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The Magic of Fall Photography

The Magic Of Fall Photography

Fall is a magical time for photography. It is a time when Nature transforms the greens of summer into the muted reds, browns, yellows and oranges of fall. These colors at this time of year exist only during this season. It is an event we look forward to every year, however, many of us are disappointed with our results. Below are some tips on how to improve your fall color photographs.

To get the great color shots, you have to get creative and use the colors of fall in less predictable ways. One way to do this is to use high color contrast which is achieved by using complementary colors in your compositions. By definition, complementary colors form the color gray when combined in equal amounts.

On a color wheel, the complementary colors are opposite each other. See sidebar. So the complementary color to red is green, to blue is orange, and to yellow is magenta. Using complementary colors together will make your photos “pop” with color. One color combination that works really well in nature shots is red and green. In the muted colors of fall, red and green, and orange and blue are fairly easy to find. Magenta is the hard one to find to use with yellow. When you have yellow, you can use blue as the complementary substitute for magenta. When around water, blue is easy to find and many times it can be worked in as a background to a yellow or orange subject.

As an alternative to the usual grand panoramic shots, look more for a subject with a single color as a focal point. When looking for this type of subject, walk around the subject and see which shooting position will give you the best shot. Strive for a scene that eliminates competing and distracting elements. Some ways to get rid of these elements is to zoom in on the subject or to use a small f-stop number to reduce the depth-of-field thereby making the background blurry and less distinct.

Once you have a good sense of composition, experiment with the perspective, framing, angles and focal lengths. If the primary color is distributed or repeated throughout the scene, play up to that repetition. Also, don’t overlook vertical formats. Shooting a scene vertically, gives it an all together different perspective.

To go along with the composition advice above, below are some standard shooting tips:

Make adjustments for digital - Choose a low ISO to minimize noise which shows up as “grain”. If you want to experiment, crank up the ISO to achieve that impressionistic look with grain. Be sure to set the white balance to match the ambient light.

Take advantage of filters - The key to great fall color is to use a polarizer filter. This filter eliminates reflections, saturates colors and cuts through haze. A polarizing filter, commonly called a polarizer, accents leaf color by reducing the light reflected off the leaves. It works well when used after a rain or when shooting side-lit subjects.

This filter works best when your camera is approximately 90 degrees to the direction of the sun.

To use a polarizer, focus on your subject and slowly turn the outside ring of the filter while looking through your camera's viewfinder. The more you turn the ring, the more vivid the colors. Once you have rotated the ring about one-fourth of a turn, the effect starts to reverse itself. Be sure to use a linear polarizer with non-autofocus cameras and a circular polarizer with autofocus types.

Provide depth, scale and distance – For landscape shots, as well as other shots, include one or more elements thereby providing a sense of depth, scale and distance. That element can be as simple as a rock in the foreground or a pine cone next to a seasonal cluster of berries.

Maximize depth of field – To maximize depth-of-field, use a large f-stop number and focus one-third of the way into the scene.

Make red work for you – Red is a visually dominant color. Strive to use it with intention to enhance a composition and draw the viewer’s eye. Also, red is not that common in nature so when it is found, it draws attention.

Determine the message – Figure out why you are taking the photo. What drew your attention to the subject in the first place. Doing this will increase your awareness and communicate your message to the viewer.

Be creative – Try multiple exposures, soft-focus or warm-up filters and unconventional camera angles.

This is the season to get outdoors and enjoy the brief time we have to shoot fall color. By using the tips and techniques above, you will see your fall color photos improve.

Happy shooting!


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