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Get the Most Out of Fall Colors

Fall Photography: Get the Most Out of Fall Colors

There is hardly a photographer who hasn’t found inspiration in the natural changes of colors in the fall. It’s a perfect season to explore fall photography. The yellows, reds, oranges and fading greens offer endless fall photographic possibilities and an opportunity to learn how to play with color. Today we focus on the two main elements of autumn photography that make this season so spellbinding: trees and foliage.

1. Fall photography: Opt for natural contrasts

As a fall photographer, to make the colors of leaves and trees pop, always go for natural contrasts. A landscape featuring multi-colored foliage will be more dramatic than an evergreen forest. 

Weather permitting, take advantage of the blue sky, which provides a good natural contrast in your fall colors photoshoots, nicely pairing with oranges and reds. In good weather, you can take a low-angle shot of crimson, golden, or ochre treetops, using the blue of the sky as your background. 

This will ensure that your fall colors photos are naturally contrasted. But steel-grey or even dark stormy skies can also work to your advantage in fall photography: they offer softer, more diffused light and lend a greater coherence to the image.

Example of fall photography
© Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

2. Autumn photography: Taking close-ups

While autumn offers a wide range of colors, you might want to focus on one or two elements and work on closeups. During your fall photoshoots, You can focus on individual leaves, for example by shooting them against a lighter or darker background to highlight the texture. 

If your lens has a short minimum focus distance, you may want to get even closer for macro photography. Macro lenses are specially designed for this purpose and have a magnification ratio of at least 1:1. 

Their focal length is generally long – 60 mm, 90 mm, to as high as 150 and even 180 mm – but other standard lenses, such as 50 mm, are perfectly sufficient for a first approach to macro photography.

Learn more: Macro-photography: the art of photographing the miniature plant and animal world

When taking pictures of fall, other natural elements, such as animals, insects, or drops of water may further enhance your photographs, allowing for variations in the depth of field to foreground your main subject. Use the widest aperture (f/1.4, 1.8, 2.8) to generate a nice background blur and focus manually on your subject for better precision.

Example of autumn photography
© Gabe Rebra on Unsplash
As a fall photographer, fall allows us to show the beautiful colors of the season
© Andrew Small on Unsplash

3. Play with reflections

It rains more often in autumn, and while rainfall may cut your photographic outing short, it makes things interesting in its wake for autumn photography. Don’t be afraid to play with reflections in puddles, brooks, or ponds. 

You can thus capture more of the fall colors and exploit the symmetry to make your fall photos more dynamic. Rain and humidity offer other visual attractions, such as the raindrops clinging to leaves or suspended on spider webs. These are additional ways to showcase autumn foliage. 

A fall color photoshoot is a great way to go outside and take in the beauty of nature
© Aaron Burden on Unsplash

4. Make good use of the golden hours

To enhance the orange hues, get out the door early in the morning, just before sunrise, or yet at the approach of twilight, just before sunset. These golden hours not only provide beautiful light for fall photography but will accentuate the leaves with the dominant golds and reds of sunlight. This is a simple and natural way to show off the colors of the season.

Another way to put golden hours to use is to photograph fall colors against the light. Backlighting strengthens the silhouettes of leaves and trees and makes the colors pop even better thanks to this natural contrast.

Fall color pictures are always beautiful, showing off the different shades of yellow and red
Cover: © Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

5. Fall photography: Enhance the colors in processing

Post-production is an important step in fall photography that can help you optimize your images and make your colors pop. Photo-editing software will allow you to slightly saturate your fall photos with the help of saturation or vibrance tools, for example. 

You can also vary the white balance to favor warmer or cooler tones for your fall colors photos, or even tint individual elements using selective color correction. Enhancing the contrast will also make the colors sharper. Be careful, however, not to overdo it to preserve a natural look. 

You might for instance slightly desaturate the background or, conversely, heighten the saturation of oranges and yellows in order to bring out the colors of the leaves, which already stand out against the background thanks to the blur generated by a large aperture, as shown in the image below.

Fall leaves photography allows us to zoom in the details
© Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash


Fall is an ideal season to practice autumn photography: the variety of shapes and colors makes it easy to be creative and produce dynamic, expressive fall photos. Fall photography allows you to make the most of natural contrasts typical of the season and to best exploit its full color palette.

By Céline Nébor

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