Winter Photography


“Winter Warmth”
© Copyright Vicki Tinnon

Winter provides unique opportunities for creative photography. Not only do you need to be creative in how you keep yourself and your camera warm, but the colorful tones that the sun casts on the urban and rural landscapes enable you to shoot stunning photos that you can’t get any other time of the year. In an article at the Digital Photography School, Andre Gunther shares his tips for shooting during winter and I’ve listed those tips below.

(If you’re looking for tips on how to prepare yourself and your camera gear for the winter cold, more articles from the Photobird Daily are listed at the bottom of this article.)

Use the Winter Light

  • The sun is at a low angle. During winter, the sun never reaches a high point in the sky, compared with the summer. What this means to you as a photographer is that the sunlight goes through more of the earth’s atmosphere, picking up more unique colors along the way.
  • The Magic Hour is longer. The Magic Hour is the time before and after sunrise and sunset when sunlight is the most colorful. Winter light, especially during the Magic Hour, produces warmer tones than in the summer which produces blue tones.
  • Shadows are long and deep. Winter sunlight casts unique, deep, long shadows that improve the definition, texture, and character of the objects we’re shooting. By comparison, summer sunlight is often too bright and harsh from directly above, and casts small, harsh, unflattering shadows. Winter shadows can be used creatively in your photos to hint at the presence of a subject by only showing its shadow. Winter shadows can also be used to create a sense of scale by comparing shadows and the objects that produced them.
  • Stormy weather can dramatize your photos. Not only in winter, but whenever there are huge, stormy clouds and other atmospheric elements such as rain, snow, and ice crystals, the sunlight passing through them can create very interesting photographic opportunities.
  • Note the frigid landscape. Obviously, the winter cold changes the landscape to create snow and ice. Andre points out that “Nothing is as exciting as photographing a virgin snowscape in the first light of the day.” Likewise, Vicki Tinnon‘s photo shown above, “Winter Warmth“, shows a sunset glistening over a frozen lake in Nebraska.

Camera Tips for Winter

  • Overexpose snowscapes by up to 2 stops. “Cameras tend to underexpose white and overexpose black as they gravitate toward neutral gray,” Andre Gunther explains. “Always keep an eye on your histogram.” For more details on using the histogram, read this article about histograms in the Photobird Daily.
  • Shoot RAW when possible. Shooting with RAW files enables you to adjust the white balance and exposure after the photo is taken. Read more about the “RAW Format Diet” in the Photobird Daily.
  • Expose for the brightest areas in your photo. If you overexpose, it can be very difficult or impossible to recover details in that area of the scene when editing your photos.
  • Batteries do not last as long when cold. Carry backup batteries and keep them warm. Carry batteries in the inside pockets of your jacket, not in your backpack or camera bag. Your body heat will help keep the batteries warm.
  • Put foam around the legs of your tripod to insulate them. Don’t touch metal in freezing conditions.
  • Put your camera and equipment in a plastic bag when you return to your car. Bring the bag indoors with you, but don’t open the bag. Let your equipment get warm slowly for a few hours to avoid condensation forming in your camera and lenses. Resist the urge to review your photos right away.

Here are some more cold weather tips we’ve written about previously in the Photobird Daily:



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