5 Tips to get the best Winter Landscape Photography

5 Tips to get the best Winter Landscape Photography

If you know the right techniques, winter landscape photography can be a lot of fun.

In this article, I will give you five crucial winter landscape tips so you can start capturing beautiful snowy landscapes like a pro.

1. Make winter compositions stand out with contrast

When it snows heavily, the entire landscape becomes white: white trees, white lakes, white mountains, and a white sky. And when everything is white, it’s difficult to find a compositional focal point because nothing stands out.

In  such cases, you look for contrast, for example, color contrast (a splash of red, blue, or green against the white) or tonal contrast (a splash of darkness against the bright snow).

Here’s an example of color contrast, with a red house set against a white and gray background:

Make winter compositions stand out with contrast
Make winter compositions stand out with contrast

The red color is what draws attention to this image. Without it, the scene would be devoid of a focal point, and the viewer’s eyes would have nowhere to rest, resulting in a poor shot.

On snowy days, contrast is easy to find because it will catch your eye just as it will catch the eye of a photo viewer. So you can just walk around with your camera, looking for an interesting element or two. Does that make sense?

By the way, in winter landscapes, I enjoy red color contrast, although I look for any prominent hue or tonal diversity. Simply pick a prominent hue or tone in a white environment and use careful composition techniques to make it the main point.

2. Overexpose for beautiful winter landscape photography

Assume you can’t find any tonal or color contrast. Even in a completely white landscape, you can create stunning images. All you have to do is to overexpose your image.

Because a winter image can benefit from being a stop or two brighter if the landscape is white – especially if it’s snowing. Just don’t clip the highlights.

Take a look at this image, which has very little tonal or color contrast:

Overexpose for beautiful winter landscape photography

I’ve added some overexposure to make the snow at the bottom of the frame a near-pure white, and the sky at the top of the frame a featureless white as well. The snow-covered trees in the center of the image, on the other hand, have a desaturated green that almost looks gray, and it creates an interesting, even ghostly, atmosphere. I also like how the slight overexposure helps convey how cold you were when the shot was taken, as well as how it provides a wonderful sense of calmness.

The method isn’t going to work on every image. However, a little touch of brightness might help you keep clarity in the shadows, which is always a good thing with snow landscape photography.

By the way, I’d suggest slowing down the shutter speed to overexpose the photo. However, use a solid tripod and keep an eye out for falling snow; a lengthy exposure paired with heavy snowfall could completely white out your image. So you should monitor your LCD frequently and not be afraid to increase your ISO or widen your aperture if required.

3. Set a cold white balance to get the best snow landscape photography

Technically, you can choose your white balance in camera or in post-processing if you’re shooting in RAW. Either of these methods works well, though seeing a preview of the white balance in camera is occasionally useful, so don’t be afraid to try it that way. Still

, you can always modify it later!.

Anyway, the point is that winter is cold, so a beautifully cold white balance, such as this:

Anyway, the point is that winter is cold, so a beautifully cold white balance, such as this:

The best Winter Landscape Photography

Take note of how the cool colors complement the shot. Don’t you think the image is icy? That’s because of the color balance.

Now, I don’t advise you to go overboard. You don’t have to make your shot look like it’s from a blue alien planet. However, feel free to experiment with the white balance and see what results!

If you shoot in RAW, you can also experiment with post-processing. You can use the Temperature slider to toggle between warm and cool effects and decide which you prefer.

4. Photograph during blue hour to get beautiful winter landscapes

The blue hour is the period of time just before and after sunrise and sunset when the sun is below the horizon and the world becomes all beautiful and blue.

You have enough light to shoot, but nothing is directly lit. The light is lovely and soft.

It’s also ideal for winter landscape photography.

The soft light, you see, caresses the snow, creating a fairytale effect. If you include streetlights or house lights in your photo, the composition can become even more magical. Here’s an example of a blue hour photograph:

Photograph during blue hour to get beautiful winter landscapes

The best Winter Landscape Photography

Can you see the magical effect? And don’t you think the lights from the cabins look stunning against the cold background?

Spend a few days shooting during blue hour and you’ll notice that it’s cold, dark, and occasionally snowy. In other words, during the blue hour, you should probably stay inside, preferably under a blanket.

But please do yourself a favor. Compel yourself to put on a coat, grab your camera, and venture outside. Even if the cold hits you like a ton of bricks, the images will be worth it!

It’s worth noting that you can still get beautiful snowy landscape shots at sunrise and sunset, as well as in the middle of the day. But if I had to pick just one time of day to go out with my camera during the winter, it would be blue hour. It truly is that incredible.

5. Bring extra batteries and keep them warm

This last strategy is absolutely necessary when photographing in cold climates. Batteries drain much faster in the winter, and if you shoot mirrorless or use Live View for the majority of your shots, you’ll soon be heading home – unless you remember to bring plenty of extra batteries.

One tip that many winter landscape photographers use is to keep spare batteries in a jacket’s inner pocket. As a result, the batteries remain warm, preventing rapid drain.

However, make sure you don’t put your camera in your coat. This could cause the lens elements to fog up, which would be extremely problematic.

You can’t keep your batteries warm if you’re not warm, so keep yourself warm as well! Always be prepared; bringing too many layers is preferable to bringing too few.

You should also exercise extreme caution when handling your equipment. In snowy conditions, avoid changing lenses, keep a towel handy to wipe snow off your camera, and – if the snow is heavy – consider using a rain cover for your camera setup.

Bring extra batteries and keep them warm

Final thoughts on Winter landscape photography

Hopefully, you can now photograph winter landscapes with confidence – so go outside the next time it snows! Take some photos, enjoy the scenery, and have some fun.

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