I consider the winter months my “work hibernation period.” It’s usually too cold for people to stand outside and have their picture taken. A typical photo session takes about an hour or two. When it is below freezing, it’s nearly impossible to take pictures without a heavy coat, gloves, and a frozen subject. But if you’ve gotta do it, I wanted to share some tips on taking pictures in cold weather.
1. Relax. My sister-in-law, Kaitlin, moved from Pennsylvania to Springfield, MO when she married my brother. She is used to weather that is a lot colder than what we have in Springfield. Let’s just say she is an old pro when it comes to braving winter weather! On one occasion we walked back to the car after a movie and it was absolutely freezing outside! I began to shiver and rubbed my hands together as fast as I could trying to get warm. Kaitlin kept walking to the car and calmly told me that the secret is to relax. She said when it gets so cold in PA, you just have to relax and breathe. I took her advice and it worked! I relaxed my shoulders, took a deep breath, and walked back to the car. Since then, I relax every time I’m freezing and it helps so much. The same is true when taking photos of someone when it’s cold outside.
In the above photo, Shailey was cold and tense. Then I asked her to drop her shoulders. What a difference it makes! If I see that the person I am photographing is stiff and uncomfortable, I tell them to relax their face and take a deep breath. The trick is to try and not look cold. Easier said than done, but being aware of this can make your pictures SO much better.
2. Plan your photos beforehand
Have a plan before you start taking pictures. This way you won’t be wandering around in the cold trying to figure out what you should do and where you should go. Think of the places you would like to photograph and also have some different poses/compositions in mind. One time I took maternity pictures when it was so cold that you could only stand to be outside a few minutes before the cold started burning your face. The sweet mom-to-be wanted pictures while it was snowing, so we braved the low temperatures by arriving at our location, jumping out of the car for a few minutes to take pictures and then jumping right back in the car to warm up. I planned out exactly what I wanted to tell her before we got out of the car. We were able to get lots of good shots, but still stay relatively warm.
3. Have your subject dress in layers to add warmth and color pops
Have your subject ditch the overstuffed coat and ask them to wear layers instead. Layering will keep your subject warm, yet stylish. Shailey layered up for our little photo session and I think she did a great job! I asked her not to wear a coat, yet dress warm. The layers add lots of color and texture to the photos and detract from the fact that we took the photos in the middle of winter!
Most of the trees here in Missouri don’t have leaves this time of year. This makes it really difficult to take pictures in nature without the bare trees taking over your picture and distracting from your subject. You can blur the background behind your subject by lowering your aperture. If you’re not quite sure what aperture is, it’s the opening in your lens that lets in light. The aperture gets smaller and bigger depending on where your f-stop is set. A lower f-stop number means a bigger opening. The result of a bigger opening in your aperture is low depth of field. Depth of field is basically the space in your picture/scene that will be in focus. Low depth of field means that not as much will be in focus. Have you seen those pictures where the subject is sharp and the background just melts away? That is the result of low depth of field and it can be beautiful because it makes your subject pop! So by opening your aperture, you can keep trees in the background blurred and make your subject the focal point.
5. Cold and cloudy
So there are a few tips for taking photos in cold weather. Let’s say it is cold AND cloudy… should you just throw in the towel and forget about taking pictures? Absolutely not!
Sure, it’s great to take pictures when the sun is glowing and warm light is everywhere, but soft diffused light is just as pretty in my opinion. A cloudy day actually makes taking pictures a whole lot easier because you don’t have to worry about uneven light or harsh shadows. You have the freedom to shoot pictures wherever you like!
Next time you get the opportunity to take pictures in the cold, I hope these tips help! –Janae
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