Capturing Autumn Colours

Colour is all around us everyday but as the autumn season approaches we are surrounded by glorious shades of red, orange, yellow and brown. These are all warm colours that are really pleasing to look at. They are also, with the exception of some shades of brown perhaps, dominant colours - our eyes are drawn straight to them.


These characteristics can cause problems when photographing subjects with these colours.


Shooting the warm colours:

When we are out photographing the colours of autumn we are always shooting in natural light with a blue cast to it - from bold blue skies to misty conditions.

We don't notice this cast - until we take a photo. This colour cast can shift the tones of your image away from how you perceive them. This is especially true of the colour red which can shift from a scarlet tone to a magenta one in some light.

The camera also doesn't always record the colours in the same depth and richness of tone that we are seeing. Without getting too technical this is because of how the camera's sensor records your image.


How to fix this...

1. Tell your camera what type of light you are shooting with using the White Balance presets on your camera. Choose the preset that matches the light conditions to start with. You can see in the images below how much difference this made; choosing the right setting brought out the colours of the leaves and sunlight.

Experiment with which preset gives you the result you like - you may find it's not always the one that goes with the conditions. Eg sometimes cloudy gives a better result than shade for subjects in the shade!

2. Underexpose your image using the Exposure Compensation setting on your camera. Dial in a minus setting to deepen the colour tones in your image. You will probably only have to adjust this slightly; -1/3, -2/3 or maybe as far as -1.


These settings will help you record any colour more successfully but you may also decide to play with the settings creatively to produce an image that you love.


Shooting the dominant colours:

When shooting subjects with strong dominant colours look to use one of the following compositional techniques:

1. Fill the frame with your subject - make the photo just about the colour.

2. Use the dominant colour as an accent - a small area of the frame that draws the viewers eye into and through your image. The ladybird and flower images below are good examples of this.

3. Shoot them with their complementary colour - balance the amount of the dominant colour with its partner to ensure it doesn't overwhelm the other; as in the photo of the orange below. Complementary colours are:



Red and green

Yellow and violet

Orange and blue




Equally shoot the colours in any combination you like - just remember the visual impact of those dominant colours!


Enjoy shooting colours this month! I know I will be!




Icon artwork: shade by Dmitry Baranovskiy from the Noun Project

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All images © Sarah Holmes 2020 No reproduction without prior permission.