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How To Photograph Winter Scenes

snowandtelegraphpoles.jpgYou wouldn’t think so but winter landscapes- or snow scapes – are one of the most challenging to photography enthusiasts. The difficulty can be that the average light tone of a snow scape is a lot lighter than what a medium grey tone is. This can put your meter readings out and give you an incorrect reading. In cases like these the snow is underexposed even though the camera may be telling you the exposure is just right.

Another consideration when photographing winter snow scenes is that there are no defined lines or sharp shapes to give your scene some distinguishing depth in your composition. It can look completely flat. The softness is lovely, but when it’s ALL soft the photo looks flat, especially if the clouds are overhead. It can look like a blanket of grey/white.

The above photo would be quite dull if it weren’t for the telegraph poles to give it some depth and distance. The stark black lines going into the distance is what brings this photo to life. It adds a sense of mystery as to where the road is going and what we might find at the end of it. From a composition point of view, find some extra colour or shade in amongst your white/grey scene to help add depth and distance.

When you feel enthusiastic about Winter Photography you’ll see things differently. There are so many unusual patterns and shapes that newly formed snow and frozen water can bring you.

downhillskiing.jpgYou can get sensational snowscapes but you can also get incredible macro photos too. Take your macro lenses with you, your ND or polarizer if the sun is glaring off the snow. As well as underexposing the white snow in the midday sun can reflect pure white, bright light. You can also use a graduated filter to help add some colour or tone in an otherwise grey or white scene. Here’s more on winter photography.

Adding colour to your snow photography

Finding some colour in your snowscape will be a rewarding experience. For example if you are photographing wildlife, the colour of a bird against the stark white snow will be highly beneficial in itself. If you are photographing people, you can create some dramatic composition with angles of the snow and mountain side.

Portraits in your winter snowscape.

kidredskicap.jpgWhat a perfect background snow makes for portrait photography. You can use the blanket of white around your subject as a way to completely focus in on their eyes and face. The extra added patches of colour from their ear muffs or red ski hat will stand out and give you some brilliant portraits. Meter from their face and medium areas of colour. Don’t worry too much about the darker parts of their clothing being a little underexposed, it’s their face you want to highlight the most.

Try some dramatic angles

If you are taking winter shots at a mountain range, try some dramatic angles. Perhaps take the shot from the angle at the base of the mountain with the steep slope angled severely upwards. Or perhaps try the opposite- a bird’s eye view of the scene below.

icyleaves.jpgMacro Winter Photography

Take your macro lenses with you. If you do not have a macro lens then take a magnifying glass with you instead. You’ll find some distortion at the edges of your frame but if the photo is what you want you can always edit this out after, or, perhaps you might like this effect. Icicles and frozen water are a brilliant opportunity for some winter macro photography. You can get some superb close up macro shots of frozen water, or icicles hanging from a tree. It looks as if the water has been suspended in time.

I should mention here that Amy has an impressive tutoring book for next to nothing. It’s called Digital Photography success. You may already have it if you’re an experienced photographer. If you haven’t it’s about time you down-loaded Digital Photography Success.

Contributed by Amy Renfrey

PS. It's one thing to learn a few tips from these articles I provide you for free but this link takes you to where you will learn how to get 'paying customers' to your photography business. Hey, but if you don't need customers, skip it!



  1. Love all these articles and even though I currently live and work in Iraq, so cold conditions are not really a problem, I would like to point out the need for battery conservation in those cold conditions, especially us digital users.
    Keeping your spare batteries inside your clothing is a good way, as close to your skin as possible to maximize body heat, as the cold will such the life right out of them.

  2. Great article! I always bracket the exposure on my snow shots so that I can capture the full range, or gamut, of light. I sometimes use a warming filter to soften the blue haze one can get at higher altitudes.

    I make a mask in PS to compensate for exposure levels in the highlights, and to lighten up the shadows. For example, when I shoot a landscape with a barn, if I expose for the snow, the shadows in barn are too dark and underexposed. If I expose for the barn, the highlights in the snow are blown out.


  3. Excellent Article Roy!

    Like Gene I too bracket my images in the snow & sun. Battery life’s a problem here in the Northeast US with its cold. However I still get some excellent winter shots.

    Thanks and all the best!


  4. Great pictures! Although I live in NC where there isn’t much snow, it makes me want to live back up North to take some winter shots.

  5. I found your blog via Google blog search while searching for winter photography and your post regarding “ How To Photograph Winter Scenes” looks very interesting to me. I have a few Photography websites of my own and I must say that your blog is really good. Keep up the great work on a really high class resource. I Love winter photography and for most of us, even the thought of capturing on camera, a great shot of an idyllic winter scene is heartwarming and at the same time mind-numbingly depressing. We all know through bitter experience that a winter photography shot we thought of as perfect, might as well in fact be tossed in the garbage can. One really helpful trick that I learned for winter photography is to meter for something other than the snow.

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