How to Take Winter Photos That Aren’t White and Blurry (Unless That’s the Point)

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Photo: Marina Zezelina (Shutterstock)

Capturing the natural beauty of a snowy winter day seems like it would be fairly straightforward, but it’s (usually) not as simple as grabbing your phone or camera, heading outside, and immediately getting the perfect shot.

In addition to contending with the logistics of taking photos in cold weather, snow or other precipitation can make it even more of a challenge. Here are a few tips for getting great winter photos.

Dealing with the elements

Before we get into the actual photography tips, let’s talk about how to keep both your camera (or phone) and your hands warm and functioning. Here’s how to do that:

  • Keep your spare batteries and/or phone warm by keeping them in your pocket when not in use.
  • Check your lens for fog or condensation before taking a photo.
  • Invest in a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves if using a phone, or gloves with grips if using a camera.
  • If it’s actively snowing and you’re using a pricey camera and equipment, use a camera cover to prevent water damage.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather so you don’t get too cold before you get the photos you want.

Getting the perfect winter shot

OK, now it’s time to head outside and get that stunning winter shot. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind:

  • Take advantage of dramatic, colorful sunrises and sunsets on days with clear skies and snow already on the ground.
  • It’s possible to capture snow as it’s falling—just be sure to take as many shots as possible to increase the odds of getting one that works.
  • Clear days with blue skies are great for capturing snowy landscapes. Point your camera (or phone) due north if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere to get the deepest blue skies.
  • Late afternoon is the ideal time to take beautifully backlit winter photos. Wait until the sun in sitting lower in the sky, then shoot facing the sun, using it to backlight trees, buildings, hills/mountains, etc.
  • Take advantage of any areas of untouched, clean snow, and use them as a pristine backdrop.

Lastly, if you live somewhere that used to get plenty of snow each winter, but now only gets accumulation a few times a year, don’t sleep on snow when you see it.