Plant phenology has a significant impact on the forest ecosystem carbon balance. Detecting plant phenology by capturing the time-series canopy images through digital camera has become popular in recent years. However, the relationship between color indices derived from camera images and plant physiological characters are elusive during the growing season in temperate ecosystems. We collected continuous images of forest canopy, leaf size, leaf area index (LAI) and leaf chlorophyll measured by a soil plant analysis development (SPAD) analyzer in a northern subtropical oak forest in China. Our results show that (1) the spring peak of color indices, Gcc (Green Chromatic Coordinates) and ExG (Excess Green), was 18 days earlier than the 90% maximum SPAD value; (2) the 90% maximum SPAD value coincided with the change point of Gcc and ExG immediately after their spring peak; and (3) the spring curves of Gcc and ExG before their peaks were highly synchronous with the expansion of leaf size and the development of LAI value. We suggest it needs to be adjusted if camera-derived Gcc or ExG is used as a proxy of chlorophyll or gross primary productivity, and images observation should be complemented with field phenological and physiological information to interpret the physiological meaning of leaf seasonality.