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Autumn leaves

Autumn is upon us and for many of us it is our favourite season of the year. The golden sunshine and inspirational colours are so beautiful that we want to capture them forever.

But autumn photography can achieve disappointing results. Those colours never look as good as they do in real life. Many of us give up and think it just can’t be done. But with a little patience and good planning you really can achieve some wonderful autumn pictures this year.

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Here are six steps that will help:

1. Location
Great shots don’t just happen, they need to be planned. Find somewhere that has a good collection of trees and different plants to create a variety of different colours in your image. Whether this is in a heavily wooded area or local park - or even a more urban or residential area - if you find the right spot you are well on the way to getting some really good shots. Also think of additional items of interest that could enhance your photography, such as water, buildings and structures, or animals.

2. Capturing Colours
It is the spectacular and distinctive colours of autumn that most of us want to capture: those rich warm tones of brown, red and orange. But this abundance of warm tones can often end up looking disappointingly cool in the finished result. It can pay dividends to experiment with any presets and filters that your camera has: for example if you have either a sunny white balance or cloudy preset this could help. Alternatively you may want to try increasing the colour temperature when processing your photographs.

3. The Rule of Thirds
Much good landscape photography relies on what is known as the rule of thirds. This means that when you are positioning your shot, you divide your image up into thirds both horizontally and vertically; so that in effect you are looking at it in 9 squares. Some cameras provide rule of thirds dividing lines either on the focusing screen or on the live view display, To achieve a well balanced image it is best to position your horizon on one of the two horizontal lines, and any foreground items in line with one of the vertical lines. This achieves a much more interesting result than just placing subjects directly in the centre of the shot.

The ideal composition for a landscape photograph is to lead the viewer’s eye from the bottom left of the image towards the centre or top right, and additional features in the bottom left of the image - such as a wall, fence, path, river or line of trees - can achieve this effectively.

4. Get the light right
The best times for good autumn photographs are often early dawn or sunset, because this is when the quality of light is best. These times are often referred to as “the golden hour”: the wonderful times of day at daybreak and dusk when the sun is hidden behind the horizon but is still strong enough to provide a gentle warm light. Early morning shots can be further enhanced by morning mist which can add more atmosphere to your images, and evening sunsets can provide some beautiful warm glowing images.

If you are shooting in sunnier times, keep the sun at your back. Shooting into the sun can result in shadows, loss of colour and lens flare: so if you do have to shoot into the sun it is worth using a lens hood or some other kind of shield for your lens to avoid this.

5. The exposure triangle
To get really good photographs you need to be aware of the “exposure triangle”. This refers to the way that three camera settings — aperture, shutter speed and ISO — work together to create the perfect amount of light exposure for the shot that you want. Aperture controls the amount of light coming into the camera lens, shutter speed controls the length of time that light enters the camera lens, and ISO controls your camera’s sensitivity to light. It is well worth experimenting with different combinations of these camera settings to achieve the best exposure for your autumn photography.

6. Macro photography
We have referred primarily so far to landscapes, but the scope of autumn photography is broader than this. Sometimes focusing on smaller detail can produce excellent shots. Macro photography refers to taking close up shots of subjects so that you can really explore the detail and colour. Whether this is leaves, colourful plants, berries or even wildlife, autumn is a time when you can achieve some really interesting macro photography.

Ideally macro photography requires a specialist macro lens which enables you to focus close up, but many standard lenses also offer close focusing that can enable you to get good shots even when a reasonable distance from your subject. It’s a good idea to use a tripod for macro shots, as even the slightest movement can cause your photographs to be blurry. Also be careful of your backgrounds as too much detail can be distracting: either try for a plain background in a contrasting colour to your subject or try to create interesting abstract patterns in your composition.

We hope that you have a wonderful autumn and that the above six steps enable you to capture some photographs that really do it justice. Check back here soon for more photography tips from Venture Studios.

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