Brace yourselves, winter is coming! It’s dark, cold and wet, and a real pain in the neck if you live in a big city. But winter can look magical in photos. Sometimes you can capture its magic even in big cities if you know where to look. If you don’t believe me, check out this video from Toma Bonciu. He will give you some tips and plenty of ideas for taking magical photos in the snow. Check them out and get yourself and your camera ready for the upcoming winter.
Before sharing his ideas, Toma shares two important tips for taking photos of snowy scenes:
Overexpose intentionally: If the exposure looks right on the camera’s light meter, a photo of a snowy landscape will still look grayish. This is because your camera tries to prevent blowing out highlights. Therefore, feel free to overexpose your photos by 1-2 stops so the snow looks white rather than gray.
Mind the reflections: Did you paint snowy scenes blue when you were a kid? I remember that I always did it in the art class, and so did other kids. And why did we all perceive pure white snow as blue? Well, because it does have a bluish cast. It’s especially prominent very early in the morning or right after sunset, so make sure that you set the white balance to account for it.
If you want to recreate those childhood paintings, then you can leave the white balance set to “daylight” and you’ll see the blue tones in the snow. Otherwise, Toma suggests using a “cloudy” or “shade” setting. Of course, you can also always set up the white balance manually.
And now for the ideas. Toma shares 13 ideas for taking landscape photos in the snow. He travels and often shoots nature, but I’d say many of these ideas work for shooting in the city, too. Check out his video for some beautiful example shots, and these are some of the ideas he shares:
Drone shots: aerial photos give you a different perspective and add a totally new dimension to your images, even to the scenes you see every day. While this certainly works when photographing nature, I believe it also looks amazing when photographing a city. Toma suggests you shoot straight down, as those photos can look truly extraordinary in winter.
Forest: foggy mornings in the forest are the best! Slightly creepy maybe, but photographically speaking, they are amazing. Add snow to the equation and try to find a natural element with vivid colors. It will add a wonderful contrast to the fog and the snow. If there are only naked trees, look for leading lines and some interesting elements that could be included in the scene.
People: if you want to take a self-portrait or photograph someone in a snowy scene, pay attention to clothing before you go out to shoot. It’s good to choose clothes in bright colors like red or pink, so the subject really stands out from the scene.
Low-altitude clouds: when you photograph mountain landscapes in winter, low-altitude clouds can give a surreal feeling of floating. They’re most common early in the morning, so if you visit mountains in the winter, you can try and capture them.
Interesting characters: snow takes away from the scene, making it clean and simple. So, putting an interesting character in a snowy scene will draw all the attention to your subject. Toma photographed a pack of friendly dogs running in the snow, which I thought was a great idea.
Trains: trains in snowy scenes can look really powerful. If you capture them in photos, they can really stand out.
Long exposure photos: with a long exposure, you can capture the movement of clouds and water, and in snowy scenes, it can look dreamy and magical. If you manage to capture the clouds moving towards your point of interest, that’s a bonus (like Toma did in one of his photos).
Reflections: if you ask me, reflections are always a good idea, and Toma reminds you that they can work great in snowy scenes. Just keep in mind that the reflection is always a bit darker than the reflected object, so use a graduated ND filter or make them equal in post.
There’s one thing I’d like to add to Toma’s suggestions: close-up shots. Winter makes art, and you can capture it with your camera. It can be snowflakes, but also ice crystals on plants and windows. Frozen soap bubbles are also a good idea.
Honestly, I really don’t like winter. It’s not just that gloomy winter days make me depressed, but I am also pretty sensitive to cold. Still, last year I decided to embrace the heavy snow that hit my hometown, and I went out shooting. Even though I was in the city, I still found some places worth photographing, and these are some of my favorite shots:
So, even if you don’t like snow, keep in mind that it’s really photogenic. I hope that Toma’s ideas, as well as my shots, will motivate you to go out with your camera and take some awesome photos this winter. I know I’m getting my fancy snow protection ready. : D