The right shot

Tips for turning snapshots into wall-worthy photographs

  • Photo

It’s as if Mother Nature woke up last weekend, saw the coming forecast and thought she’d better make sure the landscape matched the cooler fall weather. Overnight, it seems, the trees have turned from summer’s lush greens to autumn’s rich crimson, golden, burnt and plum hues.

As quickly as it came, though, so it can go. A few more blustery days is all it takes. So, get out there and capture the moment. But before you do, read these tips from The Gazette’s photojournalists. Then, send us your best images for this years Call of the Colors contest.

The right light

Using backlighting to bring out the colors and textures of leaves on a maple tree is an effective technique in photographing fall colors. The use of selective focus, using a wide aperture and framing through foreground leaves, makes your subject stand out from the background. — Jim Slosiarek

I prefer to backlight my photos of fall foliage. This means shooting toward the sun (or at least a very bright part of the sky). With the correct exposure you give the leaves a glow, and in the morning or evening when the light is warm, even the remaining green leaves. This will require a camera where you can control your exposure since backlight will not generally meter properly with an automatic exposure. If you are doing a portrait with this technique your faces will be under exposed so some fill flash or at least a reflector will be needed (white foam core held just out of frame can work).

— Cliff Jette

Find a focal point

Many good landscapes images have a focal point to catch the eye.

It could a tree stump in the foreground, or a river that winds through the image, a hiker in the red jacket walking down a path or maybe one red tree amid a grove of yellow ones.

Incorporating visual elements that draw your eye into the image and invite you to explore the details within are what separate a snapshot from a photograph.

— Cliff Jette

Slow and steady

Experiment with exposure settings to capture unique photos.

Slowing down the shutter speed and intentionally moving the camera or waiting for a gust of wind can create a painterly wash of color.

In this photo, I used a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second and experimented with moving the camera to create the blurred colors.

— Liz Martin

Wild life

Fall isn’t just about colorful leaves.

Animals change their behavior in preparation for winter.

Squirrels frantically find and bury food. Birds and other animals migrate south. The golden glow of withered grasses and crops can be as dramatic as the changing trees. Dying flowers have their own subtle and melancholy beauty.

— Cliff Jette

Ready for a close-up

Legendary war photographer Robert Capa said:“If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

This is invaluable advice for documentary photographers but also resonates with landscape images. Landscapes aren’t just grand sweeping Ansel Adams vistas.

Close up detail photos show the intricate texture of leaves and reveal that each individual leaf contains a kaleidoscope of color.

— Cliff Jette

The time is right

Take advantage of early morning and evening light, which makes the colors appear more vibrant and can create more interesting shadows.

Midday sun can be too harsh, while cloudy days tend of desaturate colors.

— Liz Martin


Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.