4 minute read

Picture Perfect: Tips To Capture Amazing Autumn Photos, Right On Your Smartphone


Katie Grant is a publications supervisor in the DNR’s Office of Communications.

There’s no time like autumn in Wisconsin for breathtaking views. Capture the moment to remember it later while you check off your fall bucket list. You can take stunning photos with just a smartphone using these tips.

1. Check your camera settings.

Consider turning on HDR (high dynamic range). This feature takes multiple shots at different exposures and blends them together, lending more detail to shadowed and highlighted areas. If using an iPhone, you can also turn on Live Photos to give yourself multiple frames to choose from — this is especially helpful when shooting people or wild animals that may be in motion.

2. Use the rule of thirds.

Rather than centering objects in the image, focus them in one-third of the frame. For landscapes, focus the horizon line along the top or bottom third of the photo. If the subject for your photo is a person or an object, align them in the left or right third. Turning on the grid lines in your camera app takes away some of the guesswork in getting things lined up.

3. Tripods are your friend!

Using a tripod can help you take clearer photos and makes it easier to line up the objects you’re shooting. Keep in mind a tripod doesn’t have to be a big heavy thing to lug around. There are lots of small, lightweight options, including ones that can wrap around objects to help you get the shot.

4. Look for the little details and include them in the foreground to give your image depth and create scale for the size of things in the background.

A rock in the bottom left of a photo can help set the scene for the size of a flowing river and the bluffs behind it. Objects like tree branches and flowers also can help you create an interesting frame in the image.

5. Pay attention to the lighting.

The most stunning photos are taken at golden hour — just after dawn and just before dusk. The lighting on an overcast day is often better than a bright sunny day, as it creates more depth and even lighting in your images. Be aware that including the sun in the photo can cause the rest of your image to be overly dark, wash out the image or add a flare of color. Try shading your lens like the brim of a hat to keep the sun from hitting the lens directly.

6. If you’re lucky enough to get a photo of wildlife, be sure to give them space.

Wild animals are unpredictable so staying at a distance is key to your safety.

7. Consider shooting from unexpected angles.

Taking a photo from down low to the ground can give a totally different perspective of a scene than taking it from eye level. Play around and see what you can create.

8. Zoom with your feet rather than using the digital zoom on your phone.

If you can’t get closer to the object, zoom later with a free editing app. The more you use the digital zoom on the phone, the more detail is lost.

9. Practice makes perfect.

The more photos you intentionally shoot keeping these tips in mind, the easier it will become and the better your images will turn out.

10. And don’t be afraid to share your fall color adventures with us on social media using #OutWiGo.