Autumn Photography Tips

Autumn may be one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. Nature puts on a show of beautiful fall foliage for all the world to see. Whether you travel around the block or across the US you will be met with an array of brilliant color. Here are a few tips for taking pictures of fall foliage.

capturing autumn foliage photo tips

Photo by Roger Smith; ISO 80, f/8.0, 1/20-second exposure.

Schedule a Little Travel Time

Many people schedule their vacation around autumn. There couldn’t be a better time to take a bus tour. This is also the best time of year for taking a long drive up the east coast. From as far north as Canada and as far south as North Carolina, you’ll be met with brilliant fall foliage around late September through October and sometimes up to November.

Pick a destination that promises lots of trees on sloping hills and valleys. One of my favorite places to drive around in is right where I live in West Virginia. The rolling hills come to life in brilliant yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and browns.

Take a short drive along any highway that cuts through the hills of WV and you will see a new picture perfect shot to take advantage of. You’ll even find several scenic overlooks right along the highways.

Pull your car over and grab that camera. Don’t forget your tripod for the best shots.

But don’t stop with West Virginia. You’ll find opportunities for taking fall foliage pictures in these areas of the US:

  • Southeast – Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virgina,
  • Northeast – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont
  • Midwest – Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin

Northern Illinois may not be among the most notorious for fall foliage, but I can vouch that it has some pretty awesome opportunities for capturing an autumn picture or two. I’ve even known California to decorate a park or two with artificial fall foliage. They actually colored the leaves on the trees in a park to shoot a movie that was set in the fall.

If you don’t have time to travel, try a little walk down your own local block. If you live in an area that has four seasons, you are sure to find at least one tree with fall foliage to photograph.

Play With Angles

If you’ve ever hugged a tree, you’ll love this idea. When you find a tree with some exceptionally brilliant colors, stand at the base of its trunk. Now look up. Fall foliage pictures taken from this angle can be breathtaking. It feels as if the tree is giving you a hug.

fall photography tips

Photo by Julie Falk; ISO 80, f/3.2, 1/200-second exposure.

Another good angle to look for is from above. Take pictures from a building or even from a hilltop looking over surrounding areas. I used to love taking pictures from a hilltop in Blackwell Forest Preserve. On top of that hill you could capture fall foliage pictures of tree tops from almost every direction.

Taking fall pictures at different angles gives you an opportunity to share your creative side.

Use Your Camera’s Landscape Mode

There is nothing more beautiful than to capture a hill full of trees dressed in a wide array of colors. Many digital cameras come with preset modes. A preset mode means the best settings have been programmed into your camera for taking pictures in specific settings.

For instance, Landscape mode on your camera will capture a wider panorama of the landscape in front of you.

Another trick is to use what is called a stitch mode. Not every camera has this. But if yours does, be sure and use it for taking in those extra wide views of autumn landscape. With this feature you can actually take two or three pictures moving left or right. Then use your photo editing software to paste them together. The result is an awesome panoramic fall foliage picture.

Use a Tripod for Maximum Control

It may take a little time to pull out that tripod but it is worth the extra effort. Using a tripod will save the headache of later deleting blurry, out of focus pictures. You can avoid the disappointment of losing the best shot of the day by taking this one simple step.

Tripods are easy to attach. They don’t have to be big and cumbersome to work. I even had a tripod that was flexible. The legs could be bent around the branch of a tree. You do want a tripod that is easy to set up and light to carry. Remember you will be doing a bit of hiking to find the best photo opportunities.

Check Your Scene for Unwanted Objects

Take a moment to view your potential fall foliage pictures for any unwanted objects that may appear. You know the kind I’m talking about. No one really cares to see that trash dumpster in the corner of your photograph.

A look through your LCD view gives you a clear image of what your actual photograph is going to look like. And sometimes it is just a matter of moving a fraction to leave those unwanted objects out. This extra step can save hours of photo editing later.

When Fall Foliage is Scarce

There may be times when there just don’t seem to be any bright colored leaves to photograph. This is when it’s time to get a little creative. Fall foliage may be hard to find. If you start too early in the season, your walks in the park may only reveal a few colored leaves.

But even then you can get some beautiful pictures. Let’s just say you come upon one lonely tree that has decided to show its colors. That’s when it’s time to get up close. Let that tree be the star of your photography for the day. Single out branches and even leaves.

techniques for capturing fall foiliage

Photo by gato-gato-gato; ISO 500, f/2.0, 1/60-second exposure.

Most important of all, have fun while taking pictures of fall foliage. Appreciate Mother Nature’s show and you will be rewarded a hundred fold.

About the Author:
Sally Stoneking is owner and web designer of NatureandFlowerPictures where she shares her passion for nature, digital art and photography.

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One response to “Autumn Photography Tips”

  1. i love photographing autumnal scenes for two reasons: the sun when really low and bright lights up trees and woodland. the other reason is that the rasnge of warm colours against a ablue sky never disappoints. these pictures clearly make use of a tripod – thanks for the tips. Emmanuel

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