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How to shoot winter photos

How to shoot winter photos - Barry Chignell shares his winter photography tips.

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Landscape and Travel

Words and images by Barry Chignell of Free Photo Resources.

Whether portraying a bitterly cold day or a snowy Christmas scene, there are certain things to consider when heading out for a winter photography shoot. I have put together a number of tips which have proved invaluable.

Winter photography

First off, the days are shorter in winter and the ‘golden’ hours tend to be a lot quicker so be prepared and get to your chosen location early in order to set up properly. If like me you have a day job as well then this can cause an issue as you go to work in near darkness and then, it’s dark when you leave as well, if you can’t get out on a shoot at the weekend then you may have to book a day or two off (but it will be worth it hopefully!).

Have a long think about what you want your photo to portray, do you want to take a picture that simply says 'damn it’s cold' as this will probably require a completely different perspective than if you are portraying a Christmas mood.

To me, a photo that really screams ‘cold’ would be something like a river in the early morning shrouded in mist with bare trees in the background. Wind also conveys a sense of winter when used to create motion in an image so don’t forget to experiment with slightly slower shutter speeds to capture a bit of movement in trees etc.

Lake in winter

Invariably in the winter there will be rain as well as snow, this is great for reflections during the darker evenings, couple this with the Christmas lights and you have an image full of colour and textures!

Urban photos always take a bit of scouting out but are definitely worth the time. If you’re going for a Christmassy shot then look for colour and interest in the scene. Christmas lights and decorations help enormously to add another dimension to the photograph but you still need to consider the overall composition of the shot.

Christmas lights

Another thing to consider when taking photos of Christmas lights is that this will be in the dark. This means that slower shutter speeds will be required so make sure you have a tripod, such as Vanguard's AltaPRO 284CT Carbon Fibre Tripod, with you to keep the camera steady and avoid any movement during the shot. Use a remote release or the cameras self timer too.

Combining Christmas lights with traffic light trails is a great technique to try out, this is one that I am hoping to have a go at this winter. Below is an example of traffic light trails from the local town centre, combine this with the ambient light from Christmas decorations and it will hopefully make for a great scene.

Car lights

A scene from the summer of a nice country field with the sun setting in the background could more than likely become the local choice for sledging and snowball fights during the winter. However, getting to locations may be tricky during snowbound days so if venturing out in a car, take extra care. If you walk then take a phone and wrap up very warm, you’re going to spend a lot of time standing still and getting cold!

Go out early if possible to get the crisp untouched snow then wait until people have started venturing out to capture scenes with loads of footprints all over the place.

Remember that pure white snow will reflect a lot of light so pocket an ND Grad filter as these are a good way of compensating for the extra light being reflected. Due to the normally boring grey skies in winter, an ND Grad can also be used to enhance the contrast between the clouds and add a bit of depth to a shot.

Trees in winter

Take advantage of the sun being lower in the sky, some of the best sunset/sunrise shots I have taken are during the winter. Combining the sunlight with the crisp whiteness of an early morning frost can yield great results, this obviously means getting up early but that also has the advantage of being very quiet and not a lot of other people being around! The frost also helps to enhance the texture and contrast in the objects on the ground such as twigs or a park bench.

I look for a mixture of shadows and light to help create a depth to my photos and this also helps to add interest in both the main subject (if not the shadow itself) and the foreground where the shadow might be.

Find the tripods and bags to suit your needs at www.vanguardworld.com

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