Winter can be a great time to capture some great photographs. While summertime may mean humidity, lots of people, and intense sun at your favourite outdoor locations, winter can bring a sense of serene solitude to these same places. With a different season, though, comes a totally different set of conditions to shoot in. In the winter, you will have to deal with cold temperatures, snow, harsh wind, and a totally different light than you would in the summer. However, with the right gear and a good strategy, you will be able to take advantage of these wintery conditions and create some truly stunning photographs.
If you are shooting outside in the winter, it will be cold, so make sure you are prepared for it! Wear proper boots that will keep your feet warm and dry, and allow you to trudge through the snow to get to your location. Bring a couple different pairs of gloves with you as well. First, thin ones that will keep your hands warm, but allow you to still operate your camera properly. In addition to this pair, bring a pair of warm mittens that you can put over your thin gloves between shots.
Although you may think you don’t need these because it is winter: bring sunglasses! If you are shooting on a sunny day, the sun will reflect off the snow and can be extremely bright. Bring sunglasses with you to avoid being blinded by this strong reflection.
Protect Your Gear
You don’t necessarily need different gear to shoot in the winter, but you will need to treat your gear differently than you would at a summer shoot due to the way colder temperatures will affect your gear. Firstly, the cold will make your batteries drain faster. To minimize the risk of running out of battery power well before you are done shooting, make sure to bring lots of extras – more than you think you’ll need! To help your extra batteries hold their charge, keep them in an interior pocket of your jacket so your body heat can keep them warm. If a battery dies, you may be able to get a little more life out of it by warming it up.
If you are shooting out in the cold and then move indoors, you may risk your lens fogging up. To prevent this, place your camera inside your camera bag before heading inside, and don’t take it out until the bag has warmed to room temperature. Doing this allows your camera to warm up more gradually, preventing the creation of condensation on your lens.
Also remember to keep your lens cap on when you are not shooting to prevent snowflakes from landing – and melting – on your lens! If your lens does get fogged up or smudged, avoid blowing warm air on it, as the moisture from that warm air may freeze and create a thin layer of ice on your lens.
Take Advantage of Winter Lighting
Winter can often provide what seems like an extended “magic hour”, meaning that sunrise and sunset last much longer than in any other season. Though the lighting may not be as golden as it is in the warmer months, you are gifted with a much longer timeframe for getting some great shots. In addition to this, since the sun is coming through at a much lower angle in the winter than it does in the summer, light tends to be gently diffused at almost all hours of the day.
While winter is great for giving you soft, diffused light, it can be difficult to get the right exposure. Even though a fresh blanket of snow can make for a great backdrop, it can throw off the exposure of your photos. Make sure you use your camera’s histogram to get the right exposure for your photographs. For example, your camera may tone down the bright areas in your photo – like the gorgeous white snow – which will give the snow a grey tone. Combat this by dialling up the exposure and eliminating the greys. Just don’t overdo it or you will blow out the highlights completely!
In the end, it is better to be a little under exposed than overexposed, as this is easier to fix in post processing!
Use Brightly Coloured Props
Because of the mainly black and white palette of outdoor winter shoots, this provides the perfect opportunity to use props in festive colours like bright reds and deep greens. The contrast between the dark coloured props and the bright snow will be amazing! Adding bright colours can also be a great way to create proper composition within your photos. Snowy scenes are best when the vast white areas are brought to life by the contrast of a bright coloured scarf, sled, coat, or anything else that will stand out against the plain background. If you do not have a bright colour in your shoot, try shooting in black and white for a sharper image!
If you are lucky enough to shoot during a snowfall, a fast shutter speed will be the key to capturing those snowflakes in your images! An actual snowfall is the ultimate “prop” for a winter shoot, so play with your shutter speed to capture the falling snow and add extra detail to your shot.
Shoot in RAW!
Finally, make sure you are shooting in RAW format when you are shooting in the winter. Capturing the right exposure and colour temperature when you are in the field can be difficult, as the reflection from the snow and the sunlight can be hard to judge. If you shoot in RAW format, then you know your image file will have all the information you need in order to edit your photos and achieve the look you were aiming for.
Winter is a great time to see your favourite locations in a whole new way, and capture some truly beautiful photos! With these tips in hand, you can be sure your winter photos will come out looking great!