Your Camera May Be Dulling Your Fall Pictures

Vibrant color recorded with Daylight White Balance

I first became aware of this problem in the early days of digital cameras. People who had been shooting film came to my classes and complained that their sunset photos from their new digital cameras were not very colorful. Turns out that a setting called Auto White Balance was the culprit. In the camera's attempt to prevent an unwanted orange color cast (like you might have with indoor pictures), it was taking out the oranges and reds that made sunset images beautiful.

The same thing can happen to your fall pictures of colorful trees. The camera doesn't recognize that you want all that vibrant orange, red and yellow in your shot. It just thinks there's too much of one color and that might be a mistake.

Auto White Balance dulls the vibrant colors

The solution is the same as it is for sunset (and sunrise) photos. Switch the camera from Auto White Balance to Daylight or Direct Sunlight white balance (the term varies among manufacturers). You may have to chose a different exposure mode than Auto to get access to this setting. Switching to Program (P) exposure mode leaves the camera in automatic but lets you change settings like white balance.

Daylight white balance leaves the colors in the scene unchanged. In many cases, your fall colors will appear more intense with this setting. (The same is true for your sunrise and sunset photos.) However, you will probably want to change the white balance back to Auto when shooting inside under artificial lighting.

Learn more tips for better fall color photos in Photographing Fall Colors from Start to Finish class which starts October 10, 2019, in Missoula, Montana. Click here to register.