Enhance the unique beauty of each season

Travel photographer Benjamin Hegyi explains how to shoot and edit your images to showcase the full majesty of winter, spring, summer and autumn.
A view over the Danube towards Gellérthegy in Budapest, Hungary, taken from an elevated position, with a warm red-orange tint.

Every season offers rich rewards for photographers, with each time of the year providing a unique array of colours, tones and moods. Eighteen-year-old Hungarian photographer Benjamin Hegyi has become an inspirational authority on creating seasonal content for social media, sharing his expertly edited and curated travel, cityscape and landscape images with his 40,000 avid followers on Instagram.

Here are his top tips for enhancing the atmosphere of each season of the year.

1. Have your final result in mind

Lago di Braies in South Tyrol, Italy, looking towards the Dolomites in the background. Wooden steps and numerous small boats can be seen in the foreground.

For summer images, Benjamin loves landscapes basking under bright sunshine in broad daylight, rather than opting for the often-favoured "golden hour" just after sunrise or before sunset. The high sun in this image, taken at Lago di Braies in South Tyrol, Italy, produces rich and vibrant colours throughout the scene, from the foreground boats to the Dolomites in the background. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D) with a Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 10mm, 1/80 sec, f/4.5 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

Small boats on Lago di Braies in South Tyrol, Italy. The image has been edited to boost the intensity of the colours.

When editing this image to use on social media, Benjamin made minimal changes, because he felt that the composition worked perfectly, with the steps in the foreground leading the eye to the boats, framed by the ring of mountains in the background. However, he explains, "I just wanted to make the different elements – boats, water, steps, mountains – 'pop', so I intensified the colours and increased the contrast of the light." © Benjamin Hegyi

"When I take seasonal photos," Benjamin says, "I always think about how I'm going to edit them afterwards, not just about 'getting the shot'. Creating a specific look and feel is, for me, as much about editing as about taking the shot in the first place. The two stages complement each other."

Benjamin plans his images to reflect the feeling he has at the time of shooting. "Don't feel you have to shoot the reality, but rather create the scene as you want it to look in your mind," he says. "The image becomes a hybrid of photograph and painting. It's important not to overdo things, though, or the end result will look fake and not true to nature.

"I'd advise always shooting in RAW quality mode, because it gives you the greatest freedom to manipulate images afterwards," he adds. "Shooting RAW means you can adjust attributes like white balance, highlights, lowlights and colour rendition. It's all part of emphasising seasonal atmosphere."

Benjamin uses the camera he was given as a 13th birthday present, a Canon EOS 700D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D), with two zoom lenses: the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM, an ultra-wide-angle lens perfect for sweeping vistas, and the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, which is extremely versatile thanks to its big zoom range. He says he finds this kitbag ideal, because size and weight are important for a travel photographer.

Similarly compact and cost-effective kit is available in Canon's new generation full-frame mirrorless EOS R System, including the Canon EOS RP, Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM lens and Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens. You can also use the EF-S lens range on EOS R System cameras via an EF-EOS R mount adapter.

2. Think about composition and lighting

Lago di Carezza in South Tyrol, Italy, on a bright summer day, with the Dolomite Mountains in the background reflected in the still water of the lake.

This scene was shot at Lago di Carezza in South Tyrol, Italy, on a bright summer day. The composition is perfect, but the sky and pale mountains in the background were much brighter than their dark reflections in the lake. In circumstances like this, Benjamin often balances the exposure by using his camera's HDR shooting feature or by exposure-bracketing – taking separate shots with different parts of the scene well exposed – and merging the images afterwards. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 10mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

A field of lavender with small clouds in the blue sky above seeming to curve towards the sun rising behind a line of trees on the crest of a hill.

A spring scene in the Hungarian countryside. Benjamin says it was just luck that the pattern of clouds formed a gentle sweeping line that leads the eye to the rising sun, but again the composition is flawless. The field of lavender was in shadow and relatively dark, but the image had enough dynamic range for Benjamin to lighten the foreground and boost the colour to enhance the crisp spring light. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 10mm, 1/200 sec, f/4.5 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

Editing is a major part of Benjamin's process, but he feels it is important to compose scenes that reflect the season. "A tree covered in snow or frost accentuates a wintry mood," he says. "In spring, colourful flowers come to the fore. In autumn, you can concentrate on the rich golden glow of turning leaves. Careful composition can enhance the natural atmosphere of any season.

"Different times of the day are best for shooting at different times of the year," Benjamin adds, emphasising that the quality of light varies greatly from season to season. "During winter, it's good to shoot right before sunrise or just after sunset. You get a cool, moody blue tint at that stage of twilight, often called the 'blue hour'. However, if it's a snowy scene, shoot in daylight for a really crisp and bright festive look.

"For summertime shots, many landscape photographers prefer the beginning or end of the day but I prefer the sun to be higher in the sky," he continues. "It helps to bring out the vibrant colours of green fields and the summery warmth of the scenery.

"Spring is a glorious time for new life and, for me, the same thing applies. Just after sunrise is a great time for shooting flowers in bloom and trees in blossom, but strong sunlight through the day works equally well and sometimes better.

"In the autumn, it's best to shoot in the 'golden hour', just after sunrise or before sunset," Benjamin says. "The sun is really low in the sky and produces those glorious, warm autumn colours."

3. Capture as much detail as possible

A view over the Danube towards Gellérthegy in Budapest, Hungary, taken from an elevated position.

Benjamin photographed this view over the Danube in Budapest, Hungary, at sunset in late spring. Using a long exposure made it possible to capture rich detail from the foreground trees to the city buildings in the middle distance, which the HDR look intensifies. He also boosted the orange colours to enhance the seasonal atmosphere for the finished image at the top of this page. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 18mm, 2 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

A white swan swimming on a blue lake in winter. On the shores of the lake, rising up into the mountains, is a picturesque village covered in snow.

A winter scene in Hallstatt, Austria. Despite the low light and pockets of mist, Benjamin was able to capture a lot of detail in the buildings on the hillside, which he then brought out by increasing the contrast. He also boosted the blue in the image in order to enhance the winter mood. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 18mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

Many Canon cameras include a Landscape scene mode, but Benjamin prefers being in full control of camera settings. "I always use the Manual shooting mode, so I can easily adjust both the aperture and shutter speed to get the exact exposure I want." If you're shooting with an EOS R System camera, Exposure Simulation makes it possible to preview how changes in exposure settings will affect the image, both in the viewfinder and on the rear screen. With a DSLR, this option works when you're using the rear screen in Live View mode.

Many Canon cameras have HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting modes, which are fantastic for preserving detail in highlights and boosting shadows. This gives you a much more balanced exposure for high-contrast scenes.

"My camera has an HDR Backlight Control scene mode," says Benjamin. "For every shot you take, the camera records three separate, exposure-bracketed images, then merges them together into an HDR photo." If your camera doesn't have an HDR mode, you can still take a number of shots at slightly different exposures and merge them together at the editing stage. Canon's free Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software has a built-in HDR tool to make this simple. Use a tripod to make sure there's no camera movement between successive exposures.

When you're shooting at night or in low light, Benjamin recommends using long exposures to capture as much detail as possible, "even what I can't see with my eyes." Your camera's Bulb setting enables exposures of longer than 30 seconds, but you'll need to experiment to decide how long an exposure produces the effect you want. Review the results on the rear LCD screen and retake the shot if necessary. Use a tripod to avoid image blur.

4. Edit to enhance seasonal atmosphere

Hills beside Lake Bled in Slovenia shrouded in mist in the sunrise. Large foreground leaves hang into the scene.

This autumn image is full of ethereal atmosphere, with browning leaves set against mist rising off Lake Bled in Slovenia, in the first rays of sunrise. Benjamin says the foreground leaves framing the scene help add depth and make it feel more seasonal. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 27mm, 1/125 sec, f/9 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

Hills beside Lake Bled in Slovenia shrouded in mist in the sunrise. The foreground leaves and distant hills are more yellow, and the water of the lake is more blue.

Benjamin decided that the hills and especially the foreground leaves looked too green, so he made the green tones look more yellow-orange to bring out the autumnal atmosphere. "I also added blue to the water and some light to the fog to make it stand out," he says. © Benjamin Hegyi

Even when he hasn't shot in HDR, Benjamin's personal style is to add the vivid colour and increased contrast associated with that look. Just as important for his seasonal images, however, is adjusting the white balance and exposure of each shot to bring out the quality of light characteristic of each different season.

These initial adjustments can all be made using Canon's free Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software, which is designed for processing and editing RAW images from Canon cameras. It comes with a range of Picture Styles for quickly giving images a desired look and feel, just as if you had applied these in-camera. These include Landscape, which enhances sharpness and boosts colour tone and saturation to achieve deep, vivid blues and greens for skies and foliage. All the adjustments applied as a Picture Style to a RAW file can then be fine-tuned, removed, or replaced by a different Picture Style. Additional styles are available for free download including Nostalgia, Clear, Twilight, Emerald, and Autumn Hues, ideal for quickly injecting a different seasonal atmosphere into images.

DPP's powerful Color Adjustment tools make it possible to change the hue, saturation and brightness of specific ranges of colours, to enhance the blues of a winter scene or the warm tones of a summer image, for example. Benjamin often uses adjustment layers in Adobe Photoshop for similar effects. "For winter shots, I accentuate the blue tones by adding an empty layer set to Overlay blending mode and painting over areas with a soft blue brush, using a low opacity," he explains. "For autumn pictures, you can add emphasis and atmosphere to a scene by painting over areas with yellow and orange hues.

"For altering contrast and brightness, I always use adjustment layers," he adds, "because you can use layer masks to affect only specific areas within the image." This is ideal when he is happy with most of the image but feels that some aspects need a little bit more emphasis to convey the mood.

5. Let your pictures speak for you on social media

Mist fills the valleys between tree-covered mountains at sunrise.

On his photo trip to Slovenia, Benjamin got up at 4am to ensure he caught the autumn sunrise over the misty mountains, but felt that the image didn't quite capture the feeling of the scene as he experienced it. Taken on a Canon EOS 700D with a Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens at 135mm, 1/500 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Benjamin Hegyi

Mist fills the valleys between tree-covered mountains. The contrast has been boosted and a warm tint added to increase the autumnal feeling.

Benjamin boosted the contrast to bring out details such as the houses on the hills in the middle distance, emphasising the scale of the scene, and enhanced the autumnal colour to intensify the seasonal atmosphere. His followers on social media, he says, appreciate this strong and direct representation of a season. © Benjamin Hegyi

When you share your images on social media, you're competing with millions of other images for attention. Benjamin feels it is important to develop your own style, so you can stand out from the crowd.

"I started off by trying to emulate the style of other photographers but like to think that I've developed my own unique style," he explains. "I've built my Instagram presence on this foundation. People love to see images that reflect what they enjoy about each season and how nature is changing around them, in a timely manner. By posting seasonal content, I've had much more success with people seeking out my images and sharing them with many others around the world.

"I'm now at a point where, along with landscape and travel photography agencies that like to use my images, I have a reach of 1 million. I think the trick is not to promote yourself but to let your pictures promote you."

Written by Matthew Richards

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