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21 Exciting Winter Photography Tips and Ideas to Try

Last updated: January 18, 2024 - 16 min read
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Winter may not seem like the best time of year to have exciting photo shoots and take gorgeous photos. But in reality, it’s the best season for creating surreal and dreamy images.
To make the most out of winter photography, take a look at our 18 tips and creative ideas. And we’ve included a bonus section of tips on how to keep your gear safe.

How to Prepare for Winter Photography

You have to prepare for cold weather if you are interested in winter photography. Dressing properly often means wearing the warmest clothing you have. Taking a hot beverage in a thermos is a great way to stay warm, especially if you’re shooting from one spot.
But staying warm is just the foundation of every other tip for outdoor photography ideas in winter. Continue for the rest of our tips!
A photographer shooting winter photos outdoors

1. Use Your Camera Settings for Enhancing Soft Lights

Shooting in snow is challenging because a great portion of your image is going to be bright white.
One solution is to overexpose your photos in wintertime. It means that you can let more light into your camera. Open the aperture wider or use a slow shutter speed.
This way you can achieve a soft effect. The gentle ambient light works well for overexposed pictures. And it looks good in a landscape, especially when everything is covered in snow.
A fast shutter speed or a small aperture can result in dark images.
You can also experiment with the white balance settings of your camera. Snowy scenes can turn out magical by modifying the color temperature a little bit.
Dreamy winter photography of snowy trees by a lake

2. Have a Winter-Themed Portrait Photo Shoot

Winter photography goes hand in hand with warm outfits. And faux fur animal hats are perfect for outdoor photo shoots.
Asking your model to stand in the snow might not seem like a great idea. But if you use the right outfits and props, everyone will be fine. Snow makes your images more fabulous—almost as if you were illustrating a storybook.
Portrait photography doesn’t always have to feature fancy dresses and accessories. A cozy outfit can actually make your photos look more heartwarming than a summer portrait.
There are typical accessories you can use. Scarves, hats, hooded coats, gloves, or boots all can be stylish elements of your images.
You can decide what kind of effect you want to achieve and ask your subject to dress accordingly.
You can create a contrast between the snow and the clothes by asking them to dress in vivid colors. But you can make them a part of the background and the scene by using cold colors, such as blue and grey.
Winter portrait of a female model in the snow

3. Take Photos of Couples to Bring Warmth Into Your Winter Photo Shoots

Winter photography is becoming more popular for engagement photos or other couple photos.
This is because a little snow adds a lot to the atmosphere of the images. And in most countries, snowy days are more rare than warm and sunny ones. So winter photos in snow-covered environments make the images look even more special.
The contrast between the cold temperatures and the smiling faces will help you take heartwarming photos. Use the cold weather to bring the couple closer to each other. Hugs, shared coats, and holding hands in gloves all look nice in winter photo shoots.
If you have a significant other, you can take a cute self-portrait with them. And it’s a good idea to have a few poses in mind before you get out into the cold. Make sure to make these photo shoots as short as you can to prevent literally frozen smiles. 
A couple posing in the snow

4. Use Winter Fog to Take Moody Photos of People

Winter photography tips aren’t just about sparkly snow and cozy evenings. When it seems like the sun is hiding, you can take moody photos.
For example, you can use winter fog as an eerie background. It brings out the lonely and cold side of winter.
Cold days can be gloomy and a bit depressing with their long nights. To capture this, your model can stare off into the distance with their back to your camera. Their figure should be small compared to the background.
The brightness of the snow will give you enough light to create images similar to the one below.
 A snowy winter portrait of a figure standing by a fence

5. Take Your Wildlife Photos During Winter

Winter might not be the most ideal time for sitting outside for hours while waiting for a wild animal to pass by. But snow-covered environments can give a great backdrop to the animals you spot.
If you don’t want to wander in the cold winter weather, you can even attract animals to your garden or window. Place food for birds in a feeder and they will come to you.
You can start feeding them when the first frost comes. Then continue it until spring. If they get used to a place where they can find food, they are going to go back regularly. You’ll have tons of opportunities to shoot wildlife from the comfort of your living room.
Winter is ideal for bird photo shoots because of its perfectly white tones. This makes it the perfect background for simple yet eye-catching photos.
Because winter photography usually consists of dull colors, things can blend together in an unflattering way. This might take attention away from your subject. To blur out background distractions, use a large aperture like f/1.4.
Winter photography of a robin in a snowy tree

6. Make the Most Out of Christmas Photography

For many people, one of the highlights of winter is Christmas. All the reds and greens are a breath of fresh air during this season.
Even if you’re not a fan of shooting in cold winter conditions, you’ll love taking Christmas-themed photos.
Christmas-themed flat lays are a great way to highlight the best parts of winter photography. You can photograph your favorite objects like cups or tree decorations from a bird’s eye view.
Of course, not only flat lays work here. Shoot from the side using a shallow depth of field. Blurred lights in the background bring warmth even in cold weather.
To make this idea as fun as possible, take photos of the things you love about Christmas.
You can capture a handmade decoration or a childhood memory. And shooting the Christmas table setting is another way to get stunning images.
Once the photos are ready, you can turn them into album photos. You and your family will treasure them for years to come. You can even make postcards of them.
White themed Christmas table setting

7. Use Food Photography to Capture the Winter Mood

Winter is the perfect time to stay in and cook something delicious. You can slow down a bit and take some time for food photography.
This is one of those photography ideas for winter that you don’t have to leave your house for. 
There are typical Christmas foods and typical winter beverages. You can almost smell them just by looking at their images.
You can make mulled wine, hot chocolate, tea, or even coffee, served in a winter mug. Or you can bake some gingerbread, a cake, or anything that reminds you of winter.
It would be a lot to cook proper Christmas dishes before or after Christmas just for fun. So you should experiment with smaller tasks like simple cookies.
And you can capture the dishes at Christmas if you have the time before your family eats everything.
These arranged food photography sessions are great preparation for holiday photography.
Flat lay of making Christmas themed cookies

8. Take Macro Photos to Capture the Beauty of Winter

Winter isn’t always fun. This can make it difficult to be excited about photography during this time of year. But winter isn’t all about gloominess and cold temperatures.
To inspire yourself, start a project that focuses on the beauty of winter. One of the best ways to do that is to photograph snowflakes and frost.
Frost can be found anywhere and always looks stunning. Combining frost and natural sunlight can result in breathtaking photographs.
This challenge will help you find beauty in simple places. And hopefully, cheer you up on a gloomy day!
A tiny snowflake resting on blue wool

9. Freeze Soap Bubbles for Incredible Results

When it’s very cold outside, you can blow some bubbles and create magic! All you need is soap bubbles, a macro lens, and good lighting.
Soap bubbles can be difficult to work with, especially if it’s windy outside. It’s best to take bubble photos when the weather is calm.
Blow the bubbles in a location where they can land gently. Branches, flowers, and bushes are perfect for this. For the best lighting results, shoot when the sun is high in the sky.
Photos like this make winter photography more than just a challenging genre.
If you’re lucky, your bubbles will end up getting covered in frost. This will make it seem like you captured snowflakes in a drop of water.
A iridescent bubble on the snow

10. Create a Contrast With Autumn and Spring to Enhance The Power of Winter

You can find frozen leaves in winter displaying the remains of autumn. They are not only beautiful but they make a nice contrast with the previous season.
The first signs of spring, such as little flowers growing from the snow-covered land can also enhance the contrast between the two seasons.
These unique contrasts can remind the viewer of the essence of winter. It can freeze the world in a beautiful way, but it doesn’t only mean death. Beautiful things can grow after.
Look for these small signs and tell stories of nature and the circle of life by capturing them.
frozen leaves in winter

11. Focus on the Connection Between Buildings and Snow

The coldness of winter puts a spotlight on things we might overlook at other times of the year. For example, it’s impossible not to notice a vibrant light in a colorless, snowy scene.
If you’re a fan of architecture, you can make your subjects stand out even more with the help of snow. You can use all the negative space to lead a viewer’s eyes to a building. You can even emphasize shapes that aren’t that noticeable when they’re surrounded by trees, a blue sky, and a busy street.
Architectural photography is usually not strongly connected to winter photography ideas. But if you try it, you’ll realize how different buildings can look at this time of the year.
A building covered in snow on a winter evening

12. Take Landscape Images to Show The Magic of Winter

The winter snow makes everything look totally different. Go for a walk in a forest with your camera and capture the beauty of this season.
Prepare for the cold weather, but if you keep moving, a small hike can be a great activity.
You can shoot to enhance the golden lights. But this is not the only way to go. When it comes to winter photos, you might be tempted to make them as warm as possible to make up for the lack of colors. But what if you did the exact opposite for a change?
Make your cold winter photos even colder. Adjust your camera’s white balance. Experiment with different cool tones.
This exercise will help you think outside the box and encourage you to break the rules sometimes.
Snowy winter landscape

13. Get Up Early for Magical Light

As with everything in this season, winter sunrises are magical. Look at the weather forecast to choose a sunny day. Morning light is usually colder than the light of a sunset. And it looks mesmerizing reflecting off of the snow.
The best combination is morning fog with the first signs of a sunny day. The first rays can brighten the whole scene and make the mist look like it’s glowing.
You don’t necessarily need a snowy landscape to create stunning sunrise photos. Any kind of winter weather is worth a shot.
Snowy winter landscape

14. Capture Sunsets to Create Dramatic Contrast

One of the best ways to take stunning winter photos is to create contrast. If possible, use a vibrant sunset or sunrise to create outstanding photos of nature.
The dramatic difference between warm and cool tones will make your photos look striking and atmospheric. This is ideal for landscape photographers who want to capture the gritty and vulnerable sides of winter.
During the blue hour in winter, you can find perfect contrast with the white of the snow. Usually, the sky is lighter than the landscape itself. The dark blue sky of the blue hour is going to make a somewhat surreal contrast with the snow.
Evening clouds over a snowy winter landscape

15. Take Creative Photos of Snow Falling to Make Playful Images

Falling snow is often used in winter photography. This idea is perfect for having fun and improving your action photography skills at the same time.
You can capture the snowfall itself. But it’s even better to combine it with a portrait photography session.
Your aim is to take sharp photos of falling snow and make your model stand out. To make this process easier, take photos using burst mode. Burst mode allows photographers to take multiple photos while holding the shutter.
You can also play with shutter speed to slightly blur the falling snow.
You can use this technique to take adorable and funny photos of people enjoying winter.
A couple embracing in the snow

16. Take Adorable Photos of Your Pet in Winter Clothes

Our winter photography tips are not just for humans and Christmas decorations. For this idea, you need to own a pet. And if your pet loves spending time outdoors in the winter, you’re in luck!
Adorable pet photos are always in demand. You can turn your pet portraits into stunning works of art every time you go out. You can use colorful outfits and accessories to make your photos stand out.
If you like the results, you can even use these images as Christmas postcards to your family or friends!
Make sure to reward your pet with treats during and after your photo shoot.
A cute dog in the snow

17. Don’t Forget to Take a Wintery Self-Portrait!

During this cold season, don’t forget to take a few photos of yourself surrounded by a stunning winter landscape.
Even if your face isn’t visible in your self-portraits, your results will document your journey.
You can even set up a home studio and practice with self-portraits. You can create your own cozy memories by shooting at home surrounded by your favorite Christmas decorations.
But you don’t necessarily have to have a Christmas-themed portrait of yourself. Your favorite pullover can be more than enough.
They might even remind you of how much you’ve progressed as an artist.
Snowy winter landscape

Top Tips for Using and Protecting Your Gear

Those are our best tips on winter photography. But before we go, we’ll tell you how to keep your expensive photography gear safe and working when the temperature drops.

18. Bring Extra Batteries

Keeping a camera operating in the cold can be one of the biggest challenges when the mercury drops. Cold temperatures increase the internal resistance in a battery, limiting how much electricity it can discharge.
On a warm day, a battery can dump all of its available power. But when it drops below freezing, you may only get 50% of the available power.
The solution is pretty easy—carry multiple batteries!
I keep at least a couple of spares in an inside pocket where they will stay warm. When one dies, I swap it out for a warm battery.
By alternating back and forth, you can really extend the life of the battery. And you can keep shooting hours longer than you would otherwise be able to.

19. Mind Your Breath

Batteries aren’t the only risk to your photo shoot during the winter. One, in particular, can ruin your day of photography. And that is your breath.
A mistimed, warm, humid, breath will condense on your lens, resulting in a layer of milky frost on the glass. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on your lenses, no amount of sharpness will make up for that kind of a blur. Wiping at it usually just smudges it more. And defrosting it inside (see below) can take hours.
Always watch where you breathe!
If you turn your camera around to check lens settings, don’t exhale. I also usually wear a neck gaiter or balaclava that I pull up over my mouth and nose. Whichever method you choose to keep your breath off your lens, it’s an important thing to always remember.

20. Use Your Lens Cap

Breath is the usual culprit of fogged lenses. But when shooting at night, there is always the chance that natural frost will form. To avoid fogging your lens, use your lens cap when you aren’t shooting.
If you are walking from one location to another, taking a break, or searching for a new composition, put the cap back on your lens.

21. Go Back Inside Safely

Last, and perhaps most importantly, is the return indoors. Do you know how a cold drink on a hot summer day will gather condensation? Ever watch those drips form and run down the glass, pooling in a messy ring on the hardwood table?
Now imagine that happening to your camera gear. It can, and it will.
If you bring a camera indoors that you’ve been using in cold temperatures, the equipment will be cold. After a frigid night photographing outside, an unprotected camera will grow condensation seconds after coming inside.
This condensation can wreak havoc with the camera’s electronics, and cause moisture to build up and fog in the internal workings of lenses and bodies alike. I know from experience, it’s ugly, and it can wreck a camera.
Fortunately, it’s easy to deal with. When you step back indoors to finish for the day, place your camera and lenses into an airtight bag. 
Ziplocks are good, but I favor lightweight roll-top dry bags. These are tough, reusable, and work like a charm. Once sealed up tight in a zip lock or dry bag, condensation can’t form on your gear. Just let your camera warm up to room temperature before you pull it out of the bag.

Conclusion

Winter is coming, folks.
Before it arrives, satisfy your creative needs with plans, mood boards, and ideas. These will make your winter photography a success.
Consider our winter photography tips, and experiment with them to get outstanding images. Snowy days are usually rare in most parts of the world. Your images are going to be more unique just by showing some snow.
When winter is here, you’ll be ready to take your best photos yet.