photo tips

Autumn Photography: 5 Tips for Capturing the Best Photos of Fall

As summer starts to wind down and we embrace the cooler months, outdoor photographers tend to gear up. Autumn is arguably the favorite season for photographers due to ever-changing scenery, vibrant colors, and moody weather.

The Photo Arts Conservatory at New York Film Academy (PAC at NYFA) instills students with a passionate focus on the technical elements of photography. Below are some tips to help you enhance your landscape photography and really capture the fall weather. 

The “Golden Hour”

“Golden Hour,” the time of day when the low position of the sun during sunrise and sunset creates a soft glow that dramatically enhances the environment and gives a vibrant “pop” to surrounding colors, occurs all year round, but can be at its most striking during the fall. Getting up early or staying up late can make for some very vibrant landscape photography.

Overcast Days

Foggy and overcast, cloudy days create lighting conditions that may help you capture some interesting shots. Focus on areas such as lakes, rivers, woods, and streams–bright colors from the leaves of trees will help create separation from their darker, foggier surroundings. 

Composition

There are different ways that you can compose your photo, including the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. Let nature guide your framing by utilizing your surroundings of branches, leaves, and other trees to emphasize your main subject. 

Use Warm White Balance

White balance is how warm or cool the overall colors look in your photograph. When taking photos outside during the fall, we recommend you ignore the white balance presets on your camera–auto-white balance can neutralize colors, so avoid using the auto setting. To really bring out the fall colors in your photos, you’ll want to use a warm white balance. Increase the white balance to a warmer Kelvin temperature–try around 6,000 degrees–but be careful not to overdo it. A high Kelvin can make the photo appear to have an unnatural looking color cast. 

Circular Polarizer

A circular polarizer–also known as CPL–is a screw-in filter that goes in front of your lens. The benefit to using a CPL is that unwanted glare and reflections are reduced when photographing wet surfaces or in direct sunlight. A CPL can also enhance your landscape photography by adding more color and contrast. You can use a slower shutter speed when photographing a river or stream when you have a CPL with your camera. Make sure that you are using a neutral CPL to help enhance your fall photography.

How to Compose a Great Wide-Angle Photo

While it may be the simplest method, “Point and Shoot” photography will rarely give you the results you’re looking for when trying to capture the perfect image. The variables and options available to you with modern photography equipment and post-production software are nearly endless. Mastering these tools and techniques and knowing when to apply them is exactly why many professionals attend photography school in the first place.

Choosing the right lens is one of those options, and often times a wide-angle lens will be what you want to use. Here’s a quick primer on what you need to know when using a wide-angle lens.

Wide-Angle Lens

What is a wide-angle lens?

A wide-angle lens is any lens that has a wider field of view than what the human eye typically sees. With modern equipment, a 50mm lens is considered normal for full-frame cameras and equates to 35mm for APS-C or cropped sensors. Anything wider than 50mm is considered a wide-angle lens. Remember — the smaller the number for focal length, the wider the lens will be. If you go any wider than a 15mm lens (full frame), the lens is considered fisheye.

A wide-angle lens distorts your subject and enhances your perspective. The subject closer to the camera appears larger than objects farther away. They could be the same size in actuality, but will appear differently through your lens.

Why use a wide-angle lens?

By using a wide-angle lens, you add a sense of depth and inclusion to your photos. When used correctly, a wide-angle lens can create successful images that draw your audience in. They are also a simple way to capture as much image as possible. It’s common for photographers to use wide-angle lenses for landscapes as well as cityscapes and skylines, for example.

Mistakes to Avoid

If you are using a wide-angle lens to capture a particular subject, as opposed to a broader scene in general, you have to make sure this subject is relatively close to the lens. Shots should be taken within a few inches from your subject.

Make sure your photos have some depth — the subject should be up close, at least one other object at medium distance, and the background should be far away. These layers of depth add to your image. One mistake that some photographers make is having everything in their image an equal distance apart, giving their work a flat, uninspired look.

Wide-Angle Lens