The winter is upon us. You can wrap up indoors, or layer up and get outdoors for a brisk walk, take in the fresh scents of winter, and capture some of the most magnificent backdrops for any photo.
Regardless of your photography experience, when the snow hits the ground, covers the fields, and freezes rivers and lakes over, it is easy to capture photos that could be called art by anyone’s standards.
5 Tips to Get Terrific Photos in Winter that anyone can use!
Tip 1. Protect your gear from water damage
Did you know that your phone or camera does not have to get wet to suffer from water damage? The difference from the icy cold outside to the warm air inside within a short space of time creates rapid condensation.
If you are out on a long winter stroll, perhaps along a wooded trail taking random snaps of frozen lakes, snow-covered treetops, and white fields, devices are going to get cold.
Placing the device in a zip lock bag such as a freezer bag before bringing it indoors can trap some of the cold air, slowing down the condensation process. If you do try this, remove the battery if possible. Not all smartphones have removable batteries so if yours doesn’t, try placing some moisture absorption material such as silica gel or rice in a bag with your phone to capture the condensation.
Tip 2. Get out in the snow first
When out and about taking photos with snow, ice, and frost in the scene, the best shots are those with untouched surfaces. No footprints, slush, or trails. That is hard to do in busy locations. You need to be out first and be wary of your steps. You will be disappointed if you turn around to notice a breathtaking scene that is now covered with messy footprints.
Tip 3. Take advantage of long winter nights
Photographers love this time of year because they get a lie in. The best times to shoot photos outdoors are at sunset and sunrise. In the summer months, that calls for an early rise and a late photo shoot. In the winter, sunrise is later in the morning, and earlier in the afternoon.
The colour density changes throughout the day as the sun moves, however, there are certain times when the light appears colder and more wintery. That is when the sun is only just below the horizon. Right after sunrise and peaking before sunset is when you will get vibrant colours of warm yellow or ambient orange hues.
To capture the essence of winter, capture the photo in the blue light hour.
Tip 4. Experiment with macro photography
In the winter, everyone is instinctively focused on the wider landscapes. The snow on the ground, fields, trees, and icy lakes and ponds. Take the time to go close up with objects.
So much escapes our vision or goes barely noticed. The icicle melting on the guttering, the frost lining on plant leaves, and the distinct pattern of ice on the windscreen in the mornings that so many of us painstakingly scrape away.
For a fun project that can only be done in the winter months, try making frozen bubbles. Other than freezing temperatures, all you need is very little wind. Gently blow bubbles onto cold surfaces outdoors and leave them to freeze. On the snow at night is ideal. In the morning, if you are lucky, you will have frozen bubbles that can be placed on plants, and branches, or arrange them among a collection of props to add another interesting element to your photo.
Tip 5. Shoot in manual mode to override auto focus
Most smartphone cameras can do what DSLR cameras can. As the saying goes, the best phone is the one that you have with you. Most will have auto focus, however, for it to be any use, it needs something to focus on. If you are shooting across a lake where the entire scene is almost completely white, the auto focus feature may not be able to lock onto anything to focus on. When that happens, switch to manual focus and use your eyes.
Manual focus mode has different names on different devices, the most common being “pro”. You do not need to be a pro to benefit from a camera's pro mode. In most cases in the winter, it is better, and it is the perfect time to practice shooting with various settings.
Increase and decrease the ISO, and try different aperture settings and different shutter speeds. You will be surprised by the differences in the photos you take in manual mode when the camera is not auto adjusting camera settings on the fly. No matter how smart cameras and technology become, they will never be able to truly capture what you see. In manual mode, you have better control of the final shoot.