3 Simple Post Processing Tips for Fall Photography

Photographing fall colors is an exciting time of year for landscape photographers.  Fall foliage adds captivating colors to your images. However, the images often fall flat when you see them on your home monitor compared to what you experienced in the field. Here are a few simple color post processing tips to make your colors realistically pop in fall photography.

Example of Fall Photography

Vibrant Colors in Fall

The Difference in the Basic Panel’s Saturation and Vibrance

One of my first steps in post-processing is to make global adjustments, changes that impact the image as a whole.  In the Basic Panel of Adobe Lightroom, the Saturation and Vibrance sliders will apply global changes to your image, but it is important to understand the difference.

The Saturation slider is a uniform adjustment to the saturation of all colors in your image.  It will saturate every color in your photo equally, no matter if it is a highlight, shadow, or midtone, even if some colors are more intense than others straight out of the camera.  So if an photo starts with only a strong intense red color, the saturation slider may be too strong of an effect and push the red to an unrealistic result even though it brings the muted colors to life.

The Vibrance slider is a discriminatory global adjustment tool. It impacts the midtones of the image. Therefore, it will apply more saturation to the subdued or muted colors. Unlike the Saturation slider, the Vibrance slider essentially will ignore already intense colors provided you don’t push that slider to the extreme limit. In the beginning, it pays to experiment with both sliders to see how the colors are altered and which aesthetic you prefer for your editing style.

Example of natural looking Fall Photography

Photographing Fall Colors

 Utilize the HSL/Color Panel in Adobe Lightroom

Once you have applied any desired global changes to the image through the  saturation or variance sliders, the next step is to decide if you want to alter specific colors.  A quick and simple way to perform specific color adjustments of your fall photos is through the HSL/Color panel.  HSL stands for Hue, Saturation, and Luminance.

Often, hue and color are used interchangeably.  Changing the hue is shifting the color.  For autumn photos, you can take greener colors and shift the hue towards more of a yellow tone. In addition, you can shift yellows towards more of an orange.

Saturation is the intensity of a color in the image.  More muted colors technically will have more grey within the color value.  While saturation can really make colors pop, this slider can be used and abused easily.  To ensure I don’t go overboard, I will often return to my image after a few hours or the next day to ensure I didn’t introduce too much saturation making the edited photo look unrealistic.

Luminance is based on the brightness of a specific color in the image. Reducing the luminance for a particular color will introduce more black and darken those particular pixels. Increasing the luminance will reduce the black, thus brightening that chosen color throughout the photo.  Thus, this is a simple way to alter the foliage colors of your autumn images, even the greens.

The beauty of the HSL/Color Panel is that you can choose how you want to edit.  In HSL mode, the sliders are first grouped by hue, saturation, and luminance.  So HSL will show you hue followed by the separate colors.   On the other hand, the Color mode has the hue, saturation, and luminance sliders grouped by color.  Therefore, the Color panel option will first group red and hue, saturation, and luminance for the reds only directly underneath it.

Example of Fall Photo in a forest.

Autumn Color in the Woods

Employ the Adjustment Point Tool

The Adjustment Point Tool is almost hidden in the top left of the HSL Panel.  It looks like a circle within a circle.  When you hover over it, arrows will appear above and below it.  If you are having trouble altering the color of a specific part of your image, this tool will help you target that exact part of the photo.

Simply click on the Adjustment Point Tool to activate it. Next, move your new cursor to the part of the image you want to change.  Click and drag the tool up or down to directly change the color of those selected pixels throughout the image.  For example, let’s suppose I select the Adjustment Point Tool in the Hue area and click on a green leaf.  When I click and drag the tool up on that green leaf, it will deepen the green. Conversely, if I drag the tool down, it will alter the hue from green towards yellow.

These few simple tricks will help elevate the colors in your fall foliage images during post processing. Happy Shooting and Editing!

About Author Chrissy Donadi

I’m a travel, nature and landscape photographer originally from the beautiful Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. After working for several years in the engineering world, I found photography. Now, my life is a constant back and forth between spending time at home with my wonderful husband and Bernese Mountain dog and traveling the globe doing what I love, capturing moments in time that exemplify the beauty of this amazing world.

I believe in continuous improvement and forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone. So I hope that you’ll follow me on my adventures and allow me to share some of the lessons I learn along the way. Safe travels and happy explorations!