Snow photography: 6 Tips for taking magical pictures

  • 6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart

There is something so enchanting about snow.

The way it falls softly to the ground and covers the earth in a giant white blanket makes everything seem so fresh and magical.

But when snow is present, so is the cold. That cold may mean that many of us decide to stay indoors where we are nice and toasty.

Taking photos of your kids outdoors in the winter can be very rewarding, so do your best to come out of hibernation and take advantage of the beautiful winter scenery.

Here are some tips to inspire you to brave the cold and keep shooting outdoors in the winter.

1. Capture the snow falling

The magical mood that is created when snow is falling really cannot be replicated. Make the most of it! Snowfall does not happen all too often in some parts of the world, so being ready to go when the snow starts falling is important. I usually have my next snow shoot planned out in advance so that I don’t miss any window of opportunity.

One thing to know is that the size of the flakes does make a difference in the look you will achieve.  Groups of big flakes that fall softly are my absolute favorite. Also, don’t forget to play with your aperture to find the depth of field that you like the best.

You can see in the picture on the left how the small snowflakes are more difficult to see against the white, snow covered backdrop. However, the groups of snowflakes in the picture on the right were very big and stand out against the dark background.

shooting creatively in the snow by Amy Lucy Lockheart
portraits with large snowflakes by Amy Lucy Lockheart

2. Get creative

Tired of taking photos of your kids in their bulky winter jackets and snow pants? Maybe coming up with a concept or using a prop is a good way to get the creativity flowing.

6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart
6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart

3. Use a Lensbaby

Using a Lensbaby or tilt-shift lens is a great way to stay creative when taking photos in the winter. The way the out of focus area bends and blurs can really add to the atmosphere of outdoor winter photos.

Learn how to use a Lensbaby here.

photography in the snow with a lensbaby by Amy Lucy Lockheart
lensbaby and snow portraiture by Amy Lucy Lockheart

4. Play with light

After the snow stops falling and the sun comes out is the perfect time for capturing beautiful, dramatic light. The sun is lower in the sky during the winter, so backlighting works really well.

The white snow serves as a perfect natural reflector, so, in most cases, there is no need to haul your reflector out with you.

When light hits ice and snow that is frozen on shrubbery and trees, it looks like the whole tree is covered in jewels. What a great photo opp!

Read more about backlighting here.

6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart

5. Step back and get in close

Make sure you take advantage of the beautiful scenery by stepping back and capturing a lot of the environment. Then get in really close and capture the details.

6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart
6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart

6. Keep it safe

Safety is certainly my top priority when photographing my children outdoors in the winter. I have lived my whole life in the north and have a Master’s Degree in Public Health, so I know very well that safety is not something to take lightly.

  • Almost all of my outdoor winter photos are taken when the temperature is above 25 degrees – it is chilly enough that any precipitation will fall in the form of snow, but not bitterly cold.
  • In addition, I don’t take the kids out when it is windy. Not only is wind chill dangerous, but it is difficult to get natural expressions and have fun when the cold wind is blowing.
  • I always make certain that my kids are warm enough and have very quick access to a safe spot. All of the photos you see in this post were taken in a location with extremely easy access to a warm home or building (most of them were taken just steps from my house, actually).
  • Another thing I frequently do is to dress in less clothing than my kids. So, for example, if my child wears lightweight mittens, I don’t wear any protection on my hands at all. When I start to get cold, I know it is time for us to go in and warm up.
  • Another idea to keep kids warm is to dress them in layers. Even when I dress my kids in a lighter coat, I make sure that they have extra warm layers beneath.
  • Lastly, get your camera settings ready before taking your child out. All you need is a minute or two to capture some precious moments.
6 tips for magical snow photographs by Amy Lockheart

So get out there and take advantage of the beautiful winter wonderland that may be present in your own backyard.

Snow and winter is an important part of my children’s life stories, and I am glad to be able to capture these important memories.

About the Author:

Residing in Minnesota with her husband and four children, Amy has always had an appreciation for photography but it was her children who inspired her to pick up a camera. Fortunate to be able to call photography both a passion and a profession, Amy divides her time between her role as Senior Editor for Click Magazine and photographing her own family. Shooting with a Nikon D4 and a variety of lenses, her first priority is capturing the fleeting moments of childhood. Picnicking in a state park with her family is the perfect way to spend her day off but she also enjoys collecting quotes, the beach, and compassionate people.


  1. Amanda Jan 23 2013 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Great post. I love the ones with blanket. I was lucky to get out to the midwest during one of their storms this year and get some pics of the kids playing. I think it might be the only chance I get this year . . . 🙁

  2. christina Jan 23 2013 at 11:38 am - Reply

    wonderful tips and beautiful photos, Amy! I guess this means I should wait until the wind chill rises above -20 to try these at home? 😉

  3. Nicole Arnold Photography Jan 23 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous work! Too bad that with the wind chill in Ohio today our area feels like -2 degrees! I wanna get out and capture some snowflakes and sunshine!

  4. Melissa Stottmann Jan 23 2013 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    Love your snow work Amy Lucy!! So inspiring. Great tips 🙂

  5. Sarah Jan 23 2013 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    your outdoor snow shots are my absolute favorite, Amy! Great blog post!

  6. Jo Clark Jan 23 2013 at 3:17 pm - Reply

    So lovely Amy. I adore your snow shots and really enjoyed reading about your tips 🙂

  7. jodi Jan 23 2013 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    these images are all so dreamy, amy! since our houston winters don’t seem to include snow, maybe i need to plan a visit so i can try these tips out for myself! <3

  8. Daniela Jan 23 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Great tips and beautiful images Amy! Thank you!

  9. Katrina Stewart Jan 23 2013 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Ooh beautiful images Amy! Great advice.

  10. Carrie Jan 23 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Love these beautiful images. Thanks for your tips and the safety reminders!

  11. Bianca Jan 23 2013 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the awesome insight Amy! I love your snowy images and your timing couldn’t be more perfect with snow in the forecast. I love your advice on dressing in less than your kids. Great tip!

  12. L.E. Amatulli Jan 24 2013 at 10:51 am - Reply

    Soooo beautiful! Simply stunning. Thanks for the tips!! 😀

  13. Jennifer Jan 24 2013 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Beautiful images! Great tips for keeping the kids safe. I was wondering if you do anything to protect your camera when it’s snowing? I’m always afriad of what the snow will do to my camera and/or lenses.

    • Amy Lucy Lockheart Jan 24 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      If the snow is heavy and wet or if I am going out for more than a minute, I will always protect my camera with either a thick plastic bag (with a hole cut out to fit the lens hood) or a LensCoat raincoat. I always shoot with my lens hood to protect water from reaching the glass. Hope that helps!

  14. Amanda Jan 26 2013 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Loved this article!! I’m in MN too and it’s difficult for me right now to get out there and feel inspired – it’s just too stinkin’ cold! And we don’t have much snow near the Cities so it’s not even all that pretty out there. Enough complaining…..I just got a Lensbaby so I’m going to buck up and give her a try – today! 🙂
    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  15. Barb Paa Jan 26 2013 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images Amy. Thanks for the tips:) We are expecting snow tomorrow so I will be getting out there!

  16. liz Jan 27 2013 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Amy, great photos! How do you capture your snow in such a dreamy white color? I’ve tried playing with exposures and post processing, but am never satisfied with the color of my snow shots.

    • Amy Lucy Lockheart Feb 09 2013 at 11:45 am - Reply

      Thank you! I wish I had a secret trick to share with you, but all I do is try to make sure my white balance and exposure is correct.

  17. Crystal Jan 29 2013 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    These are all so beautiful

  18. Leah Cook Jan 31 2013 at 10:37 am - Reply

    you’re amazing. that is all. oh and these are BREATHTAKING!!! as soon as we get some more snow (fingers crossed!!) I’ll be back to re-read your fabulous advice, Amy!

  19. Lindsay Feb 08 2013 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    How do you protect your camera in the snow?

    • Amy Lucy Lockheart Feb 09 2013 at 11:46 am - Reply

      Hi Lindsay! If the snow is heavy and wet or if I am going out for more than a minute, I will always protect my camera with either a thick plastic bag (with a hole cut out to fit the lens hood) or a LensCoat raincoat. I always shoot with my lens hood to protect water from reaching the glass. Hope that helps!

  20. Danielle Feb 08 2013 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Wow, such GORGEOUS images, Amy!! Thank you for the fantastic tips!. You have inspired me to get out there now that we finally have some snow. :-D. Beautiful work as always. <3

  21. Amy Lucy Lockheart Feb 09 2013 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Thank you all for the very kind comments! xoxo

  22. Tricia Feb 24 2013 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    What beautiful photos! I loved all your tips too. Your article caught my attention because of the snow…something that’s all I see right now since I’m in Minnesota too 🙂

  23. Paula Feb 26 2013 at 9:28 am - Reply

    Oh wow the girl is such a cutie! Little blond angel in the snow. Beautiful shots!

  24. Barry Kidd Nov 28 2013 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    Hi there Amy:

    First off the photos are beautiful. Sadly I’ve never really been the hero at when it comes to snow photography of any kind. Of course I have my good days and bad days but all and all —- well, it’s best to avoid talking about how depressing my efforts can sometimes be. 🙂

    Many times over the years I have planned the sets in advance as you have suggested but as the storm sets in it can often be hazardous for the client to get to me and the whole thing becomes a wash in the end anyway. When I do get good results it’s always after the fact. Once the storm is over, no flakes to be seen falling and there’s just a clean white blanket covering the land. I really would like to get the types of shots you have here but luck and or timing has never been on my side.

    Oh well, Winter is here again and it’s time to see what sort of results I can get once more. Wish me luck and thank you for sharing.


  25. Cinya Feb 29 2016 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Ms. Amy Lucy Lockhart, I am a high school student and I have a speech that involves photos of snowflakes. I really loved your photos of your kids in the snow and I was wondering if I could use them. It will be properly cited in MLA format. I hope you consider this. Thanks!

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