Winter is always an exiting time to go outside and take pictures. But the weather will present you with certain challenges that you will have to overcome in order to be successful in your photography. I will give you some basic tips that will make it easier to overcome the winter weather obstacles and create beautiful images.
One of the things you will have to be aware is that snow will trick your camera’s light meter!
One of the most challenging things photographing outside when everything is covered with snow will be to achieve correct exposure for your photos. All camera metering systems function in the same manner – they are calibrated to base exposure on neutral grey (16% grey). So relying solely on your camera meter for your exposures will result in your photos to look dull and the snow to look grey and you will have to edit them to bring them closer to life.
Now that you know how your camera metering system works, you will simply have to use exposure compensation on your camera to achieve the correct exposure. You will need to overexpose your images +1 stop (or exposure value EV) for overcast days or under shade and as much as +2 stops for brightly lit scenes. Going over +2 EV will likely result in blown highlights (details in the bright areas of your photos will simply disappear).
Taking pictures in RAW format will be very helpful since later on you will have greater tolerance in editing them without detail loss in the highlights.
Knowing how to read your camera’s histogram can help as well, since judging exposure by looking at your camera’s screen under the bright sun will be hard.
It may be very difficult for your camera to achieve autofocus on the overcast and foggy winter days or when the snow is falling. The problem is that in conditions like this the camera focusing system will have hard time finding an object with sufficient contrast to lock focus there. When the snow is falling the camera may actually focus on the falling snow particles itself and not the subject your are trying to photograph. This will render your photo out of focus and unusable. Best solution in situation like this is to switch from auto focus to manual focus. Depending on the camera you are using that can be done with a physical switch on the camera or the lens or from the camera’s menu.
Adjusting your camera shutter speed will allow you to make your images more life like and dynamic. How? Fast shutter speed will make the falling snow appear as dots, but slow shutter speed will make them look like blurred white streaks.
Make sure you have enough spare batteries, the cold weather will deplete them much faster. Even thou batteries may seem exhausted outside in the cold, they may regain their power when you warm them up. Tip: keep your spare batteries close to your body to keep them in top shape.
Don’t you hate how the lens on your camera fogs every time you walk inside after taking pictures in the cold outside? The cold air is generally dry, but heated spaces contain moisture that will condense immediately all over your ice cold camera and lens. Placing your camera gear in an airtight plastic bag before you bring it in will prevent the condensation. Leave your camera in the bag until it reaches room temperature, before taking it out.
I hope you enjoyed this tips for winter photography. Would you like to know more? Please consider attending one of my workshops! Have any questions? Ask me a question here.