Winter is a great season for landscape and nature photography, although it will present some unique challenges. If you are willing to overcome those challenges you can be rewarded with very striking and unique photographs that really stand out. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your landscape photography during the winter months.
Related reading: 10 Ideas for Winter Landscape Photos
1. Be Safe
First and formost, be sure that you are taking all necessary safety precautions. Safety is always important for landscape photographers, especially when you are shooting in remote destinations or doing a lot of hiking or camping. But it’s even more important in winter because of the added dangers that can be present because of very cold temperatures.
Be sure to have all of the necessary clothing like a warm coat, hat, gloves, boots, and a scarf. It’s also a good idea to have some blankets in the car if you will be driving through any remote locations. Check the weather forecasts and avoid driving in areas that could be potentially dangerous. Take a 4-wheel drive vehicle if needed.
Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras
2. Have the Right Gear
Winter brings it’s own gear-related challenges as well. The cold weather drains batteries faster than usual, so take some extra fully-charged batteries and try to keep them warm until you need them.
A lens hood and polarizer can be helpful for dealing with extra glare that can reflect off of the snow and ice.
It’s also a good idea to have some towels for drying off year camera when you come indoors or back to your car.
Photo by Daniel Zedda
3. Set the White Balance
One of the biggest challenges of shooting in the winter is getting the right white balance. Scenes with a lot of snow can trick a camera into using the wrong white balance, so you may need to set it manually. Refer to your camera’s manual for instructions on how to set the white balance.
4. Use the Histogram
The histogram is the most helpful tool for getting your exposures right, so be sure to check it. Make sure that you are not blowing out the highlights of the snow-covered areas. You can adjust the exposure compensation as needed, based on the data from your histogram.
Photo by John McSporran
5. Look for Contrast
The best winter landscapes often feature a strong contrast between the white snow and dark objects or areas of the photo. You don’t want a snow-filled photo where everything in the scene is very light. When looking for scenes to capture look for areas of contrast.
Photo by Bert Kaufmann
6. Consider Black & White
Going black & white is a good option for winter landscapes, and it is a great way to show the contrast of the scene. Converting to black & white is something you can do during post processing, but it’s a good habit to consider it while you’re shooting and visualize how the scene will look in black & white.
Photo by David Phan
7. Use Color in Your Compositions
When composing your shots look for ways to take advantage of pops of color that may exist. The color will really stand out in a snow-filled scene that includes a lot of white.
Photo by Markus Trienke
8. Use Exposure Bracketing
Because getting the right exposure can be a challenge with winter photography, bracketing your exposures can be a good idea. Check your camera’s manual for instructions to use exposure bracketing and it will help to ensure that you get a shot with the correct exposure. It will also give you the option to create HDR images if you would like. For more on exposure bracketing please see Introduction to Exposure Bracketing & Tips for Terrific Photos.
Get Out and Experiment!
Like any type of photography, the best way to master winter landscapes is to get practice. Set aside some time this winter to get out and photograph the nature around you.