5 Essential Tips for Taking Beautiful Winter Photos


Maybe you got a brand new camera over the holidays and are itching to try it out or maybe you just want to try to capture some of the beauty of Winter landscapes. Whatever your reasons may be, photographing snow can be beautiful if you do it right. If you're thinking of braving the elements, here are some tips to keep in mind:

How to Nail Correct Exposure Every Time – One advantage of snow is that it bounces light around and fills in spaces in your photo that would otherwise be shadows, also having a great side effect of softened light. All of that light can be a problem sometimes, because your camera will probably read all of that snow as light. When the camera thinks there's too much light in an image, it underexposes the photo making it very dark and probably gray. When photographing snow, you'll want to experiment with adding more exposure, anywhere from +1/3 to +2 stops so play around until you find what you like and what looks best. If your camera has a ‘snow scene' setting, try shooting in that mode too.

The Keys to White Balance – Another tricky area most people face when photographing the snow is the white balance. White balance tells your camera what color temperature the scene is that you're shooting in. Your camera is only guessing and no setting is perfect so sometimes you may get a blue hue in the snow. To keep away the blue and keep your snow white, experiment with your ‘Cloudy' or ‘Shady' white balance settings to see which one warms up the photo and works best in the lighting you're shooting in. If you shoot in RAW, you can always change your white balance in post processing if needed.

Photo by Joanna Smith Photography
Winter Wedding by Joanna Smith Photography
Snow Session by Joanna Smith Photography
Snow Session by Joanna Smith Photography

Why Preparation is a Must – Dress for the weather! You may get caught up in the beauty of nature, lose track of time, and be out in the cold longer than planned. Wear boots, dress in lots of layers, and wear gloves that are warm but allow your fingers to move independently. You'll definitely miss that amazing shot if you're too cold to stay out for very long or shivering too hard to press the shutter. Also, try to get out the door as early in the morning as possible. The light is best at an early hour, and the snow will likely be fresh and undisturbed.

Snow on a Hydrangea by Joanna Smith Photography
Snow on a Hydrangea by Joanna Smith Photography

Protect Your Gear Or Else! – You'll want to limit your camera's exposure to the cold so try to carry your camera as close to your body as possible to try to keep it warmer, or inside your jacket if you can. Change lenses quickly and preferably inside your car. If you carry extra batteries, keep them in a pocket close to your body to keep them warm so they last longer. Have a soft cloth handy in case you need to wipe fog or melted snowflakes from your lens.

Get a little closer – Snow offers the opportunity to capture special scenes that are different than anything you will capture any other time of year. Try getting a little closer and capture something unique.

Throwing Snow by Joanna Smith Photography
Throwing Snow by Joanna Smith Photography

Winter can be a fun and beautiful time of year if you are willing to venture out of your warm cozy home and brave the elements. I hope you will be adventurous enough to get out there and play around in the snow!

About Author

Joanna Smith is a portrait photographer in the Chicago area specializing in children, family, and maternity portraits. Find her at her website and blog.

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