PHOTOGRAPHY BASICS

Autumn photography tips

From making the most of the changeable weather to capturing seasonal colours, discover the kit and techniques you need to create amazing photos and video of this beautiful time.
A close-up of a brown autumn leaf on the ground, covered in raindrops.

Autumn is arguably the best season to get outside with your camera. Warm light, fiery colours and animals gathering food for the winter mean that there's always something to photograph. The window of opportunity for photographing peak autumn colours is fleeting though, as all it takes is a breezy day to strip trees of their leaves. That's why it's important to seize every moment that you're able to.

To get you started, here are nine autumn photography tips for making the most of the season's gorgeous oranges, reds and golds, whichever Canon camera you use.

1. Take advantage of the changing light

A mountain stream flows through an autumnal landscape, with ferns and rocks in the foreground.

The low-angle sun of an autumn day can bring out the texture of the terrain. This classic autumnal image captures all the colours of the season. The movement in the water, captured with a long exposure, plus the ferns, beech and birch trees, help to balance the composition. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens at 29mm, 15 sec, f/16 and ISO100. © Theo Bosboom

A few leaves hang on to otherwise bare branches as pale tree trunks are seen in the mist in the background.

The murky backdrop helps to accentuate the handful of autumn leaves left clinging to these spindly branches. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) at 190mm, 1/50 sec, f/8 and ISO200. © Theo Bosboom

The lower elevation of the sun means that autumnal light is often warm and soft – great for shooting photos throughout the day.

Perhaps the best time for autumn photography is during the 'golden' hour – the period just after the sun rises and just before it sets. Sunlight at this time can help you to capture enhanced textures and shapes, ideal for getting up close and shooting fallen leaves. The long shadows created by the low sun can add drama to landscape and cityscape photos, too.

The later sunrises and hazy early morning light can provide great opportunities for evocative shots, such as empty city streets and misty woodland scenes. Try also shooting as the sun sets, when there is still light in the sky but you can also capture the impact of city lights.

2. Embrace rain, fog and the cold

Two swans on a river partially obscured by mist over the water, which gives the scene a pale orange glow.

Use the weather conditions to your advantage. Here, the mist partially obscuring the swans creates atmosphere and gives this riverside scene an otherworldly feel. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens at 200mm, 1/1000 sec, f/3.5 and ISO100. © Dmitry Kupratsevich

A spider sits in the middle of its web against a dark green and brown background. The lines of the web are covered in tiny dew drops.

After a cold night, head out early with your camera to capture dew or frost on spiderwebs. To make translucent subjects like this stand out, shoot them against a dark backdrop. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F4L IS USM lens at 200mm, 1/400 sec, f/4 and ISO500. © Lucia Griggi

Changeable autumn weather means that it's possible to capture many moods in a single day. The sky can be bright and sharp one minute, overcast and stormy the next.

Even rain can bring a range of opportunities for creative photography. Canon's EOS R System cameras and RF lenses are weather sealed, which means you can use them in a wide range of environments and conditions. A lens hood will protect the front of the lens if there are a few spots of rain, but pack a rain cover for your camera so that you can carry on shooting during a downpour. Find a dark backdrop so that you can make raindrops stand out, and take advantage of puddles to shoot reflections of colourful trees.

Colder nights also mean there's a greater chance of fog forming in the morning – so get up early to capture photos and video of a misty city or countryside before any sun burns it off. Try shooting into the sun or towards streetlights to give the mist an ethereal glow.

3. Make the most of autumnal colours

A large bare tree is seen on a piece of grassy moorland. There's a hazy mist in the distance, and the low sun is seen through the tree's branches.

If you're taking a photograph into the sun then you might find that your subject looks darker than expected. Saving your image as a RAW file will give you the option to fine-tune the exposure when you process it. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 1/8000 sec, f/4 and ISO2500. © Marcus Hawkins

An image of a large bare tree on a piece of grassy moorland open in Canon's Digital Photo Professional editing software.

Editing your files in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software enables you to adjust the colours and set Picture Styles. © Marcus Hawkins

Set your camera to deliver strong saturated colours for bold autumn images. To enhance the golden hues of autumn landscapes, choose a white balance preset that will add warmth, such as Daylight or Cloudy. If you're using one of the camera's automatic shooting modes that allows you to change the colour tone, set this to Warm.

Capturing autumn images in RAW format (as opposed to JPEG) will give you the most flexibility when it comes to editing your pictures on a computer. Canon's Digital Photo Professional software gives you all the tools you need to process RAW files. You can change the white balance to give your pictures a warmer feel, for example, and experiment with different Picture Styles such as the Autumn Hues style that can be downloaded from the Canon website. It's also possible to fine-tune the hue, saturation and luminosity of individual colours using the 'colour adjustment' tool.

4. Experiment with seasonal portraits

A young man and woman smile at each other as they push their bikes along a path with a backdrop of golden autumn leaves.

The sun shining through the golden autumn leaves provides a beautiful backdrop for this portrait. Experiment with using foreground elements to improve your composition or try throwing autumn leaves. Landscape shots can often be enhanced by adding a subject. Taken on a Canon EOS 200D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 250D) with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens at 1/800 sec, f/1.8 and ISO200.

Autumn colours create an uplifting backdrop for a portrait photo. To produce a flattering image, move back from your subject and zoom the lens to a long setting. This will make facial features less pronounced, for a more pleasing result. The narrower view of a longer zoom will also give you more control over what appears in the background of your portrait, so you can flood the backdrop with autumnal colours.

The low angle of the sun on autumn days can be uncomfortable for your portrait subject, so shoot in the shade of a tree or a building so that the person will not be squinting. As an alternative, position them so that the warm light illuminates them from behind or from one side, then hold something white close to their face to reflect the light and brighten up the areas in shadow.

Autumn weather is unpredictable, and sometimes you'll need to shoot inside. Use white net or tulle material to diffuse the light from a window and place the portrait subject so that the light falls on one side of their face. Ask them to turn their head slightly to look outside so that the soft light illuminates their face evenly.

5. Be prepared to get up early when photographing wildlife

A small white bird perches on a branch with red berries, its long black tail raised behind it.

For sharp pictures, support the camera and lens firmly, or use a tripod. A lens with image stabilisation (IS) or an EOS R System camera with In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS), for example, will help you take sharper handheld shots. Taken on a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 600mm F4L IS USM lens at 1/4000 sec, f/4.5 and ISO640.

A deer with small antlers is seen half-hidden in a field of tall golden crops, with a golden sky behind.

Deer and many other mammals have a very sensitive sense of smell, so approach them when the wind is blowing in your direction, rather than carrying your scent towards them. Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM lens at 373mm, 1/250 sec, f/8 and ISO1250. © Ben Hall

The seasonal colours bring an extra element to photos of wild animals and birds, although you'll often need a long lens to get frame-filling shots. Most animals will be active at dawn and dusk, so try to get into a position at a location before your subject arrives. Use your camera's fastest drive mode setting so that you are able to capture bursts of shots, and set AI Servo/Servo autofocus to track moving animals.

Wild animals such as deer, squirrels and birds can blend into their surroundings, so try to frame them against the vibrant autumn foliage so that they stand out more. If you have birds visiting your garden, use bird food to entice them to land in front of a colourful backdrop.

6. Get close for added impact

A close-up of a single cream and brown mushroom, on a moss-covered forest floor.

To ensure your subject stands out from its surrounds, choose an aperture wide enough (lowest f-number) to blur the background. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 200mm, 1/100 sec, f/8 and ISO640. © Brian Worley

A dry autumn leaf shot against a low sun in an orange sky to illuminate its veins.

Try taking a photograph with the orange glow of a sunset or sunrise behind your subject so that it appears as a silhouette, and then use flash to illuminate it. When you're shooting autumn leaves, keep the back of the camera parallel with the leaf so that you will be able to pull more of it into sharp focus. Taken on a Canon EOS RP with a Canon RF 24-105mm F4L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/1000 sec, f/4 and ISO100. © Agi Wojcik

Macro photography is a great way to explore the tones and textures of autumn. Experiment with the macro or close-up mode on your camera and look for seasonal details such as fungi, raindrops on leaves or the veins of fallen foliage.

To bring out the texture of autumn leaves, light them from a low angle. If you want to capture the delicate structure of a leaf, tape it to a window so that you can photograph it backlit by the sun.

The Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM for EOS R System cameras has a minimum focusing distance (MFD) of 14cm (0.5x magnification or half life-size), giving you the opportunity to fill the frame with detail, while the Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM allows you to focus up to 35cm (0.5x magnification). Macro lenses aren't solely for close-up photography – you can use them for portraits, landscapes and other subjects, too.

You don't need a dedicated lens for macro photography. As long as you have a good quality camera and lens, any shot can be cropped to show the detail of a subject. Many lenses supplied with Canon EOS cameras have an impressively short MFD, such as the Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM, which can focus up to 13cm.

7. Have the right kit

A woman in a warm hat and coat looking at the LCD screen of her Canon camera while crouching down to photograph a moss-covered rock.

Rather than shooting everything from head height, make the effort to get down low to show autumn scenery from a new perspective. A camera with a vari-angle screen makes it easy to shoot from creative angles.

A Canon EOS R System camera makes for a great lightweight option to carry all day on an autumn photography outing. The compact Canon EOS R10 and Canon EOS RP are simple to use and packed with creative features that let you develop your photography and video skills.

Experiment with different lenses to add variety to your autumn images. A wide-angle lens such as the Canon RF 24mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM is great for seasonal landscape shots, while the lightweight RF 100-400mm F5.6-8 IS USM is ideal for wildlife photography. A lens with a large maximum aperture, such as the Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM, will make it easier to shoot in low light.

Don't forget to pack some accessories. A reflector will give you more control over the light when you're shooting autumn close-ups and portraits, and a lightweight tripod will enable you to continue to take pictures at night. A circular polarising filter that attaches to the front of your lens is a great autumn photography accessory, as it will reduce reflections and boost saturation.

8. Try recording an autumn video

Two women in warm hats and coats and with Canon cameras stand in a forest looking up. One of them is also pointing up.

Look upwards and see what's happening above you. The inclusion of almost-bare branches against the sky in your image or video conveys an autumnal feel and allows the viewer to appreciate the beauty and fragility of nature.

While you're out taking autumn images, why not shoot autumn in motion too? Canon EOS cameras such as the Canon EOS R10 allow you to record high-quality videos at the touch of a button. If you have a camera equipped with Wi-Fi, you can easily share your clips on social media while you're on the go, via the Canon Camera Connect app.

If you're featuring friends, family or other people, make sure that the stars of your film are wearing colours that complement the autumn hues. For a professional look, keep your camera stationary and avoid zooming the lens while you're filming.

Try shooting some clips where the leaves are falling from the trees, or why not scoop up a handful of leaves and throw them in the air? Make sure your internal audio recording is on so you capture the sound of leaves crunching under foot, or the laughter of you and your friends.

You could even have a go at shooting a time-lapse or hyper-lapse movie, showing the seasonal light changing over the course of a few hours, for example, or dew forming on autumn grass.

9. Print your favourite images

A sheet of autumn-themed images emerging from a Canon compact printer.

The Canon SELPHY CP1500 prints beautiful lab-quality photos on a range of different paper, from postcard-size to mini stickers.

It is worth selecting an optimum paper to suit your photography style when printing saturated and warm-toned photos. While the popular high gloss Canon Pro Platinum photo paper gives superbly detailed and vibrant results, you could also try a softer paper. A great example is Canon's Plus Semi-gloss, which has a satin finish and reduced glossiness for a softer look.

The Canon PIXMA TS7450 Series printer is an ideal home option for printing on a range of creative media, while the Canon SELPHY CP1500 is a great compact choice.

Exploring the beauty of autumn with your camera can spark ideas for an abundance of inspiring photography projects, so be sure to make the most of this vibrant season while the magic lasts.

Written by Marcus Hawkins

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