Winter landscape photography certainly makes for some of the most beautiful shots. However, it is important to be well prepared and keep safety in mind before going out to shoot.
Let’s take a look at some of the best tips to take amazing landscape photos in winter.
1. Preparing for Winter Landscape Photography
Winter landscape photography is one of the most rewarding ways of capturing landscapes. Many photographers have focus their entire career only on this type of photos.
At the same time it’s one of the most challenging and requires proper knowledge and preparation.
Know the Location
What is the average temperature in winter in the location you’re going to shoot? You must ensure that you are looking at the weather forecast before heading out, and prepare the appropriate attire based on that. Pay close attention to not only the temperature but also the humidity and wind speed.
These play a major role in influencing the perceived temperature, which is likely to be much lower than the actual reported temperature. Wind speed can also have an effect on the quality of your photographs.
Tell Someone Where You Are Heading
Especially if you are shooting in a remote area. You’re phone could stop working, the weather conditions might change dramatically and you can find yourself in all sorts of challenging situations. Plan your adventure in the snow properly to make sure it’s a nice and safe experience.
Move Right After Snowfall
Fresh snow is your friend when it comes to winter landscape photography. Unspoiled freshly fallen snow, is one of the secrets of breathtaking photos. It can make a much bigger difference than shooting with an expensive camera. That’s why planning and paying attention to the weather conditions is not only important for safety but also to choose the perfect timing to take amazing photos.
Related article: Forest Photography Guide
2. Key Equipment
Some of the best winter landscape photos can be captured around sunrise or sunset, with beautiful pink light from the rising or setting sun dancing with the clouds at the horizon.
However, this is also the time when the temperatures can be terribly low. It is absolutely essential that you carry the proper clothing and equipment to protect yourself. Here is a list of equipment that you might want to carry along.
What to Wear
Consider multiple layers of clothing. Staying warm in such a freezing weather is crucial to the success of your winter expedition. The first thing you should consider is a proper base layer. A base layer, is the foundation of a system aimed at providing maximum comfort and protection from cold and humidity. It’s the layer that touches your skin.
The thickness and material of the base layer are the considerations you should make. Fundamentally you want a material that does an amazing job of wicking moisture and keeps you dry and comfortable. Choose polyester or nylon if you go for a synthetic fabric or Merino Wool if you go for a natural one. A snug fit is recommended since the base layer has to be in contact with your skin to be able to wick sweat as much as possible.
If your feet get cold is game over. A good pair of waterproof boots is what you need. You’ll need to hike so make sure they fit well and provide a good grip to allow you to move around easily. Take a look at these options
For serious snow:
Better for hiking:
The same concept is valid for your hands. Without a good pair of gloves your finger would get so cold you are not even going to be able to press the buttons on your camera. Obviously, there are different options here too but my advice is that you should try to get something that allows you to press the buttons or use touchscreen devices without removing the gloves. Go with a pair of touchscreen-compatible gloves so you can operate your camera and also use your phone if you need it.
Cover Your Head
In extremely cold weather a thick hat will keep your warm. Don’t go for whatever beanie you find, select your head cap accurately. Consider breathability and comfort when choosing your winter hat. Make sure that it covers your ears since they’re particularly sensitive to low temperatures.
3. Winter Landscape Photography Gear
Your camera and lenses can get affected by the cold quite easily. If you abruptly move a camera from a warmer area, say your car, to a cold space, it can create condensation.
In extreme cases, your lens can completely freeze! The best way to handle this is by keeping your camera in the bag until you step outside, avoiding the condensation. Moreover, make sure that you don’t breathe on top of the lens.
- Batteries drain a lot quicker when the temperature is low. Make sure that you carry several spare batteries that are fully charged.
- A tripod; ensure that you have some material wrapped around the legs of your tripod so that you can move it around easily. (Don’t grab the metal with your bare hands!)
4. Winter Landscape Photography Composition
Your scenes are going to be mostly covered in snow, with light bouncing off the surface beautifully. So, try and let the light guide your composition. Snowy foliage can be made to look wonderful using backlighting, with the sun behind your subject. You can also try and capture the glint of sunlight on snowflakes.
If the sun is hidden behind clouds, you can use it as an opportunity to capture the textures and patterns in the snow. Look for interesting lines and patterns, and subjects that have a good amount of contrast from the background. These elements can make your shots stand out. You can also be on the lookout for splashes of color.
5. Camera Settings for Winter Landscape Photography
The way you use your camera settings can elevate a mediocre shot to one that is marvelous. Here are a few tips you can use to take your winter landscape photography to the next level!
Aperture: Use a small aperture for creamy background blur, and a larger one for a crisp scene.
Exposure: You can use different shutter speeds to get unique effects. If it’s snowing, you can choose to go for a faster shutter speed to capture each flake in all its beauty. Or you may choose to use a slower shutter speed, and get a blurry streak of snow. Either of these can be great effects that you can use to add a lot of character to your shot.
White Balance: While the exposure does get affected a lot by winter scenes, it is not alone in that regard. The white balance also gets thrown off quite significantly, and it is essential that you try and keep it as true to the subject as possible. Failing to do so can completely remove the cool and frigid feel of the image that is so characteristic of winter landscapes.
6. Post Processing for Winter Landscape Photography
There is a simple way to get great looking pics with post-processing. First, start off with adjusting the white balance, aiming for a natural, cool look. Lowering the exposure a bit can also help.
You can increase the clarity of the images to give a sharp look, matching the wintery feel of the scene. Finally, keep in mind that you don’t want to oversaturate your image. It never looks as good as you think it would!
A scene blanketed in snow has long since been amongst the most coveted settings for photographers. We hope this article has given you the confidence to go and shoot some incredible winter landscape photography pictures.
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.