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Creative Fall Color Photography Tips

Creative Fall Color Photography Tips

Fall is an amazing time of year to take photos. There’s an endless abundance of colors, patterns and shapes to work with. But at the same time, it’s easy to shoot the same thing in the same way every year. Use these creative fall color photography tips to find new focus!

Motion Blur

Motion blur is one of my favorite techniques because in Fall, everything is moving! Even if there’s no wind, leaves are falling which can be caught mid-flight or you can throw leaves in the air to re-create their fall to the ground.

Using a slow shutter speed such as 1/15th or slower, use follow focus manually or via a setting on your camera to follow the swirling or straight path of the leaf to the ground.

It may take a few times to get a shot where the leaf isn’t cropped or doesn’t look right. In this shot, I had to throw the leaf in the air several times to get what I wanted. I allowed it to blur vs trying to stop it mid-air. I only use manual settings so patience was required.

Or take your chances with trees dropping multiple leaves at a time. In this shot, I was using a slow shutter and rotated the camera with the direction the leaf was swirling in.

Carkeek Park, Seattle, WA / (C) Rob Casey

In this shot, I was working with a leaf that was in a small creek, so I was dealing with two moving surfaces, the leaf and the water. Then finding light from the tree canopy above.

And you can choose whether you’re going to set up shot or shoot things as they are. I tend to do both depending on my goal or interest at the time.

Maple leaf in Pipers Creek, Seattle, WA
(C) Rob Casey
Add Flash..

Add a touch of flash and a slow shutter speed to get a stop motion image of the leaf then a motion blurred background. Add CTO, a warm toned colored gel to your flash so it maintains a natural versus white flash color.

Light Paint the Leaves..

Get wacky and use colored gels on your flash light paint or blast red, purple or green into the falling leaves with your flash. Or light your background while shooting your leaf with natural color.

Use Reflections

I’ve been shooting reflections fairly regularly for about a decade. Every time I’m shooting, I’m looking for a reflective opportunity to enhance my images.

Fall is amazing for reflections! Depending on your surroundings, you have several options to work with. If you have a pond, puddle or lake, get down low, or high and look for a way to capture fall leaves in a reflection.

Puddle reflections often require getting super lower to get the right shot. You might consider knee pads or a having something to sit on if the ground is wet or rocky. Old foam camping pads are great.

Look for reflections in windows, metal surfaces, smooth rock surfaces, car exteriors (doors, roof and windows), side and rear view mirrors and even your phone or Apple Watch screen.

Pond in Seattle’s Washington Arboretum (image is flipped 180 degrees) (C) Rob Casey

Check out my guide, How to Shoot Reflections

Often photographers are looking for the sharpest photos possible. Back in the day, we used 4×5 cameras to stop down (turn down shutter) to F45 or F64 to get the sharpest photo possible (which requires more light). Some friends has Leica cameras, known for super sharp lenses.

But I’m the arty photographer type not too concerned with super sharp all the time. Blurring either by motion blur or manually with the lens is more my cup of tea.

When I shoot Fall colors, often I’ll stand below a tree with my iPhone or SLR camera and look for shots in the leaves. There’s so many possibilities that I find it best to choose a direction for the photo before I start clicking, and ending up with a lot of mediocre photos.

For example, with this Japanese maple at the Washington Arboretum in Seattle, I was interested in a traditional Japanese style painting or pen and ink drawing thus going for delicate leaves and simplicity with one or two colors only. Doing so gave me a direction to go in.

Washington Arboretum, Seattle, WA
(C) Rob Casey

Then I would choose to either shoot it slightly out of focus, or one leaf in focus while letting the background fall away, or make everything tack sharp. In my stock photo days, I’d shoot all three options and multiple versions of each to make sure I got it. Fall colors are timely and a big storm could blow it all away. Another version..

Washington Arboretum, Seattle, WA
(C) Rob Casey

But like any day out shooting, I may come with an idea in mind to shoot for, or find something better that I hadn’t expected! This image is one of those. I liked the bright back lit feel and how it went totally soft. I can go nuts here zooming in and out finding so many directions to go in.

Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle, WA (C) Rob Casey
Equipment used in these images

Canon 5d Mark 2 with a Tamron 17-35mm or Canon 100-200mm.

And I use an iphone 7 when I’m not toting around my SLR. All of the images were on the Canon.

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