It's that time of year, in the northern hemisphere, anyway, when the leaves start to turn. That means there are ample opportunities for beautiful fall leaves photography. But getting the best results requires more than simply pointing your camera at some pretty leaves and pressing the shutter button. Instead, there are considerations to be made for the best camera settings for fall foliage, composition, and subject matter. We have some valuable techniques that will help you master the art of creating beautiful fall leaves photography.
Best Camera Settings for Fall Foliage
Naturally, the specific camera settings you use will depend upon the specific conditions in which you're shooting. However, there are a few camera settings for fall colors that you can pre-determine no matter what the weather, lighting, or the scene you're photographing.
One of the best camera settings for fall foliage is shooting in aperture priority mode. In many situations, it will get you the best results. Aperture priority mode gives you control over the camera's aperture and ISO, while the camera retains control over the shutter speed in order to get a good exposure. One of the factors that determines depth of field is aperture, so manipulating the aperture value while shooting in aperture priority mode allows you to determine how much of the scene is in focus. Traditionally, a large depth of field is preferable for fall leaves photography, and so a mid-range aperture like f/8 or f/11 is often a good place to start. But don't discount the value of taking a close-up of a nice detail like a single leaf, and blurring the background by using a much larger aperture, like f/2. Either way, in aperture priority mode, you can set the aperture and not worry about the shutter speed which makes it a little easier to get good exposures. If you want to create an image with motion blur, such as blurring the movement of water, shoot in shutter priority mode.
When shooting fall leaves photography, you want to retain all of the beautiful colors of the leaves, so choosing the correct white balance is critical. If, for example, you're shooting during golden hour, often the best white balance setting is Daylight. The Daylight mode will protect the beautiful golden tones of the light while also protecting the warm glow of the landscape, including the leaves. If you're shooting at other times of day, it's best to experiment with different white balance settings on your Nikon Z6
from Beachcamera.com to determine which one is best for that specific situation. You can always tweak the white balance in post-processing, so don't worry too much about making a mistake when choosing the camera settings for fall colors.
To bring out the tones of the various colors of leaves and give them a little more color depth, err on the side of underexposure when choosing the camera settings for fall colors. You can underexpose the image in a number of ways, including changing the aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO. However, the easiest way to underexpose your fall leaves photography is to utilize your camera's exposure compensation feature. Many cameras like the Canon PowerShot G7 Mark III
from Beachcamera.com have a dedicated exposure compensation button that make it simple to dial in underexposure. Just press the minus button to dial in negative exposure compensation of -0.5EV or -1EV and watch the tones in the shot become deeper and richer.
Don’t Forget Composition
In many cases, when you look at images of fall leaves photography, they look like a wide view of an autumn that gives viewers an eyeful of color. And while there is nothing wrong with these wide-angle views, it's a mistake to discount alternative types of compositions. Here are a couple of unique fall color compositions.
Look Straight Up
A great way to alter the perspective of your fall leaves photography is to shoot straight upward. Doing so offers a much different view than is typical, which makes it immediately more eye-catching. This technique also emphasizes the height of the trees, which can often feel more grand in the shot. With a deep, rich, blue sky as the background, you can frame up a shot with some truly beautiful contrast between the sky and the leaves!
Isolate a Subject
Another unique fall foliage photography tip to use for fall leaves photography is to isolate a small subject in the frame. You can focus on a single branch of a tree, a single leaf or a group of leaves, or even leaves that have already fallen on the ground. No matter what the subject is, find ways to help it stand out in the image. You can do that by using a large aperture to narrow the depth of field or by altering your perspective so that the subject and the background have nice contrast of color or light.
Use your eyes and creative talents, and capture some great fall leaves photography this Autumn!