Want to be a better photographer? Follow these tips for fall

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Fall provides many opportunities to take fantastic pictures. Whether it is with your DSLR or with your handy cellphone, a day outside taking pictures can be a great way to get out and enjoy nature while social distancing.

A beautiful photo can be taken in your own backyard but the St. Louis region’s numerous parks offer trails that can lead you on a photography adventure. It’s a great way to spend time with the kids.    

“Let them borrow your camera or phone or maybe they have phones, depending on how old they are, and you can get out and teach them the basics of photography. You can practice on things like flowers or insects you might find,” said Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation.

Don’t worry about the type of camera you have, but take some time to learn how to use it. Remember, smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras offer pre-formatted settings that can help you take a great shot.  

“Instead of just taking a picture, go ahead and set it in that mode. If you’re taking a picture of a flower, put it in macro mode. If you’re taking a picture of the landscape, you put it in landscape mode,” Zarlenga said. “And that sort of fine-tunes some of the settings in the phone to helps to bring out what you’d typically like to see in that type of photo.” 

Cloudy days can be your photography friend when it comes to highlighting the depth of color of fall trees and leaves.  

“It’s like there is a diffuser over the sun with the clouds. You can get some very nice light with those,” Zarlenga said.

If the sun is out, use backlight to your advantage. You’ve seen in on social media — #GoldenHour. 

“It’s about an hour before sunset or an about an hour after sunrise,” Zarlenga said. “And you can get some of the best light if you are taking wide-angle pictures.” 

Use the touch-to-focus option on smartphones and manually focus cameras that allow. Hold the camera close to your body, bring along a tripod, or set your camera on a rock or log for a steady shot.  And importantly, don’t “shoot and run.” 

“Explore your subject a little bit. Go different angles, lower or higher. Maybe wait for the light to change a little bit. Don’t just take one image,” Zarlenga said. “Because, unlike the days of film when you had to pay to process your image, memory cards are cheap. Shoot away. You can always delete ones you don’t like.”  

Finally, don’t forget the rule of thirds.  

“Pretend that you are doing a tic-tac-toe arrangement on your frame. You have a line in one-third straight up and down and the other third straight up and down. You have another line on the horizontal at the thirds as well. And you want to try to put your subject at the intersection of those points or along those lines if it’s a linear subject. That usually makes for a better picture than something that’s dead center.” 

The piles of leaves, baskets of apples, fields of pumpkins are sure to delight, just don’t forget about everything else that might end up in the photo. 

“I think a lot of times, new photographers don’t see the image for the subject. They get so fixated on the subject that they don’t look at the overall image and how that subject relates to its background and environment,” Zarlenga said. 

Bottom line: don’t rush. Explore new parks. Expand your photography skills. And enjoy the fall weather while you are doing it. 

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