- Photography Through the Seasons - The Ultimate Guide
- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- Bryan Peterson's Exposure Solutions: The Most Common Photography Problems and How to Solve
Although it’s not the most enjoyable time to go out shooting, winter is a fantastic season for photography. Even dull scenery is completely transformed by snow and I personally think it’s a fantastic opportunity to create brilliant images. Whether your inspiration comes from National Geographic or your imagination goes wild at the sight of a snowy landscape, it’s good to know that photographing in winter can be challenging and I’m not just talking about the cold. So I thought it’d be a good idea to give you a complete guide on how to photograph in winter.
This is advice you should follow regardless of what genre you’re pursuing. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting wildlife, landscapes or portraits in the snow; these guidelines should be taken seriously.
First and foremost, think about yourself and your comfort. Believe me when I say creativity is going be at an all-time low when you’re cold or uncomfortable. Dress well and use multiple layers that will keep you worm. Winter is also a tough time for your camera gear. Most cameras operate in a temperature range of 32-104 degrees, but they can usually work well outside those limits, especially higher end models. But just like you do, your camera needs time to adapt to the temperature, especially when you take it outside for the first time as well as when you go back in. Always keep it turned off for a few minutes to let it adjust. If it snows while you’re out shooting, make sure you have a UV filter mounted on your lens and it the camera body is not weather sealed, I recommend using a garbage bag with a couple of holes in it as protection. Works every time.
The biggest problem when photographing in winter is obviously exposure. Ironically, if you let the camera do the job for you, the result will most likely be grey snow. That’s because your camera doesn’t really know it’s snow you’re pointing it at; it just sees a lot of white and its programmed response is to counter that overexposure by underexposing. It’s just like when you point it at the sun. The correct way to make up for this faulty reading is to overexpose on your EV scale. Might seem surprising to some, but when you take things up a few increments, you’ll actually achieve correct exposure and the snow will of course be white.
It’s worth mentioning though that if you’re shooting a portrait of someone in the snow, your exposure should be adjusted to the face of your subject. Even if that means a slight underexposure of the background, portraits in snow are an exception to this rule.
White balance is another setting that could be confusing for your camera. Of course, it doesn’t really matter much if you’re shooting in RAW format, which you should, but if you’re a JPG lover it’s best to look at the sky and adjust your WB accordingly. A lot of times it’s cloudy in winter so make sure you pick the right preset.
As a final word of advice, make sure you manage your power. Batteries get drained a lot quicker when it’s cold so try to bring a spare and keep it somewhere warm, like an interior pocket.
A weather resistant camera bag also helps protect gear from heavy snow fall so add that to your list before you go out shooting.
Last but not least, enjoy it! Winter is full of incredible opportunities to create eye candy so get out there and shoot as much as you can.
Here’s a great video tutorial from Gavin Hoey that sums up everything.
Learn more about photographing in winter from these recommended books: