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Fall Photography - Images, Ideas and Tips

Updated on January 16, 2018
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Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

I loved the red tones in this image, especially near the river.  The water created a beautiful backdrop for this foliage.
I loved the red tones in this image, especially near the river. The water created a beautiful backdrop for this foliage. | Source

Fall Colors

If you’re one to enjoy the fall colors, western North Carolina – where I live – is a haven for beautiful fall foliage. The mountains abound with deciduous trees, the kind that lose their leaves, in the fall.

The leaves turn every color imaginable: red, orange, yellow, gold, midnight, grey, and tones of brown and the result is a color show that is eye candy. These colors usher in autumn with sights, scents and even sounds that are strongly associated with the season.

It’s always fun to try to capture this color brilliance on camera. With a few tips and tricks, you will have friends and family marveling at your photography. If you’re like me, you can get proficient enough at it, that you can sell your items on different products.

The sun is shining through the trees.
The sun is shining through the trees. | Source

Do You Edit Your Photos?

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Fall Foliage - Tips to Take Great Pictures

  • When going out and taking photos of fall scenes, one of the first things you can do is to be observant. This requires that you don’t talk much, but instead spend time looking at your surroundings. Ask yourself these questions:

What looks interesting? Are there any beautiful patterns? How do the colors play together?

  • The next step is getting your camera ready. Depending on the type you have, you’ll need to use some of the different settings to see unusual ways of capturing color. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with these camera functions before going on an outing so that you’ll know what types of scenes will work best with the subject matter you choose.

For example, many cameras have a “landscape” function and a “macro” setting for flowers and foliage. The landscape setting is designed to use a wider angle and the camera focuses on distant objects.

On the macro setting, the camera will focus on objects that may be only a few inches away. For many, these automatic settings are just fine. As you get more proficient, you can have a lot more fun using the manual settings on your camera.

I used the macro setting to get a close-up of these leaves.
I used the macro setting to get a close-up of these leaves. | Source

Be Willing to Experiment

  • When you start to take pictures, don’t be afraid to do a little experimenting.Sure, you always want to capture that beautiful landscape scene, but sometimes, taking a close-up of a leaf yields a spectacular shot.
  • You also want to consider the light. The mid-day sun creates a stark contrast between lights and darks, and can often wash out colors. Sometimes, however, you can capture that perfect shot, even if the light is bright. If you’re photographing something in the woods, then the bright mid-day sun might be really helpful.

For example, you can try and get the sun to “streak” through the foliage as I did in the image below. Had this particular shot been out in the open, I would have had a very washed-out, bright image. Instead, I created an interesting scene with the sun streaking through the forest.

  • Cloudy days are great for creating more subtle contrast between colors. The danger is that you can also get a “flat” looking image. By taking a lot of pictures and trying different focal lengths – on many cameras, you can adjust the zoom levels on the lens – and different compositions, you can often get a number of great images.
  • Limit your use of flash. Often, flash can create bizarre shadows and a ghost-effect when photographing people in a scene, for example. Sometimes, however, if the light is behind your subject, using the flash can illuminate the darker side of it.

In the picture below, the sunlight was high in the sky and I was looking up at the leaves. Without the flash, they were dark, but with the flash, I was able to lighten up the detail of the leaves considerably.

I used a fill-flash to allow these leaves to show up against the sky.
I used a fill-flash to allow these leaves to show up against the sky. | Source

More Tips - Water

  • Photographing water can be tricky. A beautiful scene can otherwise look dull if you don’t “add” something to it. Capturing water so that it looks smooth requires a tripod and special camera filters. If you don’t have those, you can still take stunning photos with water in the composition.

It’s all a matter of putting together an interesting image, while still including the water in the scene. In the photo below, I captured a small-town scene, flanked by dazzling red and gold leaves on trees.

What a beautiful fall scene!  This picture is along the French Broad River near Asheville, NC.
What a beautiful fall scene! This picture is along the French Broad River near Asheville, NC. | Source

Image Processing - Using GIMP

Once you have captured your images, you can process them on your computer, if necessary.

Many people like to use Adobe Photoshop or even Photoshop Elements. Those are great programs, but I personally like to use a few other programs to help bring out the colors and interesting effects in my images.

The first program I like to use is called GIMP, short for GNU Image Manipulation Program. You can download it for free and has nearly all the same functions as Photoshop. I can resize images for the web, apply filters and much more with this software.

This is a picture of a dogwood tree with berries that I took recently. I manipulated the image a bit in GIMP and here is the result:

Dogwood leaves are a fiery red in the fall.  Their berries add to the color show.
Dogwood leaves are a fiery red in the fall. Their berries add to the color show. | Source

Image Processing On the Web

If you’re not into learning an entire program, there are two free programs that you can use on the web. One of my favorites is BeFunky.

Here, you can upload an image and it automatically resizes it for you, so that you can easily post it to the web. It has many fun filters and effects that, with just the click of a mouse, can completely change your image.

That same image of the dogwood tree and the berries looks like this after I applied some color effects to it, using BeFunky:

I manipulated this image in BeFunky and played with different filters and effects until I came up with an image I liked.
I manipulated this image in BeFunky and played with different filters and effects until I came up with an image I liked. | Source

Using Flickr

Finally, my other favorite is Flickr. After you upload a photo to their site, you have the option of editing it in their software called, “Aviary.” They have some fun filters and effects, too, that you can use. I edited this fall scene near the town where I live, using the “burn” filter:

I used the "burn" filter on Flickr to render this image.
I used the "burn" filter on Flickr to render this image. | Source

When It Comes to Photos, Take LOTS of Them

The bottom line is this: when it comes to taking great photos, you have to take lots of them, experiment, try different things and even different software to really get that popping image. I definitely appreciate having this software at my fingertips, as I’m always manipulating photos and working with images in my writing, on my blog and for family and friends.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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