets a lot of tourists, going a bit out of your way could be worth your while. With everybody flocking to the more obvious destinations, it might be better to look for the hidden gems in your area or nearby. 

4. Camera settings

Be sure to double check your camera settings to make sure the colors create the effect you want. Auto white balance usually works fine, but the warmer tones can confuse some cameras. Setting the white balance to Cloudy can make the warm colors stand out a bit more, but you can also experiment with different settings to see which effect you like best. 

5. Step away from the camera

You’re out in nature, looking at beautiful scenery on a beautiful day. Take advantage of it. Depending on where you live, there won’t be many more nice days for a while. Put the camera down and look around. Take some time to notice how the air feels. Is there sunlight? What do you smell? What do you hear? 

Obsessing over the perfect picture can often cause the quality of that picture to suffer. Life is about more than just taking good photos. Photos capture moments, and if you are present in the moment, that shows through the photograph.

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