Winter Photography Tips

It’s that time of year again -- winter. Which, unless you’ve escaped to some wonderful tropical location (I’m jealous!), probably means short, cold and often rainy or snowy days. It can be pretty tempting to limit your photography in the winter months to indoor snaps, but if you do find yourself outside trying to get the right shot, remember the following tips:

Struggling with dull, gray winter light? Shoot in black and white!

In the DC area, we get a lot of overcast or rainy days in the winter time. Without shadows or dramatic shafts of light, photos can look pretty boring and flat. So, instead of fighting the light, work with it. Adapt and switch to black and white mode. I prefer to shoot directly in black and white instead of converting the photo after the fact; the world looks different in black and white and I like to be able to see the shot while I am composing it.  If you’re using an iPhone as your camera, tap the filter button (it looks like three intersecting circles) and select either Noir or Mono. I frequently prefer Noir. Many of the Android cameras will offer the same option. All digital SLRs will provide you the option to shoot in monochrome mode. 

Or, focus on the details and shoot macros!

The other type of photos that can look good in any light is a close up, or a macro. By zooming in and getting really close, you can make a door handle, leaf, or eye look interesting. It’s a great opportunity to practice cropping and develop your photographic eye. If using a smartphone, I suggest you download one of the camera apps that includes a macro option, you’ll get better results than just shooting in the native camera app. Digital SLRs also have a macro option. Or, if you’re feeling confident, switch to Aperture mode and open up your aperture as far as you can (i.e. the smallest f-stop number your lens will allow), and get really close! The biggest challenge with macros is holding still between the time you focus and snap the shot since very minute movements will throw off your focus. Try to brace yourself and practice on stationary objects versus gently swaying subjects like a leaf. 

Try night photography!

In the winter it’s dark by 5 PM. Some days it may be dark when you go to work and when you come home. Use your commute time to (safely!) try night photography. A tiny tripod like a Loha or Gorillapod can be ideal, but near dawn or dusk you can often get away with just stabilizing your camera -- particularly if it is a light Smartphone -- on a bench, branch or other convenient spot to keep your photos sharp. You can also often find items to prop your camera at a specific angle, like a bag, scarf or even a glove. 

Keep your camera, or battery, close to you! 

The colder the weather, the faster your battery will drain. If you’re using a Smartphone as your camera, try if possible to keep it inside your coat, close to your body heat. That little bit of heat will make a big difference in the battery life. The batteries in DSLRs are much larger and will typically easily last for a few hours in 20 to 30 °F weather. That’s often longer than you’re comfortable outside! But if you’re going to be outside for an extended duration, consider popping the battery out of the camera between shoots and warming it up inside your coat, or carry two charged batteries.