Winter photos can be hauntingly beautiful. Snowy landscapes, frozen water, bare tree branches… There are countless winter scenes worth photographing.
However, cold weather can also be tough to shoot photos in. Besides getting frozen fingers, you might struggle with poor lighting, bland colors, and dead batteries. These conditions can make you feel like going back inside, but stick with it! Getting excellent winter photos takes practice.
Winter demands more preparation, too. Unlike in summer, when you can stroll outside with just your camera, you’ll need more supplies to thrive in winter.
To start with, you’ll probably want special gloves to keep your hands warm. Some photographers wear two sets of gloves. They have a thin pair for shooting, covered by a thick pair in between shots. Other photographers use fingerless gloves, like these from Igloos. For more tips about equipment, check out this post about cold weather photography gear.
Besides having the right clothes and gear, you’ll need to learn how to best shoot winter scenery. In particular, snow can be a real challenge. It’s one of the most stunning and most frustrating winter subjects. For some guidance, check out these tips for shooting in the snow.
Once you’ve learned how to work with winter conditions, a new world of photographic possibilities opens up. Even with freezing cold weather, winter can be a lot of fun for photographers. For inspiration, check out these awesome shots and ideas from our Flickr group. Then, get outside and capture your own wonderful shots of winter!
Winter Photography Ideas
Embrace the bleakness.
Winter scenery can sometimes look gloomy with bare trees and colorless landscapes. Though this bleakness can be depressing in real life, it can actually look striking in a photo. The barrenness offers fewer distractions, so you can focus on subjects that otherwise might not stand out. You can get wonderful photos of abandoned buildings and other moody subjects that fit the season perfectly.
Look for liveliness and humor.
Fun and laughter don’t stop just because it’s dreary outside. In fact, humor and liveliness can be even more heart-warming in winter, since it’s contrasted against the bleakness. If nothing else, looking for humorous scenes to photograph might help with shaking off any winter blues.
Plan a winter-themed portrait.
As these beautiful snow portraits demonstrate, winter can be an excellent time to have an outdoor portrait shoot. The lighting is often more flattering and easier to work with compared to summer, and the wintery backgrounds naturally bring attention to the models. The photos will also look unique, since many outdoor portrait sessions are held in the warmer seasons rather than winter.
Pay attention to bright colors.
One challenge of winter photos is creating an eye-catching image when a scene is dull and gray. There are several ways to deal with this problem, but the simplest solution is to find color. A colorful subject or background will instantly make your winter photo more striking, as the color will stand out against the dullness.
Go out during sunset/sunrise.
Winter is arguably the best season to shoot a sunset or sunrise thanks to the low humidity. High humidity can be a problem because it blocks the sun’s light, leading to less vibrant sunrises and sunsets. The dryness of winter eliminates this problem, giving you incredibly colorful skies on partly-cloudy days. Besides, you won’t have to get up as early or stay up as late to capture it!
Take advantage of the long nights.
The darkness of winter can be a drag, but it’s also a great opportunity for learning night photography. As with sunrises and sunsets, winter night skies can be stunning, especially if you’re in range of the Northern Lights. But even if you can’t see the night sky due to light pollution, there are a lot of other beautiful subjects to photograph at night. Check out these 35 awesome examples of night photography for inspiration.
Photograph snowflakes up close and far away.
Snowflakes can be dazzling in a macro photo. Though getting macro snowflake images can be tricky, the results are worth the effort. (Just look at these lovely close-up pictures of snowflakes!)
However, if you don’t have the right gear for macro photos, you can also get gorgeous photos of falling snow from afar. With a fast shutter speed and a dark background, you’ll capture the individual flakes floating through the air.
Get a beautiful photo of a path or road.
Roads and paths are an easy way to draw viewers into your photo. They create a clear line that attracts attention and guides the viewers through the image. This technique can be especially effective in a snowy landscape, since the road or path will immediately stand out against the snow. If the road leads to an interesting subject, like an isolated building, the image will be even more powerful.
Learn how to shoot in mist or fog.
Snow isn’t the only weather phenomenon that’s common in winter. Fog or mist appear frequently, too, particularly in areas with water. Though you might have trouble getting a good exposure with fog, it’s a weather condition that’s worth shooting despite the difficulties, since it can lead to incredible photos. For tips, read our post about misty morning photography.
Experiment with minimalism.
Minimalism and winter go naturally together. The mist, snow, barren landscapes, and lack of color are ideal for composing simple photos, stripped of everything but the essentials. Though it’s easy to take a minimalist photo in winter, you’ll have the most success if you approach the image thoughtfully, choosing subjects and techniques that make your image even more powerful. Look at these inspiring examples of minimalist photography for ideas and guidance on that.