With the autumn season upon us, now is the perfect time to go out and photograph the abundance of colors that signify the changing of the seasons.

Whether you’re in the city or out in the county, creatively capturing the essence of fall should definitely be on your shot list for this month. Below are some ideas to help you get creative while out in the field!

1. Set the scene

While the purists of the world may disagree, don’t be afraid to alter the scene in front of you to get the optimal composition. Find perfect leaves and place them right where you want them to add fall flair to your images. Scatter leaves to make it look as natural as possible, or perfectly place a single leaf right where you want it to create your composition.

It’s your image — build it how you want it. This can also mean removing any distractions like sticks or ugly dead leaves that you don’t want in your shot.

Don’t be afraid to build your composition! f/19, 8s, ISO 100.

2. Use a polarizer

You’ve probably used polarizing filters to help get your skies more blue, but they can also come in handy when photographing fall colors. Photographing leaves that are wet or have fallen into water, whether it be in a river or a puddle, can lead to some interesting compositions.

Morning dew or leftover droplets from rain can also create interesting images. Using a polarizer will help to cut down on any reflections or glare from the water while also helping to saturate the colors of the leaves.

A circular polarizer was used in this image to cut down on glare from the water. f/5.0, 1/40s, ISO 400.

3. Don’t forget the details

Often we will automatically think of wide, sweeping landscapes to show off the colors of fall. However, don’t forget that detail shots can pack just as much of a punch when displaying those bright autumn colors. Get your macro lens out, or try using your zoom lens to get some cropped sections of fall foliage.

Look for leaves that have partially started to change color, or take time to inspect their intricate veins. Search for interesting textures or shapes as well as color.

And while we will often find ourselves looking up at all of the bright colored leaves, remember to also look low and find other seasonal flora, like the mushrooms pictured below.

Down low details can be interesting to photograph as well!

4. Get artsy

While a tack sharp, well composed landscape image is always nice, don’t be afraid to get creative and play around with your artistic side as well. Finding colorful reflections in water can be a fun way to create dreamy, painter-like images.

Introducing intentional camera movement into your shots is another way to create artistic photos. Panning vertically or horizontally with a slower shutter speed (1/15s or slower) is a great way to capture a scene in a unique way. Or, If you have a breezy day, use your tripod and play with different shutter speeds to capture the motion of the leaves while leaving the fixed components of the image tack sharp.

Bright colored leaves on a dark background made for an interesting panned image. f/11, 1/13s, ISO 100.

5. Dark and light

While we all know that shooting in the golden hours is optimal, playing around with your exposure compensation is another way you can get creative while shooting fall colors. Look for leaves that are back or side lit and try underexposing the image to make the shadows darken while leaving your subject isolated and popping out of the image. This works well if you want to create moody or minimalist photos.

Alternatively, if you want a more light and airy image, play around with the brightness of your photos and create a more high-key photo. Knowing how to properly expose an image is important, but don’t be afraid to experiment with your light levels to create unique imagery that tells a story and catches your viewers’ eyes.

A underexposed scene can lead to a dramatic image.

6. Long exposures

If you’re around water, experiment with long exposures to get creative with your scene. Scattered leaves on the side of a river can add a seasonal element to your landscape scene. A single, bright leaf on a rock surrounded by running water can also be a great subject.

Study the water patterns and look for any swirls or eddies where leaves or pine needles could create interesting patterns under a long exposure.

f/6.7, 30s, ISO 100

The autumn season is a great time to shoot because the abundance of colors can transform the simplest of scenes into a photographer’s dream. Keep an eye out for the leaves starting to turn color in your area so that you don’t miss your window to capture the season before it changes again.

Overcast skies can create perfect diffused light to help showcase the vibrant colors around you, so don’t be afraid to bundle up and get out there and see what you can capture!