As a follow up to the BBC Berkshire slot this morning here a my top ten tips and tricks for better winter photos. 🙂
1. Wrap up warm!
Easily overlooked, but it’s going to be cold out there. If you’re going to be out for a while taking photos, remember you’re not moving about much for a lot of the time while you line up that shot. So gloves, hat, a good warm coat, and some good sturdy boots. Layering clothes is best, and a couple of pairs of socks in some good walking boots will ensure you’re comfortable and have some of that all important grip.
2. Safety first.
Make sure someone knows where you’re going, how long you’re likely to be, and they have your mobile number.
Obviously this depends on what you own, and what you’re out photographing. But if you have a tripod, make sure you pack that. Also if you’ve bought some filters for your lenses pack those too.
Also in your bag make sure you have a lens cloth for wiping any water spots off the lens, and some plastic bags plus elastic bands. You can use the plastic bags to put the camera in, and the elastic band to close the opening of the bag around the barrel of the lens as a make-shift barrier from water.
Batteries don’t last as long in the cold so take a spare if you can. For best results keep the battery in your pocket to keep it warm. Try not to keep putting the camera in and out of your pocket though. The change in temperature may just cause condensation on the lens, the best cure for this is to wait until the condensation clears in the open air.
4. Getting the perfect exposure.
It’s time to hit the camera manual for this one. Find out if your camera allows you to set “Exposure Compensation”. Cameras work out the write exposure for a scene using the built in meter. Now these meters are designed to work out the exposure based on everything being roughly 18% grey. Now if the photo you’re taking is mostly snow the camera thinks it’s lighter than it is, so under-exposes. So what you end up with is a dark picture with grey snow. Not the desired effect.
So try setting the exposure compensation to +0.5EV or even +1EV and you should see the results look much more natural.
Some cameras have an option of “snow shooting mode” if so this is the perfect setting to use.
5. Shoot in the “Golden Hours”.
For the best results shoot early morning or mid-late afternoon. In winter this means 8-9am 3-4:30pm for the best results. The light is warmer and gives a scene more colour. Shooting first thing means untouched natural looking snow, also with clear blue skys watch out for some great sunsets! As in the shot below, look for the sun streaking through trees to create interesting shadows.
6. Cut out the glare.
If you have one, try putting a UV filter on the lens. This will help cut down glare off the white snow.
7. Experiment with Flash.
If it’s snowing, flash may be the last thing you want, as the flash bouncing off the snowflakes, so try with it off. But experiment, try with it on for some shots too, you never know what may happen. In fact for shots without snow falling it adds extra light to the closer details in the frame balancing against the bright background.
8. Add foreground interest.
When taking a landscape photo try adding something in the photo to drag your eye into the shot. If you’re taking a photo of a frozen lake, try to get that branch fallen from the tree in shot. Or how about that colourful flower in an otherwise snowy scene? Below is an example of using foreground interest, in this case a fallen branch on the frozen lake.
9. Rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is a description of the idea of how a photograph should be split to give the best composition. The idea is to divide the frame horizontally and vertically using 2 lines on each equally spaced. This gives 4 intersections. The concept is that you should place significant objects in the photo on the intersections and lines. So the horizon on the bottom line so the ground only takes up the bottom 3rd of the frame. Many cameras allow you to turn on a feature often known as “gridlines” to aid with this. Taking the previous shot as an example, see how the horizon lines up with the top line of thirds and the tree is located around the bottom right intersection of the lines.
10. Nature Etiquette.
The most important rule of photography… “take only photographs, leave only footprints”