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Filters for Autumn Colours

We have other articles on autumn colours,  how to find autumn colours and how to photograph autumn colours. In this article we turn our attention to the use of filters that may be of assistance to us when capturing autumn colours in all their splendour.

We need to pay particular attention to white balance with this subject, this is covered in some detail in how to photograph autumn colours. There are times where we see people have used filters in an attempt to overcome problems created by not managing colour fully. In this page we are going to assume that you have colour management and in particular, white balance mastered.

The filters that we may find helpful with autumn colours are:

  • Polarizers, to saturate colours, increase reflections or cut through some haze

  • Neutral density grads to overcome bright sky contrast problems

  • Neutral density filters to control exposure times to make some waterfall effects

  • Warm up filters (could also achieve the same effect in camera with white balance, or in editing)

  • Coloured grads to enhance some colours.


The most commonly used of all of filter types, and we have covered these in other articles before. In this situation we can use them to saturate colours,  increase reflections or cut through some haze.  As you rotate them you will see the effects that you can get. Usually you will find that where you get the best reflection is 90 degrees adrift from where sky saturation is best, so you may have to choose which effect is of more interest to you, or take two photos to combine later. We have a more detailed article on polarizer's.

Neutral Density Graduated Filters

ND grads allow you to darken a part of the scene in relation to another, usually holding back the bright sky. As there is a graduation over an area this is not very obvious in the image, however you can't use these if there are items of prime interest that would be darkened by the the use of the grad. Where you can't use this method you can underexpose and then correct it in editing or take multiple images. You can use ND grads in combination with coloured grads, that we will discuss below. We have a more detailed article on ND grads.

Neutral Density Filters (ND)

These just cut down all the light, making longer exposures possible. Usually this is used to slow waterfalls capture down to get softer water effects. A much higher value ND filter can be used to slow it down considerably longer and in this case is useful where you want to not show people who are walking through the scene. We have a more detailed article on ND filters.

Warm up Filters

These are weak orange filters that put, in effect, a colour cast on the image, similar to early morning or late evening light. Under this lighting effect autumn colours may appear stronger. You can get the same effect by using the warm up feature within the white balance on many cameras, using a blue-grey card instead of a grey card for setting PRE or added in editing later. Don't use auto white balance with one of these it will most likely completely cancel out the effect.

Coloured Grads

This type of filter has an effect of allowing you to add colour to a part of the image, they may also have an impact on the exposure in this area. Grads used for this may be orange but often its the tobacco grads that are used. Grads can be put in at any angle and with the right holders you can use a number of grads together at a variety of different angles, often mixing ND and coloured grads to get the effect that you want.  See also the article on coloured grads.

The choice to use filters or not

It is true that many of the effects you can get with coloured grads can also be produced in editing, although you have difficulty in getting the same effect as ND grads. Some prefer to make the image completely or as completely as they can in camera. Obtaining a few grads is not expensive in some formats, but if you decide to have the range, we have, in two sizes, then you would spend more on these than on a Nikon D300 body, so not a cost effective solution especially when the same effects can be achieved in editing even if not as effectively.

On this website we have a Filters Section,  that you will find covers all aspects including different types, makes and holders.

See Also:

Autumn Colours

Autumn colours introduction   

Photographing autumn colours

Filters for autumn colours   l

Finding autumn colour locations

Autumn Colours in England

Autumn Colours in Wales

Autumn Colours in Scotland

Autumn Colours in Northern Ireland


By: Keith Park Section: Nature/Flora/Countryside Key:
Page Ref: filters_autumn_colours Topic: Autumn Colours  Last Updated: 09/2011

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