8 Tips to Photograph the Vivid Colors of Fall

News & Tips: 8 Tips to Photograph the Vivid Colors of Fall...

As the north winds begin to push south with Vs of Canadian geese, we are given a yearly opportunity to photograph vivid colors rarely seen in nature. Red and gold mix with the lingering green of summer. Blue skies seem more vivid and the sun’s rays fall at a pronounced angle, providing the observant photographer myriad opportunities for breathtaking images.

Fall Photography
McCoy, S (Photographer). 2013. Our Country's Beautiful Natural World. (Photograph)

Try these eight tips to improve your fall photographs and hang a couple on your wall.

1. Lighting: Photography is all about capturing light, and it’s not all equal. Much like hunting and fishing, photography is often best just after sunrise and just before sunset, known as the “golden hours” by photographers.

For the most consistent colorful foliage photos such as leaves against a bright blue sky, shoot away from the sun.

Shoot toward the sun for striking silhouettes, sunsets and rises. Crossing light can give some of the best depth to large landscape photographs and portraits.

2. Contrasting colors: Bright leaves are beautiful, but take advantage of bright blue skies and other colors to make them pop. Remember, a solid frame of all yellow or orange can be monotonous, so find small secondary subjects such as rivers, evergreens or man-made objects to pop against the foliage.

3. Subject: Fall color doesn’t have to be the subject! Use colorful foliage as the backdrop to make other subjects pop. From children and friends to your favorite truck, everything looks great in a setting of bright fall color.

4. Action: The best photography (fall or otherwise) captures a decisive moment. Be it a laugh between friends, a hunter with a bow at full draw or a squirrel launching between branches, a dramatic subject in action will usually be more engaging than a simple landscape.

 To capture action, be ready and anticipate great moments. I’ve often associated action photography to shooting skeet and hunting, where preparation enhances skill to result in great photos.

Take advantage of fall color by putting the most vivid leaves behind your subject and wait for that great moment.

5. Right place, right time: There's an old adage among shutterbugs, "F8 and be there." Simply, it means that by putting yourself in the right place for a great photo, you have a great chance of taking one. ("F8" references an aperture setting that captures a wide range of focus.) As a hunter, angler or hiker, you already are getting outdoors in the fall. Improve your odds by always carrying a camera, even if it’s just on your phone.

I usually carry my cell phone on airplane mode when bow hunting for those inexplicably beautiful sunrises that just take your breath away.

6. In photography shoot first, ask questions later: Fire away at the first inkling of a cool photo! As a news photographer, I’ve shot photos of weird happenings long before I understood what was going on. You can sort that out later, but if you don’t push the shutter, any moment it could all disappear.

Thanks to the digital age, it costs nothing to shoot lots of images. Keep shooting as the light changes, the animals move, or as your friends' antics get sillier. You can always delete them later.

7. Edit ruthlessly: This applies year-round, but is easy to forget when every picture has beautiful color. If you want to be a serious photographer, only show your best work. You aren’t judged by the photos you take, only those you show.

8. Composition: Don’t center your subject. Instead, imagine your viewfinder as a tick-tac-toe board. Place your subjects where the lines interest. This is known as the “Rule of Thirds” or “Golden Ratio” used by everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Ansel Adams as a basis for good composition.

In autumn, it’s easy to be blinded by beautiful colors and forget to compose, so remember to look at your whole viewfinder or LCD.

A couple other tips for composition are to place the horizon at the top or bottom tic-tac-toe line (not right through the center) and to connect multiple subjects with an s-curve, such as a road or winding river.

Fall is a golden time for photographers, but those perfect days don't last. Get out there and get snapping!

Sean McCoy worked as the Chief Photographer for The Virgin Islands Daily News for more than a decade and has published photographs with the Associated Press, St Paul Pioneer Press and USA Today among many other outlets.