Winter Photography Ideas and Tips

Don't Fear Winter, Embrace it!

Tree in Wintry Field

Winter Photography - Well, it is just a few days until Christmas and the Winter has really just hit Weymouth with a bitter chill. I feel so far away from my old home in the sun!

One thing that played heavily on my mind when we decided to leave Spain was what would I shoot now the sun has all but gone? What of winter photography? I had been used to:

  • 300 days a year sun
  • Beach scenes
  • Happy people walking along promenades
  • People browsing the shops...

...all with a distinct "holiday" feel about them.

I was used to popping on a pair of shorts, practically any day of the year. Then setting off for a day’s comfortable shooting with fantastic light.

The cold is one thing that puts me off winter photography. My equipment (camera equipment please!) and hands get so cold it is hard to concentrate let alone be creative. However, I decided to brave the cold winds of the Jurassic Coast for a bit to see what I could find.

Something that struck me about the UK in winter is that there is a constant golden light when the sun is out. It is so low for much of the day that if you position yourself right, you can make the most of this wonderfully natural light.

But what if the rain is coming down and it really isn’t good outside for any sort of winter photography? Simple, shoot indoors!

The first image here is of the Fleet Air Museum in Somerset. Whenever I can, I try to incorporate my photography with a day out for the kids. Something interesting that we can all enjoy as a family.


Winter Photography Concorde

60TH/SEC F4 ISO 1600 LENS 24-70 @ 60MM

Winter Photography Concorde

60TH/SEC F4 ISO 1600 LENS 24-70 @ 24MM

I was really impressed how the Canon EOS 1D Mark III fared in such low, artificial light. These two images were taken hand held at 60th/sec using an aperture of F4. The ISO was set to 1600 and the noise is barely noticeable! They have also had very little in the way of post processing and I was particularly impressed with the depth of field from the Canon EF 24-70 at 24mm.


Snowboarder Sierra Nevada Spain

1000TH/SEC F8 ISO 100 LENS 70-200 @ 200MM (Image copyright Nick Stubbs)

If you are lucky enough to live near a ski resort, make the most of it. We used to live 2 hours from the Spanish ski resort of Sierra Nevada which had a long season. 

I spent an entire day here just shooting everything and for the last 15+ years, many from that day have sold as stock photography.

A couple of Kubota’s Image Tools Photoshop Actions were used here.

Please note: Image quality reduced for web use


Winter Photography Weymouth Pub

60TH/SEC F16 ISO 100 LENS 70-200 @ 155MM (Image copyright Nick Stubbs)

Then we have a shot of a sensible man waiting for the pub to open (well, that’s how I saw it anyway).

The whole of Dorset has some amazing architecture and cobbled streets dating back centuries.

It is exactly what I was looking forward to when returning to Blighty after so long away.

We have had some great country pub lunches already : )


Winter Photography Golden Water

250TH/SEC F9 ISO 100 LENS 70-200 @ 200MM (Image copyright Nick Stubbs)

This next shot is a crop from a photo I took as I crossed a bridge near a busy port in Weymouth, Dorset.

The boat was an incredibly bright yellow and the sun had popped out for a bit and was shining on the hull.

The contrast really stood out so I fired a few off. I love digital photography and it is always worth looking at something from all angles!


Surfer in Winter

1250TH/SEC, F6.3 ISO 200 LENS 70-200 @ 200mm (Canon EOS 20D) (Image copyright Nick Stubbs)

Yes, people surf in winter, including my daughter. This is occasionally the only time you get decent waves in an otherwise calm sea. Luckily these guys were fairly close to the beach otherwise a longer lens would be needed.

I could spend all day shooting experienced surfers. Always plenty of action and this shot has also sold well as stock over the years.


Winter Photography Christmas

15TH/SEC F10 ISO 250 LENS 24-70 @ 43MM (Image copyright Nick Stubbs)

Lastly, and to give some warm winter wishes to all who read ATP, a boat with a happy greeting. I was shooting long exposures of 2-3 seconds or more.

It took a few blurry shots for me to realise that the boat was slightly moving which stopped me from "freezing" the festive writing. Must be the cold! I upped the ISO, opened the aperture and was able to get a sharp shot in the end.

I think winter photography has a lot to offer. If I get some nice thick socks and jumpers for Christmas, I may brave the elements once again.

Some ideas for shooting over Christmas and through the winter:

  • If you can handle it, get up early to catch those early morning mists and frost on bright, sunny days
  • Try and capture the essence of winter and what it means to your part of the world. Makes for better stock photography!
  • Capture the true expressions of family during the holiday period. Happy faces opening presents or pulling Christmas crackers. Singing carols, playing in the snow…whatever. Have your camera at the ready
  • If shooting snow scenes, remember to either bracket your images or overexpose them anywhere between +1 and +3 stops. Your cameras meter will try to "damp down" the brightness of the snow so you need to compensate
  • Keep your camera safe and warm. Batteries don’t like the cold so take some spares. Remember that if you are off trekking in the snow or mountains for that elusive shot, tell someone where you are going and take a mobile phone just in case
  • Me? I am staying in watching all the old films where it is nice and warm!

For good, reliable outdoor winter photography you need:

  • To wrap up warm. You soon lose interest if you are uncomfortable, wear 3 or 4 layers
  • A good, sturdy tripod to combat the wind. I you don’t have a heavy, sturdy tripod, try hanging a carrier bag with rocks in it to the centre frame to keep it still in those chilly winds
  • Get used to shooting high ISO’s. If you are shooting stock, get yourself a good noise reduction software program like Neat Image to deal with the noise in post production
  • To just get out there amongst it all and enjoy what delights the winter has to offer. Beats watching TV ; )

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