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Outdoor Photography Tips: How to Capture the Beauty of Autumn for Your Photo Book

A dog laying down in a pile of autumn leaves | Motif

A mug of hot chocolate on a book in a box of leaves  MotifSpring is vibrant with natural beauty, summer has family pics at vacation spots, and winter snows can provide some truly inspiring landscapes, but there’s just something special about autumn photography. It encompasses all the fun and allure of other seasons with a spirit all its own, making every fall a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For the photo book enthusiasts, this unique season brings an equally unique set of photographic challenges. To help you out, here are nine outdoor photography tips and tricks for capturing the beauty of autumn.

1. Landscape photography tips

You’ll want expansive shots of fall’s fiery colors for your photo book, but don’t just snap the side of a hill and call it a day. Fall scenery provides the perfect opportunity to break out of your comfort zone.

For those sweeping landscapes, try both wide-angle lenses and those with longer focal lengths to see how they change the effect. Play with contrast, too. A patch of deciduous forest surrounded by deep, dense evergreens can make a wonderful statement.

Let’s not forget subjects other than fall trees. Lakes and rivers take on entire new personalities when surrounded by fall forests, as do the church spires and brick buildings of your local downtown.

You may have to walk off the beaten path to get the perfect angle, but that’s what outdoor photography is all about: locating your unique vantage point of the world.

A stream surrounded by rocks and trees with orange leaves | Motif

2. Get up close with nature

Apples ripe on the branch, squirrels preparing their winter stores, rivers swollen with runoff. The world is a flurry of activity in the fall, providing you perfect natural photo ops.

If you want to nature’s good side, get up-close and personal. Use a large aperture for a shallow focus that isolates your subject in the foreground while softening the background. The technique is versatile, but works really well when capturing smaller subjects.

Remember: it can be painful enough for family members to wait for the perfect framing. Wildlife will have none of your shenanigans, leaving if—and when—they want. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. Snap as many photos as time will allow in order to capture a few great images.

If movement is what you’re looking for, you can limit motion blur by selecting a faster shutter speed and keeping the camera as steady as possible. You’ll have more need of one for a migrating rufous hummingbird (say, 1/1000 of a second) than for a flock of migrating geese. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works.

3. Don’t fear morning gray

In many places, mist blankets the world from late evening to the wee morning hours. People tend to disregard this mist for fear of washed out colors and bland images, but fall fog can provide an excellent opportunity to play with negative space.

Negative space is the area surrounding a subject. Adding more or less negative space to a shot changes how we view the subject. Fall fog is basically the world handing you a blank canvas of negative space to paint on.

The outdoor photography tip for fog is to increase your exposure. Fog also moves, so pick a subject and take a few different shots spaced out over a couple of minutes. The differences can be dynamic!

Of course, fog isn’t the only way to use negative space in your photos. The blog Photography Mad has an excellent discussion on negative space, complete with examples. If you’d like more information about shooting in the fog, check out this article courtesy of Cambridge in Color.

4. Evening still life tips

Still life shots are best in natural light, and autumn days brim with different lighting tones. Bright midday lights illuminate subjects, while evening light paints everything in long, atmospheric shadows and soft reds.

Light your subjects in these natural lights, and keep the camera as steady as possible. Don’t worry about personal space either. Whether your subject is an old train station, a jack-o-lantern, or a charcuterie board and glass of wine, it doesn’t care if you get right up close. So, ditch the zoom and use the space to find the angle you want.

5. Nighttime photography tips

Nighttime shots can be tricky, but don’t let that deter you from adding these pleasant images to your photo book. You may be lucky and own a camera or smartphone that features a night mode. If not, you can increase the ISO to lighten dark shots—though be aware this does add a grainy look to the image.

Also, don’t use a flash unless you absolutely must. It over-exposes nighttime shots. One nice quality about fall nights is that downtowns and community gathering places are usually decked out in holiday decorations, so you’ll have plenty of soft, playful light to play with.

At night, any motion adds noticeable blur, so you’ll need to slow down that shutter speed. Then again, the combination of motion blur and lights can make for some impressive shots.

6. Autumn portrait shots

Autumn was made for the portrait shot. Children and adults love playing in piles of leaves, climbing trees, and posing before the cornucopia at the farmer’s market. It adds life and energy to what can sometimes feel like an overly formal, dull photographic affair.

For the best living portraits, combine some of the techniques we’ve already discussed. Adjust your aperture depending on how much focus you want your subjects to have. Fast shutter speeds will limit motion blur. And take plenty of photos. Sometimes, life can get in the way of a perfect shot.

7. Play with complementary colors

Painters are all about complementary colors, but photographers shouldn’t neglect the color spectrum either. Utilizing complementary colors can really make your subjects contrast nicely in the shot.

For example, when taking portraits, consider the color of the landscape around you. If the foliage is heavy with reds, children wearing green jackets and scarves will be highlighted in the foreground. Similarly, individual branches dressed in warm orange leaves will really pop when set against a cool blue sky.

You can find a deeper discussion about complementary colors here.

8. Coloring your autumn photographs

Fall photography is all about color, but you may want to use technology to give nature a slight makeover. How to go about this will depend on how detailed you want to get, how much time you have, and what editing software you’re using.

Since fall photos are saturated with color, you’ll want to experiment with all the sliders. While oranges, yellows, and reds are the big fall shades, don’t neglect your blues and greens. Even if relegated to the background, employing these colors correctly can make a world of difference.

You can also play with your editing software’s preset effects. Some will give the image a painted look, others a more fantastical, or pop up bright color. While it may seem sacrilegious, you may find some pictures are more eye-catching in black and white.

The important thing to remember is that these are your photos. Have fun with the process until the image looks pleasing to your eye.

9. Make an autumn photo book with Motif

With your fall photos in hand, it’s time to create your photo book. Motif makes this process easy, so you can enjoy making new memories instead of spending time organizing the old ones.

Motif runs directly inside Photos on macOS. This means that, for macOS users, you can access all your existing Albums, Smart Albums, Memories and other image collections directly without having to export or upload them to an online service.

Motif uses advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze images for quality and similarity, taking into account things like focus and clarity, people, faces, favorite faces, smiles, image orientation, panoramas, and many more elements. This allows Motif to recommend your very best images, remove duplicates, and provide easy ways to browse similar images.

A Mac desktop with Motif open and editing a photo book | Motif

With Motif, you can turn this once-in-a-lifetime autumn into a one-of-a-kind photo book that will last forever.