6 Winter Photography Tips

When the weath­er turns sour and the ama­teurs turn in, it’s time to break out your cam­era gear and get the shots that every­one else is miss­ing. Here are some quick tips for cap­tur­ing the most mem­o­rable pho­tos dur­ing the cold win­ter months.

Shoot Wildlife
Win­ter is one of the best times to cap­ture wildlife. Crowds in nation­al parks have slowed to a trick­le and the big guys (elk, deer, bison, moose) roam all day. Still it’s best to find you sub­jects dur­ing the gold­en hours (before 10am and after 3pm in the win­ter). Take advan­tage of bison in open prairies, and bugling elk just before the hunt­ing season.

Get a fil­ter if you can afford it
Get­ting some sort of fil­ter is the best thing you can do for your shoot­ing. A UV fil­ter will do won­ders to bal­ance the tones of your pho­tos and bring out the col­ors that may get washed out by bright con­trast. Even bet­ter, a cir­cu­lar polar­iz­ing fil­ter will allow you to decrease the glare of the sun on the snow, and make the skies much richer.

Keep it warm (and dry)
It often takes more than just a lit­tle per­sis­tence and willpow­er to get the best win­ter shots. And if you’re shoot­ing your friends hit­ting kick­ers all day, you’re usu­al­ly sit­ting on your ass wait­ing for a shot. Always pack plen­ty of hand­warm­ers with you not just for you but for your equip­ment as well. Your pho­tos, believe it or not, will def­i­nite­ly reflect your lev­el of stoke and if all you can think about is your soak­ing wet socks, you won’t be shoot­ing any­thing. Dress in lay­ers and warmer than you think you’ll need. Don’t for­get the rain gear, includ­ing ziploc bags if you need to keep your lens dry. If you do get some water on your glass, use the defroster in my car to dry my lenses.

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Learn this meter­ing trick
One trick on point and shoot cam­eras involves the cam­er­a’s auto meter func­tion. If a scene has a large con­trast between fore­ground and back­ground, snag a meter point from the bright area by point­ing the cam­era direct­ly at that part of the frame, say a snow-capped peak or a bright blue sky, then while still hold­ing the shut­ter-but­ton halfway down, frame the shot and take the pho­to. This will keep you from blow­ing out your skies or your bright, snowy foregrounds. 

Over­ex­pose your shots
Snow plays tricks on your cam­er­a’s meter­ing mak­ing it think it’s pro­cess­ing 18% grey. Always over­ex­pose your scenes either using meter­ing com­pen­sa­tion on your cam­era or using a high­er ISO. Most mod­ern cam­eras go all the way up to 3200 but 800 should be plen­ty fast in most cas­es. It sounds like overkill but a vibrant white moun­tain is more inter­est­ing than a dull, grey one and a high ISO gives you the free­dom to manip­u­late your set­tings freely.

photo by Derek Schroeder

Have fun with the aper­ture
Because there is so much light to work with, win­ter is the per­fect time to shoot every­thing from vibrant macro shots with a crisp con­trast, to the infa­mous star trails pho­tographs that real­ly con­nect you to the con­cept of star­ship earth. To exper­i­ment with star trails prac­tice com­posit­ing mul­ti­ple expo­sures tak­en over the course of a few hours. Or take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to shoot some soft water. Win­ter is a time to catch great sub­dued tones.

photo by Derek Schroeder

(pho­tos by Derek Schroeder)