What to Photograph in Winter After the Holidays: 19 Ideas
Perhaps one of the most festive times of year has passed. The lights, the colors, the gifts, the ugly sweaters, the special meals, the desserts – you get it. What else is there to photograph during this cold, bleak period before we begin to see the life of spring? Well, plenty, actually!
Winter brings some unique opportunities unlike any other time of year. So get your camera ready and let’s get to it!
Here’s a list of 19 ideas to photograph in winter after the holidays have passed.
Do a photoshoot in the snow
Snow and winter landscapes can make for extra dreamy backdrops and really capture the heart of the season.
If you live in an area that is cold enough for snow, or if you plan on travelling to a cold climate, here are some ideas for your photoshoot:
1. Throw on some bright colors, perhaps a matching hat and jacket, for an instant color pop and head to the local park, stand in front of a snow-covered tree or head to a majestic overlook.
Color Pop Girl with Skates by langll from Pixabay
3. Snow too heavy? Make a little snowman. Hold it out in front of the camera so that you or your subject is de-focused. Or, get ready for Valentine’s Day by making a snow heart or tracing one in the snow.
Mini Snowman by Sandra_M_H from Pixabay
2. Not snowing right now? Throw some snow in the air around your subject. It can be your friend, a pet, or just do a selfie. Remember not to clump the snow together – that’ll hurt!
Snow Blow by langll from Pixabay
4. Do a winter sport like snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, sledding or snowmobiling. Be ready to take action shots and closeups of the blades on ice and the skies plowing through the snow. Get the reaction shot after descending down a big hill!
5. Head out onto snow-covered roads lined with evergreens. Just be on the lookout for vehicles!
Don’t like the cold enough to get outside? Try these indoor ideas:
6. Cozy up to the fireplace. The warm amber lights could be the main subject, or, add interest by composing your shot with the fireplace in the background.
7. Make a mug of hot chocolate brimming with fluffy marshmallows and whipped cream or other warm beverage. Get close to capture the delicious details and the hot steam rising from the mug or hold it in front of the fireplace. Take flat-lay images of your hot toddies scattered with ingredients placed on the tabletop or counter.
Cozy Fireplace by JillWellington from Pixabay
8. Experiment with bokeh. If you still have string lights floating around, why not cut out fun bokeh shapes, like stars, snowflakes or hearts, and snap away. For more creative light ideas, check out my blog post.
9. Try macro photography. If you’ve never tried macro photography before, now is a great time to try it. Photograph coins, a flower bouquet – add water droplets for extra interest – or capture frost on a window.
A super-quick tip for photographing a snowflake: bring a dark-colored fleece scarf or similar object to catch the snowflake – it needs some dark contrast to make it stand out. Besides, it’s easy enough to pack away in your pocket, or perhaps you’re wearing a fleece item. The fleece material also adds interest to the overall image.
Macro Snowflake by Ekamelev from Pixabay
Capture the essence of winter landscapes
10. The days are shorter in winter, so it’s easier to get out before sunrise or after sunset for spectacular golden hour color. Clouds during this time tend to capture vivid pink and purple tones, which look even better against a snow-covered landscape or frozen lake.
Even bare trees look amazing under the right light conditions, like this stunning capture:
Bare Tree Winter by MabelAmber from Pixabay
COVER: Frozen Winter Lake during golden hour with long shadows by fietzfotos of Pixabay
11. Photograph ice patterns. Ice formations can make great abstract images, especially if you plan to layer them in post-processing. Even if you keep it simple, look for ice formed over standing water, in shallow creeks or river, iced-over foliage and interested formations created with freezing water.
12. If you live in the city or plan to visit in winter, a cityscape covered in snow can take on mysterious qualities and suddenly look calm, clean and peaceful. Look for a park lined with streetlights or capture a downtown scene with lights streaming through the snow.
13. Near a lake or the ocean? Winter is a great time to capture dramatic weather events. Use a fast shutter speed to freeze the water as it crashes against the rocks, a lighthouse or pier. Use a slow shutter speed to blur the clouds for a dreamy and relaxing effect.
This winter storm crashing against a lighthouse in the sea looks especially dramatic in black and white:
Winter lighthouse by LintonS from Pixabay
14. Shoot a time lapse. Head down to a frozen lake at sunset and setup your camera for a timelapse. Figure out how long you will be there – 20 to 30 minutes should be fine, especially in the winter, and set the timer to capture a photo every # amount of seconds.
On this recent time lapse, I setup for a landscape shot, f/11, ISO 100, and had the camera take a photo every 4 seconds. For a 15-second timelapse, it took 30 minutes, a photo every 4 seconds. That’s 15 frames per minute X 30 minutes, for a total of 450 frames.
For this image, I used my Canon 80D DSLR, which has an articulating screen. It’s very easy – and fun – to do a time lapse with this camera. The touch-screen lets you focus exactly on the point in which you choose. And the flexible screen is a life-saver in awkward positions. Check out the latest version on Amazon. Don’t forget your tripod!
15. Photograph falling snow. Besides, isn’t that what we all love to see? Falling snow flakes in your composition can take ordinary shots to the next level.
Experiment with your shutter speed: If it is slow, you will end up with snow streaks. A faster shutter will capture smaller flakes. There is no right or wrong answer – it all depends on what effect you are going for.
16. Shoot the shadows. The low light of the sun in winter creates long shadows. Capture patterns of shadows over a landscape or get your subject to wave their arms or jump up for some creative and fun effects.
17. Don’t forget white balance. Winter is cold. Make the effect more compelling by experimenting with your white balance settings. This will generally be a temperature of no more than 5000, or try the florescent light setting for blue hues.
Wildlife makes a special appearance
18. Perhaps my favorite tip – photograph birds and wildlife in the winter! Birds rely heavily on supplemental food, water and protection from the elements during winter, when there are less natural resources for them.
Set up a perch in your backyard to entice your visitors. Use your leftover Christmas tree or, from our December DIY project, the Festive Winter Gnome to help cover food sources and add natural interest.
As a bonus, there may also be unique wildlife that only comes around in winter, such as Dark-Eyed Juncos, aka, Snowbirds. Look for sightings on ebird , a bird-tracking and hotspot app brought to you by Cornell University.
A trip down to the NJ shore got me this gorgeous Harlequin Duck, visiting all the way from northern Canada and Greenland! Snowy Owls occasionally dot the landscape with their grand appearance. Snow Geese, which flock in the thousands, may also be seen flying overhead, foraging in fields or making a stopover at a large reservoir.
A Harlequin Duck makes an appearance at Barnegat Inlet, NJ, during winter.
19. Not into birds? Dress up your pup in a colorful winter outfit and keep it warm during your walk – makes for a cute and colorful winter memory!
There are plenty of fun things that you can photograph during the winter. Use this season to practice your skills and gain new ones. From macro photography, creative lighting, landscape and bird photography, dramatic weather, and experimenting with fast and slow shutter speeds, winter brings many opportunities to create special images during the winter.
What are your favorite things to photograph during winter?
Let us know in the comments below!
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