Tips for Photographing Fall Colors

Tips for Photographing Fall Colors

Pasquale MingarelliBy Pasquale Mingarelli9 Minutes

Soon the fall colors will sing forth and praise the Lord. Psalm 96:12 says, “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy (NASB).” As a nature photographer, I love that verse and others like it such as Isaiah 55:12, 1 Chronicles 16:32. I find great pleasure in photographing the trees of the forest as they sing for joy.

To give some context to this verse, Psalm 96 is a psalm of praise. The psalm calls people and all creation to praise God, including the fields and trees. If the fields are called to exalt God, how do they do it? And how do the trees of the forest sing for joy?

The things of creation praise the Lord in many ways. Creation praises God through its very existence. Someone had to make it and creation points to its creator and gives Him glory. Creation also praises God through its majesty, variety, mystery, power. Every wild animal praises God through its unique design and way of life.

The Trees Praise God with Their Fall Colors

Another way creation praises God is through its beauty. Depending on where you live, the Autumn season has arrived or will soon arrive.  When it arrives, the beautiful autumn colors make the trees of the forest shout for joy!

The desire for beauty exists in our hearts because God created us in His image. Not only do we desire to look at beauty, but we want to capture it and hold it. That is how God made us. We do this when we put art on our walls or flowers on our table. And one way many of us desire to capture the beauty of this time of year is with our cameras.

As an experienced professional photographer, capturing fall colors is one of my passions. Through the years, I have learned what works best. I would like to pass along some tips to help you make the most of photographing the colors of autumn. These seven tips will help you whether you use your phone or a high-quality digital camera.

Tip One: Golden Hour

Head out to photograph either in the early morning or late evening. The angle of the light when the sun is low in the sky makes for the best photographs. This is true for any time of the year. Photographers like to call this time of day the “golden hour.” Fortunately, in the fall, this golden hour lasts more than just an hour. To get the best photos, you will need to photograph up until two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. Avoid shooting in the middle of the day. An overhead sun does not make for the best images

Tip Two: Overcast Days.

Cloudy or drizzly weather works quite well for photographing fall colors. The colors tend to pop a little more, especially with a little moisture on the leaves. The gray days and the water make the colors look a little more saturated. This is true no matter what the time of day. So, feel free to shoot at any time when shooting under overcasts skies.

One extra tip for cloudy days; Make sure you creep up a little closer. You’ll want to photograph tightly on your subject to avoid the sky. Photograph just the trees and the landscape or even just some colorful branches. Often, the best fall photographs crop out the sky, even on sunny days.

Tip Three: Look Down for Fall Colors

God created leaves with beautiful patterns. When the leaves fall, their patterns form unique designs on the ground. These designs are often very beautiful in their simplicity. I personally love looking for them and photographing them. I might move one or two of the fallen leaves just a bit, but most of the time I leave them just as they lay. There is something about how they fall and land that I find intriguing. Even when they wither and fall, God uses them to create patterns of beauty.

Tip Four: Keep the Sun Behind You

Make sure you place the sun at your back when photographing a broad landscape that has hills or mountains, trees, and sky. This will help keep the sky blue. Side lighting works for photos without sky. But if the sky is in your shot, the side closest to the sun may wash out. If you have a polarizing filter, put it on. It will help prevent this and make most of your fall photographs better.

Tip Five: Shoot HDR

HDR photography allows a photographer to capture better details in both the darkest and lightest areas of a photograph. HDR photography also allows a photographer to pull up more colors when post-processing on a computer.

Most phones allow for HDR photography with one simple step. Using HDR photography with a digital camera is a little bit more involved but it will get better results. It is well worth one’s effort. I use HDR photography whether I am shooting fall colors with my expensive DSLR or when using an iPhone. You’ll be glad you did too.

Tip Six: Track Peak Color

Temperature and other factors affect when the colors change. The northern area of most states change color first. This is also true for higher elevations for states with mountains. Although no one can predict exactly when trees change color, many state departments of recreation and natural resources post online fall foliage guides. Use these guides to help you know when to go and where to go.

Tip 7: What’s in the Water?

Leaves in water sometimes hold a subtle beauty. The water brings out some extra saturation and they can look very ethereal. Watch for them as they whirl around in the water, rest gently on the bottom of a lake or sit on the rocks beside a small stream. Some of my favorite images are of fallen leaves in or around water.

I have more tips, but the fall colors only last so long and I need to get out and photograph them. I encourage you to do the same. And make sure you enjoy just simply being outside on a beautiful fall day. Remember to make it a spiritual experience. Often as I photograph nature, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. I talk with God as I wander about His creation. My spirit connects with Him and I tell Him of my desire to capture the wonder of His creation.

I like to read about your favorite place for fall photos. Let me know in the comments below. Maybe I will go there someday.

For more tips on photographing the colors of fall, click here.