Tips for Great Fall Photos
When those cool, crisp temperatures arrive so do the multitude of brilliant fall colors that are accompanied with deep blue skies. Fall conditions give us those long, clear vistas and blue skies without the dread of summer haze. This is one of the best times of year to keep a camera close, whether it’s a DLSR, a point and shoot or the camera in your smartphone.
If you’re planning a weekend trip to the mountains to check out the leaves, it’s best to plan your trips based on elevation and location, since the coloration may be different for each. Make sure to visit the higher elevations earlier in the fall, since the leaves will begin to change color sooner and visit lower elevations later in the season. Travel to a variety of places and motivate yourself to get up early to catch the golden hour of sunrise and stay out late for those gorgeous sunsets. Going out on cloudy, foggy, or overcast days can be more ideal than a bright, beautiful day as it evens out harsh lighting, lessens severe shadows, and bumps up the colors of the leaves.
When it comes to composition, the rule of thirds is one of the best and most useful rules photographers learn. The rule of thirds divides the photo frame into three equal parts both vertically and horizontally making nine total parts. This grid identifies four important parts within the frame, where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect are where you should think about placing points of interest as you compose your image. For more visual interest, try to keep the subject away from dead center and have elements that lead your eye into the picture toward your main subject.
Sometimes it’s a good thing to break the rules and think outside of the box when it comes to composition. When shooting large open spaces, put an interesting object in the foreground like a prominent rock, leaf, tree or person. Don't always go for the wide-angle scenic shots of ridges and valleys, but get close and intimate with one main element. Some good examples are to find a single tree in a meadow and use a shallow depth-of-field to emphasize the subject and create an out-of-focus background or a shot of a lone tree branch against a blue sky background with the branch leading your eye into the frame. It’s always a good idea to change up your angle of view - get down low by lying on the ground or by squatting.
There are loads of tools for cameras from DLSRs to the camera in your smartphone. A few tools to consider when using a DLSR are a polarizing filter, a warming filter, and a sturdy tripod. A polarizing filter will help to cut out glare on shiny surfaces like water or a close-up on a leaf, provide better color saturation, increase contrast, and make the sky a deeper blue.
A warming filter helps bring the entire image to a more saturated level, especially the reds, oranges and yellows, giving your image more pop. A good tripod is almost a necessity when taking nature photographs. Tripods stabilize your camera, helping to keep blurry photos at bay. This is true when taking photos of sunsets and when light begins to get low. They’re also great to have when you need to keep your hands free.
Smartphone cameras also have tools that enhance your photos, they’re called apps. Apps can be free or have a fee attached. Here are a few awesome free and pay apps you can download for iPhone and Android phones.
For iPhone, a couple noteworthy free camera apps are VSCO Cam and CameraAwesome.
VSCO Cam is a stills-only camera app. The app has a simple interface that lets you focus on taking images and also is more user-friendly for newcomers. You get basic camera controls like flash settings and a low-light shooting mode.
CameraAwesome takes your photography up a notch. It provides additional options for exposure and focus and some super professional filters to make your photos snapped with an iPhone look their best. One of its best features is the Fibonacci (or Golden) Spiral, which will help you in positioning points of interest for an irresistible photo.
iPhone pay camera apps, Camera + and ProCamera.
Camera + ($2.99) It has a well-designed interface, which has evolved nicely over the years. It offers better exposure control than the built-in camera app, you can set focus and exposure independently by dragging their icons anywhere on the screen. You can also lock those settings, along with white balance, so they don’t change as you readjust your composition, which is a plus (no pun intended).
ProCamera ($4.99) has a simpler layout, making it a breeze to find tools. You can set focus and exposure independently and lock either parameter. White balance can also be locked, if you find yourself in a mixed lighting situation. Activating the anti-shake feature keeps the camera from firing the shutter until all movement has stopped, which is great for those of us who have somewhat shaky hands.
For Android users, a couple free apps to consider are Google Camera and Camera Zoom FX.
Google Camera comes with a simple layout. It features image aids and a couple of decent shooting modes. Other features that you can enjoy include touch to focus, grid overlays, HDR setting, timer, panoramic mode, photosphere, video capture and lens blur.
Camera Zoom FX has a neat layout that's filled with loads of features and settings. This app has multiple shot modes, including a steady shot, voice activated, timed and burst. A few other settings included are composition overlays, hardware button controls, saturation, brightness, HDR, and ISO. There’s also a pro version of this app ($2.99).
A couple of pay Android apps are Manual Camera and Camera FV-5.
Manual Camera ($2.99) offers a range of settings options that most others just don't. Shutter speed, focus, white balance, exposure compensation, you get to control every detail of your picture. This app also lets you save images in RAW format, which offers completely new possibilities for further processing.
Camera FV-5 ($3.95) gives you more control over the camera in your Android device. It lets you change many of the parameters that aren’t usually accessible with a mobile, such as ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, auto-focus mode and more. One of the best features that’s fun to experiment with is the “intervalometer,” which allows for time-lapse shots.
The main thing with Fall photography is to have fun with the adventure. Get out there and travel to a variety of places, motivate yourself to get up early when you’d like to sleep in and stay out a little later to capture those brilliant sunsets.