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How To Photograph Autumn Backlit Leaves

Want to make your autumn images 'pop'? Learn how to use backlight in your shots to really make autumn colours shine.

|  Flowers and Plants
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Autumn Leaf
 
 
The colours of Autumn are really what make our images sing and one way to exaggerate the golds, yellows and reds is with backlight. Plus, it'll really make the intricate pattern of veins stand out and focus the viewer's attention.
 
Backlighting, where the light comes from behind your subject towards your camera, can make semi-translucent subjects such as Autumn leaves really 'pop' from the frame. Colours tend to glow more and the detail found in leaves, such as the veins, really stand out. Plus, if you can position your subject against a darker background you'll enhance the effect. Just make sure your lens is shielded to prevent flare with a lens hood, your hand or use your surroundings to create a cover for your lens. While we're talking about light, it's worth mentioning that you can actually create this effect with the sun to the left or right of your frame, so long as it's at a low angle. 
 

1. Think about lens choice

Working close with wide-angle lenses can give creative results, however, flare will be more of a problem. A macro or telezoom lens is ideal but still fit a lens hood to prevent flare. Do check the frame to make sure the lens hood hasn't crept into the frame though. 

If you find the leaf is silhouetting against the sky just add a little fill-in flash. You can also position the flash behind the leaf to create your backlight if the sun's not playing ball or when at home, use a window or even a lamp as your light source. You just need to place a piece of tape over the leaf's stalk and stick it flat against a window. You won't have to worry about wind blowing your subject around at home either.

 

2. Leave space between the subject and the background for good bokeh

Having space between your leaf and its background will help create the distraction-free blurry background we're after. Using an aperture to throw other leaves out of focus can help too.

When it comes to metering it's best to take a reading from the leaves to ensure they are correctly exposed and switching to spot metering will help. If the background's dark you may need to reduce the exposure by about half to one stop to ensure it stays dark. If it's light, open up half to one-stop and bracket if you are unsure. Check your histogram too to make sure your shot is correctly exposed. To make the light around the edge of your subject 'sparkle' you may need to overexpose the shot slightly.

After Autumn gives way to Winter you can use this backlighting technique to enhance the sparkly appearance of frost and ice which works particularly well when working with plants. 

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