With the winter months upon us, what better way to continue to stretch your photography skills than by getting out in nature and photographing the fresh, falling snow? Like any photographic endeavor, there are specific pointers to be aware of. Keeping these recommendations top of mind will help you capture stunning images of snow covered landscapes, falling snow, and other winter scenes every time with just a few changes to your camera settings.
It shouldn’t need to be said you should wear multiple layers during the cold winter weather to avoid hypothermia, frost bite, and other physical ailments that come with shooting outdoors when it's cold. Proper attire is especially important for winter photography given the time spent outside to capture great photos.
The most important piece of winter photography advice is to be careful to protect your face during a photoshoot. Not only from the cold but any metal parts the camera may have as well. The metal from the camera can stick to your nose or eye (if you look through the viewfinder) if cold enough and can be painful and cause serious injury to your face.
Another crucial piece of clothing is fingerless gloves. Investing in a pair of fingerless gloves while operating the camera’s setting can help save you time from having to constantly remove your gloves and expose your hands to the elements to get the right shot. Nobody likes cold fingers! With bulky and cumbersome winter gloves on, fiddling with the camera’s small buttons is quite the pain and you can easily miss your moment of opportunity in capturing the shot.
Finally, we recommend buying heat packs as well. These items can come in handy in a pinch to warm up your hands, feet, or other body parts during an extended outdoor photoshoot, allowing you to remain comfortable even in the most extreme conditions.
Focus on Contrast
Because of the monochromatic nature of white snow in most winter photos, incorporating some sort of visual contrast or color contrast as a compositional element can elevate a photo from “just ok” to “stunning”. Whether you find a brightly colored bird, a blooming flower, or a colored building can create a more visually dynamic image.
Fight Against Moisture
In an effort to save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars to replace damaged camera equipment, when going back inside a warm place after an outdoor photoshoot, we recommend using a plastic bag to protect against moisture condensation inside your equipment.
Before entering a warmer space after being outside, seal your camera with some of the cold air inside the bag. This will prevent moisture from being created inside the camera body from the rapid change in temperature differences. Additionally, be sure to remove the memory card and battery from the camera before putting them in the plastic bag and allow the gear to warm up slowly to the inside temperature.
A weather-sealed lens can also help prevent moisture from forming on the lens itself. On top of that, it is also an excellent idea to purchase a waterproof camera bag. Having a waterproof bag can help deter wet snow from seeping into the camera or any other piece of camera gear keeping it dry during the photoshoot.
Have Extra (and Spare) Batteries
It's no secret that cold weather kills batteries so be sure to bring extra batteries and keep them warm, preferably close to your body perhaps in an inside pocket close to your core.. Your body heat will help prolong the camera battery's life during cold conditions. In fact, it can’t hurt to bring up to four batteries depending on how long you plan to shoot outside. That way you’re not limited by the lack of battery power after a fresh snowfall.
Achieve the Right Camera Settings
Winter photography has some notoriously difficult aspects when it comes to getting the right photo in comparison to other seasons. Besides the cold itself, the white monochromatic palette leaves most photos underexposed as the snow absorbs so much of the light leaving the winter landscapes or other snowy scenes darker with more gray tones. This is due to the light sensitives within digital cameras.
There are a few things that can be done to counteract this by doing what is called “exposure compensation”. The first is to open your aperture wider than usual.We recommend opening the fstop 1 more than usual. Additionally, turning off the auto white balance features will help you to manually adjust the exposures to prevent “blue hue”. You can play with the settings by snapping a picture then adjusting then taking another photo until you achieve the results you are looking for.
In addition to fiddling with the white balance settings on your camera, red noses can also impact the quality of your photos for winter portrait photography. This can be more easily remedied in the post-production process with some sort of photo editing software. Regardless of what program you are using, you can reduce red noses by adjusting the red and orange saturation levels that plague winter portrait photo shoots.
Finally,if taking action shots or photos with a lot of movement, slow the shutter speed down and increase the ISO of your digital camera. By doing these two things, you can counteract the underexposure that commonly occurs in winter photos, while also having the camera able to properly focus due to falling snow particles.
Play with Perspective
Like using contrast as a compositional technique, playing with perspectives in winter photography by including other objects or people within the shot can give a sense of scale, perspective, and visual interest. The use of drone photography can also give a unique sense of panoramic perspective to a winter scene that creates additional visual interest.
The flip side of playing with the compositional perspective in the winter season is that you can showcase how the sunlight dapples off the snow beautifully by getting close to the picture’s focal point and capturing how the light filters through the snow, creating a stunning bokeh (out-of-focus) photographic effect that would be great as an artistic canvas print.
Use Negative Space
Just as contrast and perspective are compositional techniques, the use of negative space within winter photography can also be used to great effect. This is because of the monochromatic nature of the winter season, leveraging negative space as a compositional technique in an all white winter photo shoot can be powerful. You can achieve stunning results by foregrounding your focal point and adding depth to contrast the empty spaces.
Capture Sunrises & Sunsets
Just as the blue hour and golden hour are great times for “regular” photos, these periods are also great for capturing the sunlight or sunset as it dances off fresh snow in shimmering brilliance.
Whether you’re a professional photographer or not, winter photography isn’t a daunting photography experience but rather an excellent opportunity to further hone your photography skills as your passion grows. As long as you keep these important winter photography tips and pointers in mind during your photo shoot, you’ll come away with beautiful pictures that can be turned into lovely, custom canvas prints for yourself, your significant other, friends, and family