Fall is upon us throughout much of the northern hemisphere, and photographers are buzzing like moths to their favorite fall color hotspots. Want to take home fall color photos you’re proud of? Here are five simple tips to elevate your shots.

1) Make colors POP With Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

Direct sunlight helps fall colors glow.

For most landscape photography you get the best lighting conditions around sunrise or sunset when the sun is low in the sky and much less harsh than at midday. But when shooting fall colors you will see an amazing glow in the leaves if you photograph them under direct sunlight. The effect becomes all the more intense when the leaves are backlit by the sun.

2) Create Complementary Color Contrasts

The golden leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

The golden color of the leaves of these aspens is made even more pronounced by the contrast of the complementary blue sky behind.

Glowing leaves are fantastic in their own right but one way to make them stand out dramatically is to utilize complementary color contrasts. Set up your composition so that yellow leaves contrast against a blue sky or red leaves contrast against dark green trees and you will really see your colors come to life.

3) Enhance Colors and Reduce Glare With a Polarizer

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Exact same camera and develop settings. But notice how the polarized image on the right exhibits less glare and deeper color saturation compared to the non-polarized image on the left.

Another way to enhance the colors of your fall shots is a simple gear fix: use a polarizing filter. This will cut glare off the foliage, increase color saturation, and help the hues of your photo become richer.

4) Find a Focal Point

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

The sun provides a stable visual anchor for this otherwise chaotic scene.

Forest interiors are often visually chaotic spaces. One way to help simplify them is by finding an obvious focal point to attract your viewer’s eye. A particularly colorful splash of foliage can work well, but one of the easiest and most powerful focal points is the sun itself. Pro-tip: use a small aperture like f/16 and you will create a sunburst, making the sun even more of an eye magnet.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

This scene is already simplified thanks to the natural layering and repeating patterns, but the sun allows a final resting spot for the eye.

5) Get Creative in Tough Light

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene

Moving the camera in tiny circles during a 1/2 sec. exposure helped soften harsh highlights and create a impressionistic forest scene.

If you’re shooting in light that isn’t doing your scene any favors, try shaking things up with intentional camera blur. Stop your aperture all the way down and consider tossing on a polarizer as well in order to increase your shutter speed to the 1/4″ to 1″ range. Then try zooming, panning, or even shaking the camera. These techniques cause harsh highlights and shadows to blur together, creating softer tones as well as funky abstract forest impressions. It takes a bit to master, but shooting like this is incredibly addictive and no two shots are ever alike!

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space

Zoom blur creates a sense of rushing into space. 1/4 sec.

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens

Vertical Panning Blur of Two Aspens. 1 sec.

Got any of your own favorite tips for shooting fall colors? Let us know in the comments below!

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https://www.joshuacripps.com/landscape-photography-faq/

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