Shooting during the winter months can be very rewarding. There are certain times of the year when the light is just so soft and beautiful that it almost takes on a poetic quality. And of course, when the light is this good, you can use it to your advantage by experimenting with creative photography. In this article, I will share with you a few simple yet effective techniques that can be used to capture some truly breathtaking images.
Plan Your Day
Take some time out to think about what you want to shoot and plan your day accordingly. It is amazing how much more you will get done if you set out with a clear goal in mind.
A great way to start the process is to make a list of all the things you would like to photograph. Then prioritize that list and try to shoot one thing from the list each day. Even better, prioritize the most important things on the list and only photograph those. Don’t worry if you miss a day – just pick up where you left off the next day.
Prepare For The Cold
Snow in mittens – Canon EOS 6D – Focal Length 85mm – Aperture ƒ/3.2 – Shutter Speed 1/400s – ISO 100
+ Wear Warm Winter Clothes
This is especially important if you plan to do any kind of shooting in the snow. You should wear layers that you can remove or add as the conditions dictate. Wool or some other insulating material is good undergarment protection against the cold.
Outerwear should be a wind and water-resistant, thick, durable material. A waterproof shell is useful over a fleece or wool sweater, and then you can add a thicker coat or jacket.
+ Wear Good Gloves
A good pair of gloves can make the difference between taking a great shot and missing it completely. Invest in a pair you will use often – ones that fit well, are thin and flexible enough to allow you to easily manipulate the camera with your fingers.
I cannot count the number of times I have photographed people and they look absolutely dreadful, while my own hands are warm and comfortable. It’s vital you look after yourself, because if you do, the photos will come out great.
+ Use Heat Packs
When you are shooting in cold conditions, your camera will be working hard to keep your images from getting too warm. To help it do this, it uses up a lot of your battery power and reduces the sensitivity of your shutter. A simple way to stop this is to use a heat pack – a small, self-heating pad that you can slip into your pocket or camera bag.
They are super easy to use: Just stick one in your pocket or camera bag before you head out for the day, and whenever you get cold, just remove the pack and hold it against your body. It will start to heat up almost immediately, and within a minute or two, you’ll be warm again… and ready to go.
+ Use A Good Camera Bag
A good camera bag is an absolute must for any serious photographer. It should be big enough to carry all your gear, and it should have a separate compartment for your memory card. Ideally, it should be made out of waterproof material so you don’t have to worry about your gear getting wet.
And it should have a carrying strap so you can sling it over your shoulder like a backpack. There are many different types of camera bags on the market, and many of them are designed by photographers for other photographers. However, there are a few things you should consider when you’re shopping for a camera bag: Size:
+ Carry An Air Blower
An air blower is basically a tool used to clear your lens of snow and ice. It’s a small, handheld device with a rubber-like tube that you insert into your camera’s lens. When you turn the handle, the tube clears away the snow and ice. You can use the same technique to remove dust from your lens and clean it if necessary.
+ Take Spare Batteries (and keep them warm!)
Winter is the worst time of year to run out of batteries. Cameras use a lot of power, and even a full charge will last much less during cold weather. Keep a spare set of AA’s in your camera bag, and if you are going to be out and about for any length of time, put your fully charged ones in your pocket or gloves and take them out when you need them. You can warm them up by holding them next to your body.
The Enemy is Moisture
Moisture causes all kinds of problems for a camera, from softening the film to fogging the lens. In fact, it is probably moisture that caused the problem you are having with your photographs – either from fogging the lens or simply a failure to get the exposure right.
So, the first thing you should do is keep your camera and lenses as clean as possible. Use a soft cloth to wipe off the outside of the camera body and any lenses you are using. Use a dry cloth to wipe off the inside of the camera body and any lenses you are not currently using.
Use a lens hood when shooting in cold or damp conditions. This will prevent moisture from getting to the front of the lens and causing problems. If you are using a telephoto lens, use a lens hood with a strip of silicon tape across the front of it to avoid the possibility of fogging.
Filters For Winter Photography
Alaska, United States – Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Focal Length 16mm – Aperture ƒ/9 – Shutter Speed 1/320s – ISO 100 – have use filters polarizing
Useful filters for winter sports include a yellow filter for snow and ice, a polarizing filter to reduce glare, and a neutral density filter for low light situations. In general, I like to use these three filters often and in various combinations.
When you use a polarizing filter (available in most camera stores) on a cloudy day, you can often dramatically increase the apparent brightness of everything around you. It’s a great tool for sharpening up an image, especially when you are shooting in poor light. Polarizing filters reduce glare, but they don’t eliminate it, so they can be used to brighten up an overcast day immensely.
Invest In A Good Tripod
A tripod can be a real lifesaver when you are trying to achieve sharp photos no matter what time of year it is. Even if you are shooting landscapes or still life, a good sturdy tripod will enable you to get sharper photos than you could ever hope to get otherwise.
A tripod can make all the difference between a good shot and a great one. It allows you to use slower shutter speeds without camera shake, and lets you get closer to your subject.
There are several types of tripods, but the one I prefer is the GorillaPod. It is lightweight, collapsible, has an extremely low center of gravity, and makes it possible to achieve the maximum stability without adding too much weight to your camera.
Go Out During Sunset/Sunrise
Rockvallen, Bruksvallarna, Sweden – Hasselblad L1D-20c – Focal Length 10.3mm – Aperture ƒ/7.1 – Shutter Speed 1/120s – ISO 100
Winter days are often overcast, and that means you are limited to taking photos during the day. However, winter is also the time when the sun is at its weakest. That’s why I like to suggest people go out and photograph at sunset and sunrise. Not only will this give you more light, it will also wake up your subjects.
If you are going to photograph people, do it then. The light will be soft and diffused, giving you a head start on good portraits.
And if you are going to photograph landscapes, do it then too. The light will be low in the sky, but it will be hitting the landscape with warmth and softness.
Remember, the quality of your light does not depend on the amount of light, it depends on the quality of the light.
Cold Weather Photography Technique
Montreal, Canada – Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Focal Length 105mm – Aperture ƒ/2.8 – Shutter Speed 1/250s – ISO 320
While a much less interesting topic, technicalities are still unavoidable, especially when talking about winter photography. The reason is very simple.
Snowy winter landscape and portrait images are likely to contain lots of white (the snow itself). Snow is very reflective – it will reflect most of the light falling on it from the sky, making exposure settings more consistent throughout the frame.
On the negative side, so much of white confuses the camera metering system, which is then likely to underexpose (it will try to see the white of snow as %18 grey and may deliver darker images in the process).
Not to worry – such an issue is easily resolvable through exposure compensation. Dial in +0.3 or +0.7 with your camera to see if any possible exposure inaccuracies are solved. In some cases, no exposure compensation will be needed. Other situations may require much more adjustment – all depends on the subject, framing, metering mode and light.
Even in case you got your exposure a bit off, consistent inaccuracy is much quicker and easier to fix throughout the shoot when using RAW file format, which I advice for any kind of important work.
Look For Contrasts And Color
Ryten, Norway – Canon EOS 5D Mark III – Focal Length 24mm – Aperture ƒ/9.0 – Shutter Speed 1/160s – ISO 100
Winter is a great time for finding contrasts and color. Whites and grays have an entirely different appearance during winter, and this makes for dramatic photos. Look for contrasty areas on your subject and add them to your composition. Consider using a warm filter to give everything a little extra glow.
When you shoot in black and white, you don’t always get to choose what colors are present in your image. Snow, for example, tends to be quite a bland color – it just covers everything in a uniform layer. Yet if you photograph it against a contrasting background, say a blue sky or a green lawn, then you will have a much more visually appealing image.
You can also use color to make your subject pop out from the background; for example, if you are photographing a group of people standing in front of a wall of snow, use the yellow jacket of one of them to make him stand out from the drab backdrop
Learn How To Shoot In Mist Or Fog
Seoraksan, Inje-gun, South Korea – Canon EOS 700D – Focal Length 35mm – Aperture ƒ/7.1 – Shutter Speed 1/125s – ISO 100
Winter is the least predictable season. Fog and mist often hang around for hours after any given snowfall. Learn to love it; it is very often the most effective way to add drama and mystery to your images.
You can use it to isolate your subjects or to blur the background; it softens everything while still keeping things distinct. Mist and fog are like a soft, gray velvet glove around your subject which makes it seem even more important and precious.
Experiment With Minimalism
Val Venegia, San Martino di Castrozza, TN, Italia – Fujifilm X-T10 – Focal Length 27mm – Aperture ƒ/13 – Shutter Speed 1/400s – ISO 200
Minimalist images can be effective in almost any season, but they are especially powerful during winter. It’s easy to make your subject stand out when there is nothing else to draw attention to. A white snow covered tree, a black-and-white sky, a red postbox – all of these will make your image pop without drawing attention away from your main subject.
Minimalism is all the rage these days, and it’s easy to see why. Yet, sometimes, minimalism can be a bit cold and unfeeling. So, use it with caution.
Look for ways to add a little “warmth” to your images. If you are photographing a person, add a simple, warm touch like a hand holding a cigarette, a dog warming its paw by a fire, or a mother placing her child’s hand in a bowl of heated water. These touches will ground the image in the reality of the world we live in, and give your viewer a sense of connection.
Winter Photography And Wildlife
Lanoka harbor, berkeley township, new jersey, united states – NIKON D4S – Focal Length 400mm – Aperture ƒ/4 – Shutter Speed 1/320s – ISO 4000
Don’t be afraid of winter weather. It can actually work in your favour. Snow and cold temperatures help keep most animals active when they would normally be sleeping, which makes them easier to photograph. Animals are often more alert and interested in their environment during winter, and they tend to seek out shelter from the elements.
When the weather is nice and warm, the animals hide in the undergrowth or take cover in trees or bushes. During winter, however, they will seek out a heated cave or den where they will spend the day huddled together for warmth. This means you have a much higher chance of getting a good photograph of one of these creatures if you visit them during this time of year.
Photograph Snowflakes Up Close And Far Away
Snowflake – Canon EOS 60D – Focal Length 100mm – Aperture ƒ/9 – Shutter Speed 1/200s – ISO 100
Snowflakes are fascinating. They seem so delicate yet, when you examine one closely, you will see it is in fact, a rather robust little thing. It has strong van der Waals forces holding it together, and these forces are what give it that wonderful iridescent quality. And when you photograph them, do so with a long lens from a distance. Zoom in close for a more intimate view, but then move back a bit so you get the snowflake as a tiny, perfect speck in a vast, white canvas.
Winter is a season which is full of magic and wonder. When the snow falls on the ground, everything around us seems to be wrapped in a white blanket. The sky looks like a beautiful blue canvas and the earth seems to be covered with a soft white carpet.
If you are interested in capturing those amazing winter pictures, this is the time when you should do it. During this season, you will find the most beautiful colors and shades. If you are a nature lover, you should definitely take advantage of this season. Don’t forget to bring along some warm clothes and a good pair of shoes or boots. It is much better to be prepared before hand instead of having to ask someone for help while you are taking those amazing winter photos.
Hope you like this article!