Photographing fall is a joy. The weather is cool, the days are just long enough and brilliant color is everywhere.
If you live in the northern hemisphere, with deciduous trees, shrubs, and vines, the equinox means a change in the weather and the changing colors of leaves. It is a great opportunity for nature photographers to practice their skills and for nature journal keepers to get out and record the seasonal changes.
Some of my best pictures are taken in the Fall.
In this post, I include the camera settings and techniques I use most often. I confess, technical details often confuse me. I understand focusing, exposure, and aperture; but that’s about it. I just try to remember and use a few basic techniques.
I use point-and-shoot cameras. It is an exciting challenge to find ways to make a small point-and-shoot camera take really good photographs. And some of my photos are pretty darn good.
Here I focus on built-in automatic camera settings which are available with a turn of a dial or a push of a button.
If you use a simple digital camera, it contains many shooting modes and scenes which can enhance your photos. Some of the settings are available on camera phones also.
I use Canon cameras and know them best. But, any modern digital camera has similar settings and shooting modes. So, this information is applicable to many cameras. Just check your user manual for equivalents.
Common Camera Modes for Nature Photography
Use a tripod, particularly when your shutter speeds are slow. Slow shutter speeds happen with low-light situations because the lens stays open longer to gather as much light as needed. An example is night time or when you want blurred action.
Aperture Exposure Mode (“Av” or “A” on most cameras)
The aperture is the “f-stop” on a camera. For nature photographers, exposure is the top priority for nature photos. It controls focus. It separates your subject from the background. Play around with your camera’s aperture o see what you can do with it.
Landscape Mode or Infinity Mode (common icon: a mountain or a sideways-8 infinity)
The landscape mode makes the camera focus far away. Use the landscape mood to shoot wide vistas and skies. This setting gives a clear image from back to front or from far to near.
There shouldn’t be anything in the foreground near you that you are focusing on, this works great for large subjects at a distance.
Landscape Mode also works when you are shooting through glass since the camera doesn’t get confused and try to focus on the glass itself. This is useful for bird photos shoot through glass windows.
Action or Sports Scene Mode – (common icon: a runner)
Sports Mode tries to get one good shot. It does this by continuously snapping photos. It is the mode with the fastest shutter speed and will freeze action. Use this mode with fast-moving animals if you want a clear image but not a blurred one showing movement.
To Blur Motion – The camera lens needs to be open for a long time. Use the Program Mode to set your camera ISO to the lowest setting possible (ISO 100 or less) and slowest shutter speed. Use a tripod to get a clear image.
Use this mode when you what a silky effect on moving water. Or to blur a bird’s wing movement.
To Freeze Motion – Use the Sports Scene Mode. Try this for fast-moving animals or rushing water.
Vivid Color – Many cameras have a “vivid” color setting. This setting could be used with flowers, gardens, birds, and insects. I have my camera on vivid most of the time.
To capture vivid color, shoot on overcast days. The colors will pop.
Moody atmosphere – try photographing on an overcast day in black and white color setting. Or adjust a color photo to black and white in your photo editing software. Most photo software does this.
When shooting under overcast skies use the “cloudy white-balance” setting.
Backlighting – a subject, where the light is behind an object will illuminate it. The colors will appear more vivid.
Portrait – Use the Portrait Mode. for a sharp focus on a subject with a blurred background. This puts the emphasis on the subject. Try this with a flower or a butterfly.
Macro Mode or Close Up – Macro Mode allows you to focus at close quarters. It’s useful when you are close to a small insect or other objects.
Use the macro setting to shoot close-up shots filled with color.
Scenes for Special Modes
My Canon cameras have an SCN or Screen Mode on the dial. Using this dial opens up a wider range of settings. Here are the settings I have found helpful.
This mode sets the camera up for scenes with an abundance of light. Snow would reflect a lot of light and may result in an overexposed or washed out picture.
Sunset – Take shots of sunsets in vivid color.
Night Scene – the slow shutter speed lets light into the camera for good shots in dark places.
Beach – setting lets you take photos where sunlight is strong. Useful for snapshots of birds on the beach.
Foliage – shoots in vivid color and the color saturation will be increased. Useful for fall foliage colors or flower blossoms.
Black and White – change a photo to a sepia, gray or black and white composition in your camera or your photo editing software.