Winter Landscape Photography – Helpful Tips from The Experts

Winter Landscape Photography

Winter landscapes are sometimes so like a fairy tale. Photographers try to capture winter landscapes and convey all the beauty in the pictures. Unfortunately, this does not always work. Camera settings and approach to shooting are different from operation at other times of the year. Helpful advice on how to do winter landscape photography will come to the rescue. Having studied and tested them in practice, you can get the long-awaited result.


Effect of Snow on The Camera’s Exposure

In winter, it is often the snow that makes the camera’s automation incorrect. It affects especially strongly the exposure meter (responsible for measuring illumination). The camera evaluates the white mass as overexposure and brings the color of the snow in the photo to a gray tint. Besides the fact that this color is far from real, other objects in the frame also suffer. Anything darker than snow becomes too dark.

You can combat this by manually adjusting the exposure of the camera. It is indicated by the “+/-” icon in the setup menu. In winter, it is better to increase the exposure by 1-2 stops (steps).

Winter Landscape Photography

When photographing people, it is important to determine what is more important, the correctly exposed landscape or the characters present in the photograph.

Also, the “bracketing” function to help the photographer in winter. It allows you to take several frames in a row with different exposures. After filming the material, you can choose the most successfully exposed photographs at home.

Winter Photography

Helpful hint: in the process of shooting, you can evaluate the correctness of the exposure of the frame using the histogram. If the frame is underexposed, the graph will be grouped in the left part of the image, if it is overexposed, in the right.

How to Set Up Your Camera?

Besides exposure, it is important to pay attention to other camera settings.

In winter, it is better to refuse to work in automatic mode. The preferred mode is Shutter Priority or Manual. At long exposures, the camera will blur the flying snowflakes, and it will not be possible to convey the beauty of the snowfall.

For snowflakes to be visible, the shutter speed must be at least 1/250 second. With dynamic snowfall, it is better to set it even shorter – by 1/500 of a second. So instead of the overexposed white spots, which are often obtained in photographs, clear flakes of snow will be visible.


Helpful Hint: It’s best to adjust the white balance on your camera yourself. If you leave the automatic settings, the snow is likely to have a bluish tint.

It is preferable to use the RAW format. It will allow you to convey the maximum amount of details in the photo, to work out the shadows. Also, if necessary, you can correct the image during post processing. The JPEG format does not provide such a wide range of possibilities for correcting photographs.

So that the frames are not replete with digital noise, it is better to set the minimum ISO values (sensitivity) on the camera. In amateur cameras, this should not be more indicative of 800 units. The optimal value is from 100 to 500 units.

Another helpful tip is not to use flash in winter. Snow has a cool hue and flash gives a naturally warmer light. Therefore, its use is very noticeable in photographs.

Effects of Weather on Camera Batteries

Winter affects not only the settings, but also the condition of the equipment. The battery runs out faster. When the temperature outside is freezing, the battery loses up to 30 percent of its charge capacity. This must be taken into account when planning to photograph for a long time.


Helpful Hint: Take a spare battery with you and keep it out of the cold by putting it in a warm place. For example, in an inner pocket.

You may also like to read: 9 Winter Camera Protection Tips: How Not to Damage Your Camera in Winter?

If there is only one battery and is already discharging, you can warm it up by holding it in your hands for a while. This will be enough for some more time.

If you plan to photograph a person, it is better to think over all the details in advance in order to have time to take the necessary photos in a short time. In addition to the fact that the model will quickly freeze in cold weather, the appearance may also change. A flushed nose or hands will not beautify the picture.

In severe frost, the effect of lubricating the moving elements of the camera changes. It functions more viscously. If the camera starts focusing too slowly and the shutter lags behind, it’s time to stop shooting.

In winter, it often snows and snowflakes fall on the lens. Melting quickly, they turn into drops. This interferes with filming. In addition, excess moisture is harmful to some lenses. In such weather it is useful to use a protective filter and a hood. A lens cleaning kit is also useful.

camera lens with hood

Condensation may form on the camera itself and the lens due to temperature differences. This happens when moving from one location to another or after returning home. When moving from place to place, it is better not to try to warm the camera under the jacket. Better not to take it out of the bag at all. Otherwise, the optics may “fog up”, which will jeopardize further work.

And one more useful advice for those who take pictures in winter: after returning home from frost, it is better not to take out the camera and not turn it on for several hours. This will gradually warm it up to room temperature, and condensation will be avoided.

Features of Building A Composition

A snowy winter gives great opportunities for working with composition. Extra objects are not visible under the snow cover, there is no overload of the photo. It is important to include something other than the white landscape in the shot. You can find places where there are objects that contrast with the background in shape or color. Or add them to the frame yourself.

Winter Landscape Photography
Winter Landscape Photography

Snowfall creates a natural transition from a dark foreground to a light background. Snowflakes add dynamism and volume to photography.

A handy tip for winter photography is to take advantage of the reflections seen on the icy surface.

How to Shoot Portraits in Winter?

At this time of year, it is interesting to photograph not only landscapes, but also portraits. They look very impressive. Especially if the model wears an evening dress or other light clothing instead of a fur coat. Photographing a model in winter can be difficult, but the result justifies all the efforts.

Morning Portrait

It is important to choose an image for the model that is in harmony with the snowy landscape. For girls, it is better to do a spectacular, but dim makeup. There should not be a lot of bright accents in the image. One or two is enough. For example, a scarf, gloves or shoes can be highlighted.

Morning is best for portraits in winter.

Don’t plan your photo session on a bright sunny day. Snow can blind a person. In the bright areas, glare forms, and the shadows fall into blackness.

The photographs are spectacular, in which the light illuminates the model from the side. So, the sun does not dazzle too much, and thanks to the shadows on the face, volume is visible.

An Useful Tip on How to Photograph People in Winter

It is better not to use the automatic mode of the camera. As with landscape photography, it is better to use shutter priority. Especially if the shooting takes place during a snowfall. By experimenting with the settings, you can show snowflakes as crisp (at medium shutter speeds), as stripes (by setting a slow shutter speed), or small dots (at short shutter speeds).

A Selection of Useful Tips for Successful Shots

Some more helpful tips on how to photograph in winter:

  • To make the snow look more transparent and whiter, you can use contrasts. You can give it a crystal-clear look by placing yellow or red objects in the frame;
  • If you are photographing in sunny weather in winter, you can use a polarizing filter. It will reduce the reflection from the snow and make the sky more attractive;
  • Winter landscapes are best taken in the morning. On a sunny day, snow sparkles and shimmers, objects cast long intricate shadows. If you can’t get out for a photo hunt in the morning, you can try to find interesting subjects closer to sunset;
  • There should be something other than snow in the pictures. In winter, it is especially important to find bright accents that make your photo interesting. The uniformity of color and shape looks dull;
  • A camera lens hood will help to combat unwanted glare and reflections. This attachment is included in any kit when purchasing optics. Taking pictures with her, you will be able to take more contrasting pictures;
  • When photographing with a tripod in strong winds, it is best to shorten the tripod as much as possible. The legs can be pressed into the snow. This will avoid blurry frames. You can make the tripod heavier by hanging a bag with equipment on its hook. If the tripod has aluminum legs, it is better not to touch them with your hands in the cold;
  • In winter, at sub-zero temperatures, you should try not to breathe on the viewfinder and even more so on the lens. So, the glass of the camera can “fog up” or even become covered with ice;
  • In winter, the photographer has to take care not only of the camera and model, but also of himself. Fingers very quickly become “wooden”. You need to find the right gloves. You can also use special hand warmers. They are placed in a pocket and hands are warmed alternately;
  • It is better not to change the lenses of the camera in severe frost. So, you need to choose the best optics in advance. Long lenses help you to better detail the snow and blur the background beautifully. Wide-angle optics make it difficult to transfer snow haze because the photographer is forced to get as close to the subject as possible;
  • And the main advice for those who take pictures in winter is not to forget about safety. A beautiful shot on an ice floe is not worth plunging into the water or drowning your camera.
You may also like to read: How to Take Winter Photos: 10 Effective Tips for Best Photos in Winter.

Shooting in winter is an interesting and challenging process. Better not to use auto mode, pay special attention to exposure and shutter speed. Everything should be thought out in advance so that shooting takes as little time as possible. This will prevent the model and the photographer from freezing and the batteries from being discharged. It is important not to photograph snow for the sake of snow, but to find an interesting composition, experiment with camera angles and settings. Armed with helpful tips, you can finally convey a winter’s tale in your photos.