In the last blog, I wrote about ideal places to shoot autumn color in Oregon. In today’s guide, I’ll be giving you my top 10 highly effective techniques for fall photography. Before we start the main list, here’s a quick bonus tip that I didn’t cover in my last blog (since it was location-specific): finding fall color can depend a LOT on elevation. Temperature drops with gains in elevation, so what color you are seeing near your house might be very different from you intended adventure destination. Do some research (my favorite tip haha) before you head out and you’ll be set up for success!
Waterscapes are utterly transformed by autumn color. Waterfalls you captured in another season or waterfalls that you thought were not so grandiose become pure magic. Use a long exposure to get the silky white lines you see here, which will contrast the dark waters and bright autumn colors well.
As temperatures drop at night and cold air passes over warm water or wet ground, fog is created the next morning. Fog makes for beautiful layers on the hillsides, and you can get lovely shots of clouds separating out the tree layers. The earlier you can get out the better, as it may dissipate as the day warms up. The water droplets hanging in the air can also create some spectacular effects, as in the photo I captured here.
While fall landscapes can be quite dramatic and eye-catching, don’t forget to turn your gaze downward and capture all the little fall details too. Mushrooms start to push up from the undergrowth, and fallen leaves begin to turn to delicate, beautiful skeletons. If you have a dedicated macro lens, this is where it will come in handy, but you can also sit further away and use a zoom lens at a low angle to mimic a macro effect. Forest floors are quite dark, so a speedlight or off-camera flash will come in handy.
When it’s not raining, the sun tends to hang low in the sky for most of the days in autumn as the days become shorter. Early morning or late afternoon are prime time to capture sunstars in your images. Use F/16 or smaller (greater F-stop number) to get this effect. Extra tip: different lenses will make different types of sunstars.
6. Leading Lines
Leading lines are one of those compositional factors that consistently make your photographs stronger. Don’t let your excitement over fall colors make you forget to compose a scene instead of just snapping photographs right and left. Leading lines can be found in fallen trees, pathways, even leaf patterns.
8. Color Isolation
With color bursting everywhere, it is easy to have a busy scene. Simplify and add focus to your photograph by isolating color. Techniques for this are diverse: try using a long lens to isolate and compress a scene, use shallow depth of field to isolate the focus, or simply find something in the scene that breaks up the color to create a singular focus and a stronger subject.
Autumn is a time of transformation, which makes it a good time to play around with new techniques. If you have never shot an abstract scene before, try one out and play with different styles of shooting. Colors transform the landscape, and trying new techniques could dramatically transform your work. For my shot here, I played with camera movement and a long exposure without my tripod, which is usually a staple of landscape photography. Take this time to get out of your comfort zone and you could be rewarded with some very unique images.
When you post-process your autumn scenes, you want the viewer to feel the way you did when you saw those amazing colors popping. However, the image often seems flat when you import it into your computer to edit. Instead of increasing the overall saturation of the entire scene, either play with the vibrancy slider in Lightroom, or even better, go into your HSL sliders (hue-saturation-luminance). Even if you don’t have Lightroom, many mobile and desktop editing apps allow you to edit specific colors on their own. Changing the hue will shift a color, such as making a green become more yellow, while saturation boosts the color, and luminance edits the brightness of a color. Use these to isolate certain colors and create a unifying focus in your images.
Comment below if this guide helped improve your fall photography, and what you would like to learn about next. And definitely don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future blog posts, upcoming workshops, shop sales, and more! Plus, get 5 free Lightroom presets and my free travel packing checklist when you sign up!