Photography has a lot of bitter-and-sweet challenges; and one of them is shooting white stuff properly. By properly we mean with the appropriate tonal range that enables winter landscapes to look rich in texture and full of character.
Here you’ll find some valuable information for you to make the most out of your winter landscape photography, as well as some nice winter photography ideas and tips and one simple yet challenging assignment on abstract winter landscape imagery.
Your Camera Doesn’t Like Bright Stuff
Camera manufacturers have made a huge effort for developing precise tools for measuring light. The problem is that these all aim to achieve perfection, and when it comes to bright stuff, your camera will try to dim down the reading.
In photography there is something usually known as “exposing to the right”, and that is the habit of slightly overexposing light in a photograph. This is an absolutely common practice when it comes to winter landscape photographs, and here is how it works:
When you read light with your camera’s built-in light meter, you’ll see that it will make a very conservative reading of the light in front of it. This means that after shooting a centered exposure you’ll notice that the white areas actually look gray, and even a bit dull. Here is when the overexposure technique comes into play. There is no exact science and your decisions will be driven but the amount of brightness in front of you. But you can overexpose +2/3 of a stop to even 2 stops, again, that will depend on you.
The reason why is so important to expose to the right while making snow landscape photos is because it is easier for your sensor to recover information from bright zones rather than from the darks and shadows. Therefore, you’ll be compensating all the blown highlights in the raw development phase of your workflow.
This results in properly lit images with information across the whole frame. From shadows to lights, you’ll have rich texture, giving that highly desired dramatic punch from fine art landscape photographs.
White isn’t That White
When it comes to winter landscape photographs, white will be all over the place, and you’ll highly notice something odd. Your photos will have warm or cold color casts that doesn’t really resemble perfect whiteness.
This can be corrected by using the white balance setting on your camera. If you go out there shooting in the early hours of the day or during sunset, you’ll likely get some blue casts, and if you shoot during the regular hours of the day, you might get some warm tones as well.
For these situations in which you start getting too blue casts, make sure to compensate with “cloudy” or “shade” white balance modes. That will give you a better result in camera. You can also set your camera’s white balance mode to “auto”, but mind that this will give you inconsistent results as the sun or clouds move around you. Of course, the best way to compensate white balance is during the raw development stage of the photographer’s workflow, but there’s nothing wrong with giving well-crafted inputs to it.
Beyond that, winter landscape photography shares the same principles of regular landscape imagery. Therefore, scouting, tripods and ND filters is mandatory. Well, that is enough about technicalities, let’s get some fun with these winter photo ideas:
Get a Different Perspective by Using a Drone
Despite being so popular, drones are still offering extremely unique ways of seeing life around us. When it comes to winter landscapes colors get sort of muted out, making everything closer to graphic design or painting. Even the most common objects around us look compelling from a higher point of view.
Some photographers like the bird-like vantage point they get with drones, and some others like shooting straight down to the ground. No matter which one is your favorite, you’ll get a more compelling approach towards winter photography with these amazing tools. Oh, and moving around with snow is harder, so kudos to drones that enable us to move quicker around the woods.
Start Using Color Accents
As said before, winter photography offers a lot of graphic-design-like layouts. This happens because there is always a strong contrast between both extremely bright and dark zones in the frame. This is notoriously good looking; but sometimes things can get a bit more interesting when a colored accent pop’s inside the frame. And we are talking about bright colors like red and orange. Take that into account and your compositions will have huge impact from here on!
High-Keys are BAE
High-key exposures always give a dream like nature to photographs, but they usually are better executed during controlled lighting situations. That obviously means studio photography, but we nature lovers hate being inside a studio. Snow photography will give you absolute freedom for high-key images, just mind the exposure compensation we mentioned before.
What About that Assignment?
After these brief yet insightful winter photography tips and ideas you’ll be better known for creating some beautiful photographs. In order to think a bit outside the box, we invite you to seek some nice abstractions around you.
You probably won’t find using a telephoto lens in a regular landscape photo ideas blog post elsewhere, but using a long lens is the best way for spotting abstract images in nature.
The important thing about Abstract photos is that they don’t totally reveal the complete nature of an element, while still keeping the power of telling enough about the element.
Wrapping it Up!
Remember that cameras will always try to achieve perfection, but that doesn’t necessarily mean interesting or creative photographs. Any photograph created with purpose should not only compel the audience, but be able to reflect the photographer’s vision of the world. We do hope that this post might be able to trigger some new talented photographers out there; and don’t expect that winter landscapes will come to you; you need to go out there and discover them by yourselves!