Photographing Autumn’s Light and Color

Autumn is my favorite time for taking pictures. The color in autumn images is brilliant and warm. Most people think of beautiful New England landscapes when they think of peak leaf peeping season. I think about the brilliant light and backdrop of color for my chosen fields of photography — floral and portraiture. Certainly, fall’s reds, yellows, and oranges make brilliant subjects.

autumn backlighting

Alternatively, however, the brightly colored leaves make a beautiful backdrop for the remaining garden flowers or for wonderful natural light portraits.

Because the sun comes up later and goes down earlier, a photographer does not need to awaken early or stay out past dinner to get the perfect light. The sun is low on the horizon this time of year. This is the light a photographer seeks for maximum color potential and even lighting. Late afternoon sunlight through the leaves provides great opportunities for photographers.

If you do choose to make the leaves your prime subject this season, consider looking at them a little differently. Try looking at them closely, rather than from a landscapist’s distance. Brilliant color combinations of leaves are a hallmark for fall. As a macro floral photographer, my work is all in the details. The veins of red running up sunny yellow, remaining summer green surrounding orange centers , and the brown speckles dotting deep red leaves show palettes only available to the photographer this time of year.

For portraits, use the details of the leaves for inspiration. Dress a little girl in orange and place her against a background of red and green maple leaves. Use a soft brown hat to frame the face of a little girl standing in a sunflower patch. Dress a little boy in a bright red tie for the same patch of sunflowers. Mix and match autumn colors for a family portrait.

Every season provides unique opportunities for memorable photographs. Autumn’s light and fabulous color provide something just a little extra special.

Some Tips for Autumn Photography:

1. Seek a spot to photograph that shades the hotspots of light, yet bathes the subject with that warm October glow. With careful positioning, backlighting through autumn leaves can provide a magnificent backdrop for any subject.

2. When photographing at midday, the lighting can create harsh, unflattering shadows. If it is necessary to photograph when the sun is overhead, seek to have the sun over your shoulder. If you look around the sky at this time of day, you will see that the sky appears bluest when the sun is in this position over your shoulder.

3. A polarizing filter can be used to enhance the blue sky providing a nice contrast to brilliantly colored leaves.

4. For those using an SLR camera that gives control over depth-of-field, set your camera to a wide-aperture (small f-stop number) and focus on your subject. This will blur the background (how much depends on your lens) and will make your subject stand out against the beautiful colors.

About the author
Melissa Mannon is a natural light garden photographer based in New Hampshire. She has won numerous awards for her garden portraits and flower photography. See her monthly newsletter and image gallery at www.melissamannonphotography.com.


See also: Photography Tips





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