4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

For those of us who live in North America, autumn is in full swing. The leaves are changing from their bright green colors and are taking on incredible hues of yellow, orange, and red. It’s a time of flux for Mother Nature.

For us photographers, it’s prime time to get out and take advantage of all those beautiful fiery colors that lead into the winter months.

4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Capturing the brilliant colors of Fall isn’t something that requires a lot of planning other than finding a suitable location. That said, there are things we can do during and after our shoot to ensure we get more from our time outdoors at this time of year. In this article, I’ll share with you four easy ways of capturing autumn colors to achieve the best images of Fall.

Use a Polarizer

If you’re familiar with photography, you’ve likely used or at least heard of a polarizer. Polarizers are filters (circular or square) and attach to the front of your lens. They essentially allow only straightened light rays to pass into your camera. Polarizers help to darken skies, reduce reflections and most importantly, deepen color tones.

4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

When you’re shooting for the maximum color effect it’s a good idea to pack a quality polarizer in your gear bag. Most CPL’s (circular polarizers) allow you to dial in the polarization effect based on your needs. You can add or reduce the impact.

The following images were shot with and without a polarizer. You can see the notable differences in colorization between the images:

4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

On the left we have a 1:1 zoom of a photo taken without a polarizer. On the right, the same scene is shot WITH a polarizer. Note the subtle increase of color saturation as well as the accompanying decrease in light transmission.

Keep in mind; polarizers physically reduce the amount of light entering your lens. A small adjustment in exposure may be needed to make use of this type of filter.

Search for Complementing Colors

A great way to make your images of the autumnal colors pop is to make use of something called ‘Complementary Colors.’ Complementary colors are hues that lie opposite to one another on the standard color wheel.

Color wheel - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Aesthetically, complementary colors work together to make a more pleasing image. Oranges, reds, and yellows are the flagship colors of Fall. It’s a good idea to look for their complementary colors (blues and purples) and incorporate them into your compositions.

Leaf in water - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Don’t limit complementing colors just to shooting scenes of Autumn. Try making use of colors falling opposite one another on the color wheel in all aspects of your photography.

Learn to Use Water

Water is one of the most dynamic elements of nature on our Planet. For photography, it’s one of the great muses. When it comes to bringing out the organic essence of autumn, there are a few things that can help you more than water. Whether it’s reflections, dew or just the earthy feel after a rainstorm, try incorporating water into your images of Fall. It is an excellent way to inject a new level of creativity into your images of Fall colors.

Incorporating water - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Look for reflections, water droplets or anything else in the scene that has been transformed by the presence of water. If I can offer a rare bit of solid direction, remember that brightly colored leaves floating on water generally make for bulletproof compositions.

Floating leaves - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Make Use of the HSL Panel

Last but certainly not least, our last tip for photographing the brilliant colors of Fall happens after you capture your image. The HSL Panel in Lightroom (or other software) offers an indispensable way to adjust the hue (H), saturation (S) and luminance (L) of individual colors within our photographs.

HSL Panel - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

This tool is handy for bringing out the colors we want emphasizing without making global changes to our entire photo. I cannot overstate the power of the HSL panel. Not only does it offer the possibility of adjusting the brightness and saturation of individual colors, but also their hues; which can change the entire feel of a photograph.

HSL Control - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Using the HSL to control the hues of your color tones is a great way to completely change a photo with just a few clicks.

HSL Control Purple - 4 Tips for Capturing Autumn Colors

Some Final Thoughts on Photographing Fall Colors

We are served up such a diverse and accessible photo color palette in the Autumn months. Colors blaze and overall tonality of light and mood offer excellent photographic opportunities virtually any time of day.

Make use of the tips in this article to breathe new life into your images of Fall.

If you have any tips for capturing autumn colors or have images of Fall you would like to share with us, then please do so in the comments below.

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Adam Welch

Adam Welch is a full-time photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find him on some distant trail making photographs or at his computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Follow his blog over at aphotographist.com and check out his brand new video eCourse on Adobe Lightroom Classic!