Many of your brides might fancy getting married amid those snow-capped mountains and meadows covered in frost! But when the cold and, depending on where you live, snowy winter months arrive, several unforeseen situations might make capturing such scenes a challenging task for you as a photographer. To gain insights into successfully shooting a winter wedding, we bring you winter wedding photography tips and tricks that could not only help you ace those dreamy shots in winter wonderlands but also ensure that your photography equipment stay safe and protected.
WINTER WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
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You’re a photographer. And you want to photograph outdoors and create unforgettable winter wedding photos. Hold on! There are a few vital things you should know before hitting the snow. And we have clubbed them all together in this extensive guide to help you create images that wow your brides and grooms.
A. PROTECT YOUR CAMERA GEAR
A critical step to being a successful professional photographer is to make sure your gear is up-to-par. Cold weather stresses your equipment. The brutal conditions bring their own set of unique challenges. Condensation! That’s the main cold-weather camera problem. Those tiny beads of water droplets might add a great effect to your images when you photograph them, but allow them to settle on your camera body, and it could lead to camera malfunctions, damage to your equipment, and even lost photos if you’re not careful. The pointers given below could help you learn how to effectively protect your camera gear from the damage caused by moisture and condensation.
1. LEARN WHAT CAUSES CONDENSATION
After shooting an outdoor winter wedding photography session and opening up your camera bag, you’ll notice one thing immediately: condensation. This is because your camera, lenses, and batteries were exposed to cold air for a long time. When you bring it indoors, the warm, humid air causes tiny water droplets, or condensation, to form on those cold surfaces. It’s similar to when you bring a cold bottle of Wisconsin Spotted Cow beer outdoors in the summertime. Condensation is your worst enemy when it comes to your photo equipment. It will erode contacts, damage sensitive electrical components, and shorten your gear’s lifespan. This means potentially losing photos, buying a new camera, or replacing those expensive lenses.
2. ACCLIMATE YOUR CAMERA
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To prevent condensation from forming, acclimate your gear when you arrive back from your photo shoot. There are a few common winter wedding photography tips for this.
- The first step is to use a good backpack or camera bag that is well-sealed. This means durable zipper enclosures and water-resistant lining. LowePro photography backpacks, for example, have good-quality zippers that seal the inside of the backpack effectively. When you’ve finished shooting, pack all of your gear into the bag.
- Take it inside where it’s warmer. Leave your equipment inside of the bag for at least a few hours before opening it. During this time, your photography equipment will slowly acclimate to room temperature. This will help eliminate the condensation that wants to form on the sensitive contacts, lens surfaces, and internal components of your gear. The second, and more involved, way to do this is to use a large plastic Ziplock bag. The best bags to get are jumbo-sized bags in most retail stores or on Amazon.
- While you’re still in the cold weather, place your entire camera bag inside of the cold bag plastic and bring it inside. Leave it there for a few hours. You’ll notice that condensation will form on the bag instead of the sensitive electronics inside. The Ziplock bag method is especially effective if you don’t have a well-sealed zipper camera bag for all your equipment. Or, if you just want to make sure your equipment is as protected as possible.
Quick Tip: If you happen to accidentally open your bag and notice a lot of condensation on your camera or lenses, don’t freak out. Let them sit out in dry air to help the water droplets evaporate as quickly as possible. If a lens is attached to your camera, take it off and allow the inside of the camera to dry. Remember, this exercise exposes the inside of your camera to dust, so do not leave it in a dusty setting.
3. REDUCE CONDENSATION DAMAGE
Keeping your lenses and extra accessories inside your equipment bag will help reduce any moisture damage coming from snow. It will also keep it away from your body and slippery, wet gloves while shooting.
Want to go even further? Add a few packs of silica gel inside of your camera bag. You could try out the rechargeable Ruggard Desiccant Silica Gel Packs at B&H Photo. These could help preserve your gear, and you don’t have to throw them out. Simply reheat the packs to recharge them. Keeping packs of silica gel in your bag at all times is a good idea. This applies to any season or any location. Even a small amount of moisture will cause your equipment, especially metal contacts, to corrode faster.
4. WRAP UP YOUR CAMERA
If you’re extra-cautious about your camera and gear, you can take the extra step of purchasing a camera-ready plastic bag to protect your gear. This will prevent snow from getting in the nooks and crannies while you lay on the ground getting an amazing shot. You might find these bags to be a little cumbersome while using gloves; however, they do protect your gear fairly well. If it’s not snowing, you could simply leave your camera “naked” and remain extra careful. If it’s snowing, however, these could definitely come in handy to keep your camera body and lens dry.
5. DON’T PUT YOUR CAMERA IN YOUR JACKET
If it’s cold or snowing, your first instinct will probably be to tuck your camera inside of your warm, cozy jacket. Don’t do it! Why? When you take your camera out, it will be covered in moisture. Your lens will be foggy and you’ll be trying to wipe it away with your gloves, which will complicate your situation even more. The heat and moisture trapped inside of your jacket will immediately cause condensation to form on the outside of the camera and fog your lens. Yuck!
The better option: Leave your camera exposed to the cold and dry air. It’s OK! Just be careful. Hang it around your neck and tilt it down. Or use that plastic bag we talked about before. If you’re walking a longer distance, place it in your camera bag and carry it on your back. But don’t put your camera in your jacket.
B. SET EXPECTATIONS FOR CLIENTS
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A major factor in maintaining happy clients is to under-promise - and over-deliver. Be honest and straightforward. Be yourself. A winter photo shoot is a different deal altogether. The ambient temperature is low. The climate is harsh. You are working with a more compressed time frame due to light.
We suggest you inform your clients that in harsh winter conditions, the winter photography session timeline may be shorter than others. The bitter cold can seep into their bones and make them uncomfortable. This can result in frigid-looking winter wedding photography. Or, it may cause them to want to end the shoot sooner.
If they are on board with that, consider reminding them that a few other factors can appear. Red noses, runny nostrils, watery eyes, and cold appendages can lead to less-than-flattering profiles. These can, of course, be abated a bit by some editing.
If these issues are not a concern, then it’s game on. A winter wedding photo shoot can prove to be one of the most unique, intimate, and captivating wedding photo sessions. One that might lead your couple’s friends and family to say, “You did WHAT outside?!”
Suggested Read: Wedding Photo Ideas: Inspiration From ShootDotEdit Customers
C. WHAT TO EXPECT FROM YOUR CAMERA AND BATTERIES
In cold-weather conditions, your camera is more prone to malfunction. Your gear is more susceptible to damage. To avoid these maladies and capture memorable winter wedding photography, keep a couple of things in mind.
1. BRING EXTRA BATTERIES
This is absolutely the most important thing to remember when photographing outside in the winter. Batteries operate best in warmer temperatures. In cold conditions, your batteries are unable to discharge their energy. The ions move slower and it causes the battery life to drop by almost half.
Keep an extra battery, or two, in your pocket. Keep it close to your body. This will not only keep it warm but it will also keep it handy. Chances are you’ll be switching out batteries at least once during your session. If you’re using an external flash unit such as a Canon Speedlite or Nikon Speedlight, be sure to bring extra batteries for that, too. Their cold-weather life is drastically shorter, just like your camera battery.
2. BRING AN EXTRA CAMERA
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @narvoldphotography
The effects of the bitter cold on your camera can be unpredictable. There could be times when your camera might stop functioning, produce error codes, or not write to your CF card. Having an extra camera on you will save you the uncomfortable experience of having to explain why your gear isn’t able to handle the cold conditions.
3. PREPARE, BUT DON’T OVER-FRET
Most modern cameras have good weather sealing and are manufactured to operate in cold conditions. The most trouble begins, however, when it gets below 32°F. Be aware that the LCD screen will operate a little slower and the battery life will be drastically reduced. This is normal. Don’t be afraid to take a risk and shoot in bitterly cold conditions, but keep these points in mind.
D. ADJUSTING FOR LIGHT
Light plays a major role in photography. We paint with light, we manipulate light, and we use light to create our images. During the winter months, light dramatically affects the types of photos we take. Below are a few things to keep in mind.
1. TOO MUCH LIGHT
You may notice that your subjects may be too dark if you leave your camera in evaluative metering mode. This is the mode most DSLR cameras are set to by default. If you allow your camera sensor to meter the entire image, you may have increased the exposure a few stops. Why does this happen? Your camera sensor will automatically detect the brighter light from the snow. It will want to lower the exposure in order to achieve what it believes to be the correct exposure. This can result in underexposed subjects.
You may have to increase the exposure by 1 or 2 stops to compensate for this. One way of preventing this could be using spot metering. This would allow you to control metering and focus on exactly the point you want. You could either expose/focus for the single point, or “spot”, then move your camera where you want it to compose the image. It’s all a matter of preference. Spot metering is not for all situations. If you are a fan of controlling as much as you can use your own experience rather than trying to let the camera give you its “best guess”, then spot metering is something you could fall back on.
2. SHORTER DAYS
In your part of the world, if the winter daylight hours are cut dramatically short and the skies darken by early evening, you have to be mindful of these conditions while photographing a winter wedding. Keep this in mind when scheduling winter shoots with your client. And to help you do that, you could head to a site like TimeAndDate.com to check the sunset in your area many times. This calendar helps you schedule your clients’ photo shoots well in advance.
3. LITTLE SHADE
In winter, the trees are usually bare, with little to no shade. This could create harsh shadows of branches running across the bodies and faces of your models. These are difficult, if not impossible, to edit. We have two winter wedding photography tips to help you tackle this situation. If you’re apprehensive about photographing in direct sunlight, try to find a place that offers solid shade. Or, if possible, have an assistant bring a light shield or bounce screen. Try going next to a large building, or a Christmas tree farm is usually a good bet. The upside about winter light is that shadows are longer, which gives you a little more room to move around.
E. INCORPORATING VIBRANT COLORS
Many might think that winter is a season all about white, brown, gray, and blue. But these don’t have to be the only colors that dominate your winter wedding photos. If you place yourself in a setting that is able to add areas of vibrant color, you can create gorgeous winter images that will surprise your clients and their families.
If you are in a location that has a lot of Christmas tree farms, you could consider incorporating the evergreen colors into your winter photo shoots. These usually provide an incredible setting for such winter sessions. Not only do they offer gorgeous colors, but add an element of symmetry and depth. This is because the trees are typically planted in perfect lines. By using a wide-angle lens or opening up your aperture, you can create some stunning images.
2. RED BERRIES
If you’re lucky, you may encounter some trees or bushes that contain red berries. Use them! Place your subjects about 5-10 yards in front of the berries, set your camera to a low aperture, and snap the shutter. You’ll be surprised at how the red will “pop” in the background of your image.
3. BLUE SKIES
Since the angle of the sun is lower in the winter, you can use this to your advantage. Place your subjects on an angle in which you take a photo and can see the blue sky behind them. When you hit it right, you can capture a bright, vibrant blue sky against a solid white foreground. You’ll need to experiment a bit with the angle to achieve the right effect. But once you have it, the results can be super-picturesque.
4. STONE AND SNOW
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @lovebyjoemac
Contrast is a key element of creating an interesting photograph. And therefore, stone architectures are seen to create stunning results in winter shoots. Soft-fallen snow on top of large rocks provides a textural contrast that invokes more emotion. If you live in an area that contains stone architecture or bridges, use them!
F. MAKE THE SESSION ABOUT YOUR CLIENT
Like any photo session, whether that is the engagement session, wedding ceremony, or reception, the images should reflect the personality of your client. Chances are, your couple chose a winter setting for a reason. Do they play winter sports? Did they get engaged in the winter? Why is winter a special time of year for them?
Here are a few suggestions for places to capture winter wedding photography. And how to use them to showcase your couple’s personalities.
1. Light A Fire
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What better escape from the chills of winter on a photoshoot day than a warm ambiance. Now, you cannot always change the outlook of your ambiance, but if possible, you can light a fire. And possibly, even take some cute and cozy shots of your couple around it. A bonfire could benefit both ways, as a heat source and also as a photographic element.
2. VISIT A LOCAL SKI RESORT
If you are at a winter destination, and your couples are the adventurous types who are into winter sports, then including a local ski resort as part of your setting could be a good idea. Think of wide, expansive valleys and meadows covered in thick, white blankets of snow! Perfect for creating those dramatic, awe-inspiring images.
3. PLAY HOCKEY
Do your clients like hockey? Using an empty ice rink can provide some incredibly unique photos. If you are photographing an engagement session at a winter location, you could suggest your couple to add a venue of this kind to their list. This could help you get incredible images that showcase your couple and tell their story in a setting all to themselves.
4. GO SLEDDING
Who doesn’t like to go sledding? Most of us do! We all know that unposed photographs make for the best memories. Make use of the action photos and emotions created while holding on tight to your partner or sled. Take your clients to a local sled hill and have fun!
5. TAKE THEM ICE SKATING
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Ice skating can create a unique and intimate photo experience. You can create a Rockefeller Plaza-esque style photo shoot by taking your client to a large ice rink. If there are Christmas lights in the background, use them! These create a stunning visual “pop” that could make your photographs stand out from most photographers in a winter setting.
6. SAVE GROUND SHOTS FOR LAST
Who wants to be wet while being photographed? Save the shots in which your clients come in contact with the ground for last. They’ll thank you for being dry and you’ll be thankful you don’t have to edit wet patches the size of Greenland off their clothes!
7. SHOOT INDOORS
When shooting in locations with a harsh climate, you can never be sure how the day runs and what turn the weather takes. And that’s why we suggest that you keep your options of shooting indoors open. The glow from the burning firelight by the mantlepiece could not only render a rich, warm hue to your images, but it could also warm the hearts of your couples when they see their silhouettes against the fireplace! And since we are talking about silhouettes, how about capturing your couple from the outside as they share a private moment framed against an ornate French window of an imposing facade, basking in the soft indoor lighting? Who says winter is all about cold and blue? It could certainly be warm and rich too, or whatever else you want to make of it!
Related Read: Going Against The Grain In Wedding Photography
G. DRESSING FOR WINTER WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
The wintery, cold weather has a deleterious effect on our bodies and minds. We fatigue easier and our brains and bodies seem to operate slower. To help extend the photo shoot and make everyone more comfortable, here are a few cold-weather tips to remember.
1. BRING HAND WARMERS
This is one of the most recommended tools you could use to keep yourself clicking the camera shutter. Slip a few in your pocket, put them in your gloves, and stuff them in your waterproof shoes. Heck, give a few to your clients as well. They most likely didn’t think of bringing them, and they’ll be incredibly grateful that you did. If you feel extra ambitious, you can rubber-band one of them to your camera and have this help keep your battery warm. It looks a little silly, but works!
2. GET SOME WINTER PHOTOGRAPHY GLOVES
Your tiny digits make adjustments, dial in your settings, and fine-tune your winter wedding photos. Don’t skimp to protect your fingers and hands. You might want to check out the gloves offered by Vallerret. These gloves were designed in Norway by two photographers who needed hand protection to combat brutally cold winters. Visit their website for the newest versions of their winter photographer gloves.
3. INVEST IN HIGH-QUALITY WINTER APPAREL
Image Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @wild.trail.studio
When photographing in the snow, you’ll face a variety of extreme conditions. You’ll be wet from the snow, you’ll be exposed to higher-than-average winds, and you’ll brave brutally cold temperatures. So that you’re able to withstand these extreme climatic conditions, we highly recommend that you invest in high-quality winter weather garments. This includes a winter hat and form-fitting undergarments. You could try out Patagonia for some long-lasting winter weather garments. What you need are garments that are tailored well, fit well, and are made of good quality materials to last you through those bone-chilling winter photography expeditions.
Of the several winter wedding photography tips we offered in this blog, feel free to take your pick. Experiment with them and modify them as per your needs and specifications. The aim is to capture the winter wonders in all their glory while keeping your gear safe and staying cozy and comfortable yourself. So, which of our suggestions was your favorite? Let us know in the comments! And if you have any winter photography hacks up your sleeves, we’d like to know about those too.
Here at ShootDotEdit, we love to offer you tips and tricks that not only help you take stellar images but also make your photography experiences smooth-sailing. Along with that, we assist you with professional photo editing services so that you focus on your craft. To learn more about how we can help you, check out our pricing plans!