I used to be a fair-weather shooter.
Now, the days that I wouldn’t have set foot outside are the days that inspire me most.
Up until recently, I was only inspired by those hot summer days with a long, beautiful golden hour. But I realized that I have to shoot year-round to really embrace the outdoors and to get the most out of my photographic journey.
Photography in the winter months is more challenging. You have to look for light in a different way, add intrigue to your images with intentional color, and capture the atmosphere around you.
Depending on where you are in the world, your winter will look different. My mother grew up in South Africa, so her Christmas was always in the heat of an African summer! In the Pacific North West, we have the opposite – cold temperatures with lots of rain and wind. This year, we actually had a week of snow, but it only stuck around for an hour each day before melting… so if you’re looking for inspirational snow images, I suggest checking out Amber Walder’s recent post!
1. As I always say, add a pop of color!
The extreme elements of the winter months don’t come around very often. I like to use these days to capture emotion and atmosphere that are harder to capture during the warm summer months.
One thing you’ll notice about winter is that the landscapes are muted. Whether it’s all grey or all white around me, one thing I love to do is add a pop of color to my images. Depending on the color you use, it will add a different feel to the images.
2. Spend time visualizing your end product
Winter images take a lot more thought to produce. I like to prepare an idea or two for wind, rain, fog, and other elements that may come my way. I will then look into the forecast to see when I may be able to implement each idea.
Since weather around here can change by the minute, I have to be on my toes and prepared at all times. I keep my batteries charged and my tripod never leaves my car! Because I have my ideas all planned out, I am able to use a repertoire of ideas at the drop of a hat.
3. Know the timing and positioning of your ideal light
During the winter months, you have to look for light in a different way. For me, the days are overcast and the sun is only out for a few hours a day.
Do you know how the sun moves during your winter? I encourage you to track the sun closely. You can keep a diary, or make a mental note. Either way, it will help you time shoots for the best possible light. Remember that the sun may be a lot lower in the sky depending on your location, so it will be a dream to practice backlighting your subjects.
4. Photograph your favourite places in a different way
Winter means it gets dark well before dinner time. I used to see this as a negative, but now I know how to use it to my advantage.
There are more hours in the day to capture nighttime shots! I would normally have to stay up late for those, and I am the kind of person who loves to be in bed by 9pm. I have learned to embrace the early nights, because I can capture the local attractions in their festive décor. Get out there and photograph your favourite holiday locations!
Whatever the weather brings you this season, don’t be afraid to get wet, muddy, or cold.
These conditions challenge you to plan your shoots in advance, and prepare you for anything. I promise that you will feel inspired and photographically invincible after a few shoots in these harsh conditions! Just remember that to capture a shot that no one else has, you have to put yourself in a place that no one else will.