Shoot the Blues Away: 10 Motivating Winter Photography Tips

Photography often takes a hit during winter. Wedding gigs start to slow down and holiday obligations, bad weather, and shorter days give us plenty of reasons to procrastinate shooting. We have compiled 10 tips for staying motivated during these brumal months. Discover new ways to practice your craft and avoid a rusty start during spring’s heavy shooting season.

1) Bad Weather = Unique Images

“Get out to shoot photographs even when you don’t think the weather is nice enough. A lot of great winter photos are taken when weather conditions are less than ideal. Bad weather or changing weather can translate to great atmosphere making the mundane seem extraordinaire.” – Jim Goldstein

Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite

Bridaveil Fall Winter Scene – Yosemite National Park, California ©Jim Goldstein. Shot on a Canon 1Ds II with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens at 1/6th of a second, f/32, and ISO 100. A Gitzo carbon fiber tripod was used in conjunction with a cable release and camera set to “Mirror Lock-up”.

2) Collaborate

“I stay motivated in the winter by meeting and collaborating with other like-minded artists. When I am surrounded by people who are driven, passionate, and full of love for life, it seeps into my winter moodiness and completely wipes it all away. There is no substitute for really great hugs, especially when it’s cold out.” – Renee Robyn


©Renee Robyn. Before and After. Winter is a great time to practice editing.


Renee Robyn on set. Her final image was shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. Lit with a Parabolic Light Modifier and an Einstein monohead on a boom at 1/125th of a second, f/11, and ISO 200.

3) Go Out Just as a Storm Clears for Extra Drama

“Let’s face it, going out in the winter sucks. This image was taken on a particularly cold and windy morning. The wind was piercingly cold, the kind that makes your bones ache. Ski goggles were a requirement to see through the blowing snow and operating the camera was nearly impossible. So why would you want to go out in this misery? Dramatic weather conditions are the only way to get an image like this – fresh snow and clouds rolling over the mountains after a clearing storm during sunrise. It doesn’t get any better than this. When winter gets you down, grab your camera and go outside, preferably just as a storm is clearing. Your winter blues will melt away…after you get home and defrost.”David Kingham


©David Kingham. Taken on a Nikon D700 with a Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens.

4) Minimize Time Models Spend in the Cold

“Shooting outdoors is hard but keeping things fun and entertaining and making sure people don’t disrobe until your shot is actually ready to go can make the difference between a successful and a failed photoshoot!” – Benjamin Won Vong


Winter is Coming with a Tale of Benjen Stark (Game of Thrones) ©Benjamin Von Wong.

lightingdiagrams by VonWong

Benjamin Von Wong shot his final image on a Nikon D800E and lit it with three light monolights.

5) Don’t Trust Your Camera’s Metering 

“Your camera’s meter will be fooled by the snow, thinking it’s all one big 18% grey card. Remember, ‘overexpose’ that snow!” – Andy Williams


©Andy Williams. The top shot was taken at settings that were perfectly metered by the camera’s standards. Andy increased his exposure compensation by +1.66 to get the more interesting and vibrant lower shot. Here are a few other ways in which your camera lies to you.

6) Plan Ahead and Prepare for the Worst

“We weren’t lucky and there was no snow like what we envisioned for our pictures on shoot day. We used potato flakes, throwing them between the models and my camera, but they would always end up either in one part of the frame or in front of the models’ faces. It didn’t work out. The sun didn’t show up either, so ambient light was very flat. In some shots, I was adding a flash behind the models to add some rim light and separate them from the background. You can see a little bit of the flash on the model’s cheek and the back of her neck. Lessons I learned from this shoot:

1. Pack Hand Warmers.

 2. Make sure there’s a warm place for everyone to go into, even just a van or SUV. Take small breaks often, even if you don’t feel cold. Photographers stay focused and move more often so remember that the rest of the team will get cold sooner.

 3. Plan ahead. When it’s cold, take the decision-making time out of the actual shoot.

 4. If there’s no snow, the easiest way to add it in later. Search for video tutorials on creating snow in Photoshop – there are plenty of ways.” – Julia Kuzmenko McKim

Winter Tale by Julia Kuzmenko McKim - main shot

Winter Tale ©Julia Kuzmenko McKim

7) Bring Lots Of Hand Warmers for You AND Your Lens

“When I find myself shooting 4 hours of exposures to create a star trail photograph, my best friend is a good pair of Hand Warmers. Not only will they keep your fingers from succumbing to frostbite when you place them in your gloves, but they are also a vital part of keeping condensation off of your lens during the long time needed to obtain enough exposures for a star trail image. Simply place a couple of Hand Warmers around your lens (make sure they don’t touch the glass) and use rubber bands to hold in place. There is nothing worse than retreating to the heat of your vehicle only to return to your camera to find that most of your images were taken with a layer of ice on your glass!” – Michael Bonocore


©Michael Bonocore. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark III with a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens. This image was achieved with a blending of 180 individual exposures.

8) Layer Up and Enjoy It

“SNOW! The more the better. Those snow days of my youth have never left. As a photographer, I have focused a career around shooting specifically in the winter. The bigger the storm the more unrest I have towards heading out and taking photos. Nothing beats one, two, three feet of blower powder for a skier. So basically I embrace winter. Staying warm is easy…Gore-Tex, down, and Merino Wool in multiple layers and enjoy. ” – Jay Goodrich

POV Powder Skiing Cascades © Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich. Shot on a Canon 1D X with a Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens with a Gitzo carbon fiber monopod strapped to a backpack. He used a remote trigger to get the shot at 1/4000th of a second, f/22, and ISO 3200.

9) Practice Compositing

“I had my model step outside in the freezing cold just long enough to gain some of that winter blush in her face. I then shot her indoors and composited in a wintery outdoor scene that wasn’t naturally available to me. Always keep a personal collection of landscape photos on hand for this reason or purchase one online from a photographer who specializes in stock.” –Alex Huff


©Alex Huff. Shot on a Nikon D800 with a Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lens. Lit with a Litepanel 1×1 at 1/250th of a second, f/3.2, and ISO 1000.

10) Just Get Out There

“Happy shiny weather isn’t conducive for making great nature photos; rather, bad and extreme weather is usually where the magic is. That especially includes cold, wintry conditions – so bundle up, ignore the chilly toes, and get out there. Remember, when other photographers are sitting by the fire sipping their triple blast orange mochachinos, you’ll be the one making great photographs!” –Ian Plant


Winter Dawning – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming ©Ian Plant. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens at 1/5th of a second, f/11, and ISO 200.

Share your own motivating winter photography tips in the comments below!

Scott Roeder is a wedding photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also an avid diver. His specialties include photo booths, videography, and action shooting. Check out his work on his website.


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