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Capturing the Colors of Autumn

In many parts of the country, autumn is a favorite time of the year to capture the beauty of nature. Colorful leaves, bright blue skies, and the changing of the seasons create vivid, colorful scenes that beg to be photographed. Sometimes, even if photograph a scene with beautiful autumn colors, the same powerful emotion does not come across when looking at the image. Try these simple tips to help your pictures of autumn match your memories.

Exposure compensation settings Set Your Exposure

To help autumn colors really stand out, familiarize yourself with your camera’s exposure compensation settings. Although Olympus digital cameras can set the exposure value automatically, you may get a better picture by manually making adjustments. Using fully automatic settings, bright subjects usually turn out darker than their natural colors.

To adjust exposure, simply press the Exposure Compensation button. Compensate the exposure towards [+] to make these subjects closer to their real shades. Conversely, when you are shooting dark subjects, it can be effective to compensate towards [–]. When you compensate the exposure, the brightness of the subject on the monitor will change as well.

Use Exposure Creatively

On a clear sunny day, you can take pictures of the red and yellow autumn colors against the blue sky. On a cloudy day, try using exposure compensation to give the impression of a painting. Set the exposure compensation more towards the + (positive) side and the details of the cloudy sky will disappear and become white. When the sky turns white, the autumn colored leaves will appear in the picture as if painted on a white canvas.

Make autumn leaves stand out against a dark background

When there is sunlight falling on a tree with autumn leaves, select a dark background like a shadowed place to make  the autumn foliage really stand out. By positioning your subject against a darker background, the exposure conditions will result in a more powerful picture. However, when the contrast between the subject and the background is too high, you may not get the picture exactly right on your first attempt. Try taking the same picture with different exposure settings to achieve the desired effect. > View an example of a photo taken against a dark background.


Many Olympus cameras allow you to control metering. When the contrast between the subject and background is high, or when you take a photo against a strong backlight, using the automatic exposure may not result in the best picture. In such cases try using the [SPOT] metering mode. With [SPOT] the camera measures the light only in the central part of the screen. You can use this feature to measure the light only on a tree with fall foliage to get a darker background and bring out the main subject of the picture. For more about metering, please click here.

Use a Polarizing Filter to bring out vivid colors: PL Filter

By using a circular-type polarizing filter, or PL filter, you can eliminate the stray light reflected off the leaves and bring out the brilliant original colors of the foliage and the deep, vivid blue of the sky. On some models you cannot directly attach filter to the lens, but you can always simply hold the filter manually in front of the camera's lens and achieve the same effect. Since using a PL filter reduces the amount of light, you may need to use a tripod to stabilize the camera during the longer exposure.

Be aware of flare and ghosting when shooting into backlight:

When shooting a backlit subject, avoid letting the light directly hit the surface of the lens. If this happens, flare or ghosting may occur on the image.  Flare will make the whole picture seem whitish and appear at first sight to be overexposed. Ghosting is a phenomenon in which pentagon-shaped artifacts appear on an image that is backlit.

You can prevent light from hitting the lens directly by holding your hand over the camera or lens, using a lens hood, or by blocking the light with a black a black sheet of paper or some other cover. Also, you can position yourself in the shadow of a tree or in some other shadowy place.

Make autumn colors memorable with Saturation and Picture Mode adjustments:

After taking the shot, you can use OLYMPUS Viewer 3 to adjust the saturation levels. By increasing the saturation you can create a more impressive picture with brighter colors.

Advanced Olympus cameras allow you to adjust your color-capturing preferences right in the camera. Choose the [VIVID] picture mode to make the autumn colors appear brighter. You can make fine adjustments after selecting [VIVID], by adjusting the saturation. Simply select the [RGB] menu  icon with the arrow pad and turn the control dial. Most current Olympus cameras have Art Filter modes or Magic Filters like “Pop Art” that produce an even more pronounced effect.

Composition: Try taking horizontal and vertical pictures:

Horizontal pictures give an impression of space, whereas vertical pictures give an impression of height. In the same location, try taking not only horizontal pictures, but vertical as well. Especially when the clouds are expressive, there are many opportunities to utilize the height of the autumn sky by taking pictures vertically. Compare the difference in atmosphere between horizontal and vertical pictures.

Want more? Visit the Olympus Learn Center or check out these tips:

Outdoor Photography:
> Nature Photography
> White Balance
> Outdoor Portraits
> Shooting Sports & Moving Subjects

Fall Photography:
> Autumn Sunsets
> Halloween Tips from a Pro: Trick or Treat
> Halloween Basics

Advanced Tip: Auto Bracketing

If your camera has it, use the Auto Bracketing function. This feature is typically found on Olympus cameras that can use interchangeable lenses and compacts in the XZ line. Auto Bracketing sets the camera to automatically take a number of pictures at different exposure compensations. Taking the same picture at different brightness levels is very convenient – especially when it's more complicated to decide on the best exposure settings. On most models, this feature can be selected and adjusted via the cameras' menu. For full information for your model, locate the term AE BKT or AE Bracketing in the camera's full .pdf manual.

View the effects of this setting:
Auto Bracketing

Want to see great photos of autumn leaves shot by our users? Check out the new Olympus User Galler.