The nights are cooler, and the morning air is crisp and invigorating. To the photographer, that can only mean the foliage season has arrived and glorious colour is about to burst forth on trees, shrubs, and plants. It’s a fantastic time of year to be out in nature with your camera. The days are cooler, and most of the bugs are gone. Knowing a few tips will help you capture the true colours of the beautiful foliage season.

White Balance

Understanding white balance settings and how to use them to your advantage will assist you in capturing the brilliance of the autumn colours. When there is an off-colour cast to white objects in your images, the white balance settings need to be adjusted. It is easy to see the off-white colour in the following images.

Comparison of white balance between two photos, both of trees with changing colours of leaves

The human eye adjusts itself and can discern when an object should be white. Cameras cannot adjust automatically like the eye, and you must adjust the white setting manually. Most cameras are preset on the auto white balance setting. While this may work fine in general conditions, strong colours can trick the camera and produce less than satisfactory results. Your camera offers several white settings. Depending on the brand of camera you own, you can choose from incandescent, fluorescent, direct sunlight, cloudy, shade, and flash. Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and other camera brands allow you to create a one-time custom white setting, which will work for all of the images you capture in a specific light condition. Once you move away from the area, the custom setting will no longer be of value.

Colour Temperature

The RGB (red, green, blue) primary colours exist in every lighting situation. The proportion of their presence varies, depending on light temperature. Blue light is prominent when a high colour temperature exists. As the colour temperature gets lower, you will see the amount of red colour increase. Green prevails in the moderate range of colour temperature. Your camera may offer the option of selecting the colour temperature.

Natural Lighting

When you plan your day for shooting foliage images, overcast days can produce much better colour than bright sunny days. Early morning and late afternoon are the only times to shoot foliage images on a bright day, because the sun creates a nice sidelight at those hours. The bright sun of the day will wash out the beautiful colours in your images. Overcast conditions allow for excellent shooting all day long, and provide a soft, even light. Don’t be concerned about the true colours shining through in your images, because autumn foliage colour is saturated and enhanced by grey skies.

Colourful trees against a grey sky

Additional Tips

  • Still ponds and lakes are ideal for beautiful foliage reflection images.
  • Soft sidelight can intensify the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves.
  • Look for unusual angles to highlight your primary subject.
  • Avoid shooting a straight line of trees, no matter how beautiful the colours are.
  • Shooting foliage after a light rain produces glowing colours.
  • On a windy day, go for some stunning leaf blur images.
  • Macro shots of single leaves in unique settings look amazing framed.

Nature is at its best in autumn and by following a few simple tips you can capture the beauty in all of its glory.

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