How to Photograph Fall Colors

Leaves on water image by Henri Bauholz

The autumn season in the Eastern woodlands is a great time to be outdoors with a camera. The scarlet, red and yellow of the temperate forests put on a great show before dropping to the ground. The fall colors are a beautiful thing to witness, but capturing the brilliance of the colorful display on film is not as simple as it appears. Here are a few guidelines to bringing home a good picture of the fall foliage.


Step 1

Take a close-up of fallen leaves on the forest floor. Trying to catch the whole display at once might be too much, so it is better to look for the small changes that occur during the fall season. A picture of freshly fallen leaves in subdued light can take on an intensity of color that is totally unexpected. Also take notice that some ground plants put on their own little fall display that is often overlooked.

Step 2

Point your camera straight up towards the sky when you're under a tree. Do this on a bright, sunny day and you will find that the blue sky makes a very colorful background that contrasts sharply with the reds and yellows of the trees.

Step 3

Photograph small branches and solitary boughs that arch out from the large hardwoods. Just a simple picture of a single branch of colorful leaves can be the most informative. Look for splashes of filtered sunlight that land on these branches as the light travels to the forest floor.

Step 4

Take a picture of an individual leaf, while it is still attached to the tree. Search out unique lighting conditions that spotlight the leaf against a very dark background. Even a group of several leaves will work here, but avoid the situation where you are trying to capture the color of the entire forest in one picture frame.

Step 5

Seek out a stream, pond or lake to take a picture of the fall colors as they are reflected in the water. This is a particularly rich area for exploration. You can get close to the watery reflections and work at producing a totally abstract image or you can step back and let the fall reflections become a vital part of a larger landscape composition.

Step 6

Work within the framework of a landscape photograph. The only difference is now the leaves are gold and red instead of green. Go back to the same places that you photographed in the spring and summer and reshoot the picture with the natural added color. Don’t forget the basics of making a good landscape picture.

Step 7

(optional) Use your macro lens, if you have one. A close-up of a fall leaf can turn into a very lively image. With a macro lens, every little crack and vein becomes a major compositional element.

Tips and Warnings

Not every broadleaf tree drops its leaves and there is even one conifer that turns colors and drops it needles. That is the tamarack tree (also called the larch) of the North Country, which turns a beautiful, golden brown, late in the fall foliage season. The intensity of the fall colors depends on long-term weather conditions. Certain wild animals can be more troublesome in the fall than during other times of the year so be careful of them.

Things You'll Need


About this Author

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications, and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

Photo by: Henri Bauholz

Article provided by eHow Home & Garden | How to Photograph Fall Colors