Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tips For Fall Photography

I thought that I would take a second and write this in hopes that maybe it helps some of you out.
Each and every year we see a lot of people write what basically is "make the most for your Fall photos" with hints, tips and tricks and what I have noticed is that much of it is the same. Polarizers, tripods, etc etc. So I thought that I would show you a little glimpse into how I shoot things. Granted, tripods and polarizers are certainly a mandatory affair. No questions asked there.

When it comes to shoot foliage such as Aspen trees and such, I think my method is probably different than a lot of peoples. This is aimed at shooting more intimate scenes, not sweeping landscapes, though it certainly can me used for that however I would say it really is dependent upon the scene itself (then again isn't everything?) Basically I start with an image that I can later correct in post work. I pretty much use Lightroom for everything these days and Photoshop only for resizing and sharpening, along with layer masking when it is called for.

When I am shooting an intimate Fall scene, I generally choose the preset of "Sunset" for my white balance on my Sony A550. I also generally underexpose by 1/3 to 1/2 a stop. Depending upon the lighting, that can drop down to much as a stop. There are a few reasons for this and for me, personally, this is one of the rare times I don't ETTR (Expose To The Right) Highlights can be easily blown within foliage especially when it comes to a scene which involves backlighting and such. The dynamic range within Autumn photography can be gigantic at times and by underexposing, this allows me to retain those highlights. When doing this the darks naturally will be darker so using a low ISO is essential which later doesn't introduce a lot of noise into the image when I am editing it in post work. By using a "sunset" white balance, the images come out very gold. Some may like their images looking like that, some may hate it, however it ensures that the saturation is generally dead on.

In postwork inside Lightroom, I will generally go ahead and just the white balance, finding the whitest point and selecting that. From there I can make adjustments and fine tune the temperature of the scene. Using the Luminance controls, I will then go in and fine tune the highlights to give the image a certain degree of "glow" in fine areas. After that I will adjust the curves and levels accordingly.

Down below is a Lightroom screen cap of the same image side by side. (it isn't finished yet and is a work in progress) It compares what I have in the camera to how I adjusted it mentioning the techniques above. I hope this will help some of you and make you think about your cameras settings this Fall.


  1. Thanks for posting this John! Very helpful information.

  2. Hi John! Very interesting stuff! Have to give me some more lessons!

  3. Thanks for posting. I'm new to landscapes and Colorado life. I come from doing mostly weddings and portraits and I'm finding landscapes a completely new world. I appreciate your insights greatly. I just got back from cruising Estes Park and Devil's Gulch yesterday. Didn't see a lot, but my eyes aren't 100% trained for landscape yet.

    A couple questions... Do you prefer jpeg or RAW files? If you prefer jpeg, what quality settings do you use on your Sony. Also, do you ever bracket your images for HDR or layering techniques? I notice that many of the shots I want are on private land, how do you deal with that?

    Thanks again!

    1. RAW pretty much and only RAW, I don't like to deal with jpegs with one exception, when I shoot HDR in camera as that is the format which it is captured in. Those shots need very little in terms of post.

      As far as private land, usually it isn't ever an issue and there have been a few times (Sunflower fields) where we have walked up and simply asked if we can come on their property and shoot.