Setting for Fall foliage

Heading to New England in October 2018. Using my Sigma 18-200 lens with D5300. I use my camera on manual 100% time. Any suggestions on setting to use to capture the wonderful colors. Thanks


  • edited September 2018
    If you're used to using manual exposure you're probably well enough in control over all. The main thing I'd suggest is that you experiment with color balance. If you can, shoot Raw and you can then use a Raw processor such as View NX-2 or Capture NX-D to make color balance changes that are reversible.

    As a general rule, you will usually get better foliage with a warmer color balance, and colors will pop a bit without looking fake if you switch to "cloudy." The Auto color balance, while it works pretty well, tends to be rather cool, and even direct sun is likely to be a little better, with cloudy a bit warmer, and shade a bit warmer still.

    You can also try vivid or landscape picture controls, but you may find that the vivid control, while it does juice up the saturation, also results in greater contrast, and may not suit you. Landscape gives a little more saturation too, but leans more toward greens. I prefer standard most of the time, but again, if you shoot in Raw you can modify the picture controls and try them all without penalty. You can also add a little saturation to taste in post processing. This varies with both taste and the scene, but aside from saturation, you can try a little contrast and lowering of highlights too, which can make things look a little less hazy.

    If you're doing large vistas and including a fair amount of sky, or doing sunsets, you might find that a little exposure compensation in the negative direction will help, though more than a little will probably come out too dark and silhouetted. Since you're shooting manually, you won't get compensation from the +/- button, but (assuming you're not using auto ISO which will change ISO to satisfy the meter) you can simply change the exposure looking at the meter reading to see how far you go. If you're using auto ISO, you can't compensate in manual mode. But once again, if you shoot Raw, you can compensate in post and revert if you don't like it. View NX-2 does two stops of compensation, and Capture NX-D does five (more than you will normally ever need).

    By the way, if you're not familiar with those two Nikon programs, they work quite differently, though they do much the same things. View NX-2 changes the Raw file, though it can always be reverted. Because of this, if you change a Raw file here, other programs that read Raw will read it with the changes. Capture NX-D, like many other programs, changes the "sidecar" file only, and not the Raw file seen by other programs. If you want a change to show in other programs, you'll have to save it as a JPG or TIFF.

    PS. New England foliage can vary a lot with district. Here in Vermont, the Green Mountains and the Eastern edge pass earlier than the Western. So if you do, by chance, find that you're a little late on the East, head West. The Champlain valley of Vermont and New York is often fantastic when the spine of the Greens has turned to sticks.
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