You can create some amazing images in the winter if you follow the tips below.
Find the colors of winter
Even though all the leaves are off and everything is brown and white, there is a ton of color if you look carefully. Colors can be found in leaves that are still on the tree, berries, birds, water, sky, barns, man-made items, dried grasses and more. You can place people with bright clothes in the scene and they will stand out with a fresh snowfall.
Overexpose the images
Snow can be tricky and awesome at the same time. Snow offers the perfect reflector for people portraits but it can be easy to wash out in a landscape. I tend to up my exposure when taking a scene with snow so it doesn’t look so gray and looks more like a true white. You can up the exposure in post processing as well.
Warm up the image
I like my winter images on the warmer side so I always warm up the image by sliding the temperature more to the right in post processing. You can also set your white balance to shade or cloudy in your camera and it will be warmer. Something about it makes it seem more cozy and golden. This can also mean to take photos of winter inside as well as outside. You can capture winter through photos of fireplaces, hot cocoa or other things you do in the winter like wrapped up in a cozy warm blanket next to the fireplace holding hot cocoa.
Find the details
You can see plants and trees differently when they do not have leaves on them. Study a plant or tree up close and notice all the intricate detail there is. Look for shapes, textures, colors, icicles, snowflakes, light and shadows, and reflections. You don’t have to go very far to find details. Go in your backyard and zero in on a plant or tree and examine it for a couple minutes and then snap a shot of something you find that looks interesting. Look at it during different times of the day and different weather conditions too.
Look for wildlife
There are a lot of animals and birds that are out in the winter time and you can see them a little easier with all the leaves off the trees. Some common animals and birds you can see in the winter are fox, bunnies, robins, cardinals, swans, eagles, owls, hawks, coyotes, deer, beavers, otters and more. If you don’t see the actual animal you can find a lot of animal tracks in the snow too. If you stop and listen you can almost always hear birds.
Sunrise and sunsets
Since snow reflects color you can take some amazing photos at blue and golden hours. The sunsets and sunrises in winter always seem so beautiful and even more colorful. The sun rises so late and the sunset is early so you can take advantage of getting more sleep and not having to get up so dang early.
If you plan to hang around one area you will get cold faster then if you are hiking to a location. Layers are best so that you can adjust as you go. I would rather have too many layers and have to take them off than be freezing cold. Do NOT wear cotton as that will keep you cold. I would wear wool, fleece or polyester blends. If you aren’t warm then you will have a miserable time and not want to photograph in the winter. If it’s snowing or windy, I would highly recommend a waterproof/windproof layer so you stay dry. I always have hand and toe warmers too which help a lot. Winter photography isn’t easy in the cold but it can be very rewarding too.
There are definitely conditions that are more ideal for capturing the perfect shot but you won’t always have these conditions so think about what you want to capture with what you have. Snowy conditions create a cool fog effect when taking landscape shots of a treescape. When the temps are warmer, the snow will likely stick to the trees more. Be creative when the weather isn’t what you were hoping for. Find contrasting lighting conditions and turn your photos to black and white. There is always something amazing to photograph in any situation you just have to find it.
Keep it simple
Winter can be so majestic and I love to capture more of a minimalist look to some of my winter images. The lone tree in a sea of snow or the one leaf still left on the tree. Look for something that stands out and zero in on that something and snap the shot. Take the distractions out of the shot. I love the simple look just as much as the detailed look.
Get out there
The last tip I have for you is to get outside and snap some shots. Even if it’s just your backyard. Of course you can get some photos from your window or take pictures of winter themes inside but also get outside and enjoy the beautiful trails of Minnesota or wherever you are located. Dress warm and get snapping.
Hopefully these tips help you to capture more winter images and don’t forget to keep your camera batteries warm as they drain faster in the cold.