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The winter season can feel cold and dark but if you live somewhere where the snow falls and things get icy you can find a white wonderland of strong contrasting scenery and stunning photo opportunities.
When the ground is white with snow and the shadows stretch long across the land under the low winter sun you can compose superb compositions that capture the mood and essence of the season.
Working on your photography during the winter months does present you with some challenges though, however with the right know-how and tips you can overcome these with a little forward planning and preparation.
How Do You Shoot in the Winter?
Shooting in the winter is extremely rewarding and you can come away with some great photos. However, you will need to take account of the difficult conditions which present you with some unique seasonal difficulties.
- Always keep your camera in a waterproof and sealable bag when you’re not shooting with it. This will avoid it getting damp in the snow and reduce the chances of the battery running down. You can keep the camera in a sealable waterproof bag (like a freezer bag with a zip lock) inside of your regular camera bag. If possible, you should also be using a weatherproof camera bag which will help to keep your kit dry and relatively warm in the snow.
- Take a few spare batteries. Cold and freezing weather causes batteries to run out of power faster than in regular conditions! Keep your spare batteries in a pocket close to your body to keep them as warm as possible before you start to use them. Some photographers use heat packs in their pockets to raise the temperature of the batteries as well as to keep themselves a little warmer in the snow.
- Make sure you take a good pair of gloves with you! It’s super important that you keep your fingers warm so you can handle the camera safely and change the dials and click the buttons with ease! If temperatures allow then some fingerless gloves will do the job but even then it’s usually worth having a back up pair of full gloves in your bag, just in case!
- You can take a few heat packs in your pockets with you. These will last for hours and hours and mean that between shots you can warm up your hands after holding the cold camera and other equipment such as the tripod.
- Use a lens hood to help you deal with bright reflections that can often spoil a winter photoshoot. The lens hood helps to reduce lens flare and stops your photos looking hazy or blurred. Also, if it’s snowing while you’re taking a photo the flash will reflect back off the snowflakes and cause major distortion in the pictures. Similarly, you should generally avoid using a flash in any snowy conditions because it will most likely lead to overexposed photos.
What Settings Should You Be Using for Snow Photography.
Taking photographs in the snow can be tricky because of the bright glare it produces that can make getting the correct exposure quite difficult.
Conditions in the snow vary significantly and you’ll need to compensate for this by changing the settings on your camera. When working in the snow you’ll need to stay more aware than usual of the subtle changes around you.
- Exposure: When shooting in the snow you need to compensate for the bright conditions just as you would in strong sunlight. You can change your exposure by +1 or +2 stops to compensate for this and keep the colors looking true. Be prepared to experiment in the field though to get the best results.
- Shutter Speeds: When shooting in the snow you can make use of the elements to create different effects. For instance, if the snow is falling around you then you can use a slow shutter to create streaks in the picture. The falling snow will blur slightly with a slow shutter speed and leave an interesting element of movement in the photo.
If you are using a slow shutter speed though it’s important to use a tripod to keep the camera steady.
However, if there are strong winds and there’s snow in the air you’ll have to use a very fast shutter speed to avoid the entire image being ruined by the blurs which will be too extreme for most shots, unless that’s what you’re specifically trying to do!
Lastly, if the conditions are settled and there’s no snow or wind, then you should use a fairly slow shutter speed of approximately 1/15th of a second. Similarly, if you are trying to shoot the tiny differences in light during the golden hour then you should use a slower shutter speed as well to give your camera’s sensor enough time to pick up the details.
Snow Photography Hack – Make Use of the Aperture Priority Mode.
To keep things more simple and concentrate on taking creative photos you can set your camera to aperture priority mode. This will let you quickly change the depth of field while leaving the camera to set the ISO and shutter speed for you. If the photos don’t come out quite right you can do some editing in post production but they should come out just fine!
What Temperature is Too Cold For Your Camera?
Just like any device there is a certain temperature beneath which it cannot function! When it comes to your camera the lowest temperatures that it can usually operate in without problems is about 32 Degrees Fahrenheit. In most cases it is the camera’s batteries that malfunction first.
You can purchase purpose built cameras that are designed to be able to withstand extreme cold temperatures however you’ll have to pay for this unique freeze proof certified functionality. Most cameras will operate fine as long as you keep them in sealed bags between shoots. Never leave your camera out in extremely cold weather when you’re not using it.
What Should I Wear for a Winter Photoshoot?
The key to keeping warm in cold or freezing temperatures is to layer up! As well as wearing several layers you should also wear a windproof outer layer to remove the effects of wind chill which can reduce your body’s temperature very rapidly if you’re out in the elements.
Gloves are crucial to keep your hands warm although you can take these off when you’re using the camera if you need to. It’s also a wise idea to take a few extra layers with you in your bag just in case you underestimated the cold before you set out.
- Hat, gloves and neck warmer.
- Thick socks and weather proof boots.
- Sturdy Wind and Waterproof Jacket and Trousers.
- Thin base layer t-shirt and a Shirt.
- Trousers under the windproof outer layer.
Winter Photography is Perfect for Expressing Your Creativity.
It’s not only the snow covered ground that makes winter photography the perfect canvas for creative work. The low winter sun creates long shadows that stretch across the scenery and the subjects of a photo truly stand out powerfully against the white backdrop.
An old red farm building or an evergreen bush can create strong contrasts in the image and almost take on a life of their own in the winter landscape. Try to keep your photos quite simple and uncluttered so the viewer can really focus in on the subject of the shot but also allow yourself the freedom to experiment with different shutter speeds, depths of focus and exposure settings.
Winter photography is a broad category to work in however preparation and planning is essential to make the most of the conditions and get your photoshoot right.
Which season is your favorite season for photography?