Essential Tips and Gear to Capture Fall Foliage

© Photo by Allen Rokach -

In the Northeast and many other parts the country, one of the most anticipated highlights of the fall season is seeing the trees turn breathtaking shades of red, orange, and gold. Hordes of “leaf peepers,” most with cameras, descend upon ideal viewing locations in New England, Upper New York State, and Pennsylvania to witness and record the spectacle. Here are some shooting tips and equipment suggestions to help you get the most out of this majestic but fleeting annual event.

Fall foliage shooting tips

1. The best times to shoot fall foliage on sunny days are early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the strongly directional light casts shadows that help the colors “pop” and delineate the trees.

2.Overcast days are also good for capturing fall foliage, but you may want to dial up your camera’s contrast and/or color saturation settings.

3. Vary your composition. Capturing a wide expanse of brilliantly colored trees with a wide-angle zoom is a classic approach, but also try shooting close-ups of the same subject with, say, a telephoto macro zoom.

4. Place the trees in context, with a lake in the foreground, a weathered barn in the middle ground, or a mountain in the background. It’s a great way to create memorable images.

5. Shoot at moderate ISO settings to maximize color saturation and overall image quality. Wide-aperture (fast) lenses can help you shoot handheld, but it’s best to shoot at moderate apertures, so bring a travel tripod or monopod, especially if you’re shooting with long lenses.

Fall foliage shooting gear

Here’s a concise collection of items to help you achieve more compelling and unique images of this year’s fall colors. The list includesspecific filters, lenses, and support devices, all of which are available fromAdorama, but there are many other choices available on the site too. We sure hope this starts your creative juices flowing!

Filters for Fall Foliage:

All the optical glass filtersbelow yield effects that are permanently captured on the original image file rather than added with post-production software, an approach favored by many artistic and creative shooters.

Tiffen Enhancing Filter: An outstanding choice for capturing brilliant fall colors this rare earth glass filter removes a portion of the orange region of the spectrum, yielding increased color saturation in brown, orange and red hues. This eliminates muddy tones, and maximizes the crimson and and scarlet components while having a minimal effect on other colors. It’s also great for shooting earth tones, woodwork, rustic barns, etc. Adorama price: $45.76 (in 52mm size).

Hoya Red Intensifier Glass Filter: Also known as the didymium filter, it enhances red, orange, and brown subjects by increasing their color saturation and has little effect on other colors in the spectrum. It’s used to bring out the colors in fall foliage, architecture and landscapes, and rocks. Adorama price: $44.50 (in 67mm size).

Tiffen Color Graduated ND .6 (4x) Glass Filter: It’s used to balance the light intensity within a scene, typically by decreasing the amount of incoming light from the sky area, thus capturing more sky detail while properly exposing the foreground. It’s part clear and part 2-stop Neutral Density with a smoothly graded transition in between to let you capture saturated fall colors without “blowing out” the sky or other bright areas. Adorama price: $47.82 (in 52mm size).

Tiffen Warm Linear Polarizer Glass Filter: This unique filter combines the features of a linear polarizing filter and Tiffen’s exclusive 812 warming filter, widely used for creating scenic and portrait images with a warm feel while retaining rich color saturation. Like all rotating polarizers it can be adjusted to evenly increase color saturation, bring out clouds in bright blue skies, and eliminate reflections on glass and water, all of which can be useful in enhancing fall foliage. Note: Like all linear polarizers it may affect metering and AF accuracy with current DSLRs so manual focusing and metering are suggested. Adorama price: $19.95 (in 52mm size).

Tiffen Circular Polarizer Glass Filter: It’s ideal for shooting fall foliage because it increases overall color saturation, adds contrast for dramatic skies, and eliminates unwanted glare from water and glass surfaces. Getting the effect you want is easy—just rotate the front ring of this two-part filter until you see it in the viewfinder or on the LCD. Note: Circular polarizers don’t affect meter or AF accuracy when used on todays DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Adorama price: $19.95 (in 52mm size).


You can shoot fall foliage with practically any lens, but here are two zooms that’ll give you a leg up in achieving high quality images of exactly what you want:

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX Asph. IF AF zoom: Great for capturing scenic foliage views and details, this fast, compact zoom covers the full frame format and provides wide-angle 24mm to moderate telephoto 70mm coverage with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8 for extended low-light capability. It incorporates ELD and SLD glass for enhanced image quality, Super Multi Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting, an ESM high-speed AF motor for fast, precise autofocusing, and a 9-rounded-blade diaphragm for exceptional bokeh. Adorama price: $799.00.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DLM DG Macro Tele: This impressive Nikon-mount version has a built-in AF motor, and focuses down to 1:2 at 300mm for breathtaking close-ups as well as landscapes/scenery, sports/action, and wildlife. It incorporates SLD class for excellent chromatic aberration correction and Super Multi Layer coating (SLD) for crisp, flare-free imaging. It’s also available in Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Sigma mounts. Adorama price: $169.00.

Field supports:

Davis & Sanford Traverse TR553-P228: A great ultra-compact tripod for field shooting, this sturdy lightweight portable folds to only 12 inches, weighs in at 2.6 pounds with Dual-Control ball head, extends to 53 inches, and has a impressive carrying capacity of 10 pounds, perfect for DSLRs with long lenses. Other features:5-section legs with rubberized twist locks, 3-position independent leg-angle adjustments, foam-cushioned insulators, and rubberized leg tips. Adorama price: $109.99 with carrying bag.

Manfrotto Professional Monopod: This robust black anodized 3-section monopod provides an eye-level maximum height of 63.4 inches, folds to a portable 25.6 inches has an amazing load capacity of 26.5 pounds, and weighs only 1.8 pounds. It features flip-lock levers, padded grip, comes with a wrist strap, and its 2.36-inch platform accepts a wide variety of accessory heads. Adorama price: $79.88.