Ask any photographer which is their favourite season and most will tell you it’s autumn, but there’s more to getting great autumn landscape photographs than just heading out at the right time of year. These tips will help you make the best of the autumn colours.
Get off auto
Most automatic white balance systems are pretty capable, but if you want to make the most of the warm tones of autumn then you need to get off the Auto setting and use the Daylight option instead. If you really want to warm things up, you could use the Cloudy or Shade setting, but they may take things a bit too far.
If you’re shooting Raw files, it doesn’t really matter which white balance setting you use as you can get the colours right at the processing stage – but it’s good to get into the habit of ensuring the white balance is right at the shooting stage.
If you use Adobe Photoshop (with Camera Raw) or Lightroom to process Raw files, you’ll find a series options in the White Balance dropdown list that resemble those available in your camera. Selecting one of these will adjust the colour of your image, but you can also tweak it using the Temperature and Tint sliding controls.
Use the vivid setting
Most cameras have a Vivid setting listed in the Picture Style, Picture Control or Film Simulation modes. Using it will make your JPEGs more vibrant and enhance autumn tones. If you shoot Raw files you can boost the Vibrancy and Saturation at the processing stage. In Camera Raw and Lightroom you also have controls in the HSL/Grayscale tab that enable you to boost the saturation of individual colours. To enhance autumn tones you should increase the saturation of reds, yellow and oranges.
Shoot early or late
Shooting at sunrise or sunset when the light is golden and warm will help bring out the colours of an autumn landscape. Set your alarm clock or head out after work to make the most of the beautiful sideways light on offer at this time of year.
Shooting with leaves between you and the sun really enhances their colour. For the best results, shoot early or late in the day when the sun is lower in the sky.
Sometimes the most colourful leaves are to be found on the ground, so get low to photograph them. Ideally shoot first thing in the morning when they are still covered in dew to make them sparkle. At this time the sun is also more likely to be low enough in the sky to backlight them, so walk round to find the right angle.
A camera with a tilting or vari-angle screen is a real bonus with low-level shots, as you’ll be able to see the scene much more easily than peering through a viewfinder – and you can avoid getting wet and muddy.