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!
Cloudy days are wonderful for pictures. The clouds diffuse the sun’s light and make a lovely, soft lighting situation.
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
Looking for more photography tips? Check out my other posts!
–How to Split Your Focus
–How to Shoot a Double Exposure
–What is Magic Hour?
This article is well worth reading. I photograph the aurora borealis in Yellowknife, Canada, which is very cold in winter, and I feel that the gusts of wind get down around -30 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. I use my Camera Parka to shelter my DSLR from cold temperatures. My fingers are covered with thin thermal gloves so I can change settings for my DSLR camera in sometimes. Winter photography is fun!
Very much useful tips for taking a picture in cold weather. I am glad to read this type of informative post. Thanks for your post.
Wear good gloves. One of the big challenges of cold weather photography is just trying to use the camera in those sub zero temperatures., happy to see such as great photography.
Really appreciate your photography skills. What are the tips for taking photos in HOT weather?
wow this amazing tutorial thank’s sharing with us.
Super helpful tips!! <3
Thanks for all the great tips! I’ve tried to take photos in the cold before but it never works out quite how I’d like it. The thing about being tight and raising your shoulders is so true – it’s hard to look comfortable and natural when you’re freezing, but it definitely makes the pictures look a lot better.
These are fantastic tips! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Awesome Photography Tips. I really got lots of valuable things from you. Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work.
I’m doing a project at school on photography and when I found your website, I stopped researching because it had all of the information I needed! Thank you!
I’ve found that cold and cloudy days are THE BEST for taking awesome portrait shots! Bright sunlight sometimes creates awkward shadows on your face… so I always try to shoot either in cloudy weather or in the afternoon right before the sun goes down.
Great tips great blog. I live in Belfast were it is mostly cold so photography tips will help thank you
Amazing tips. I loved it.
These photos are delightful and these tips are so incredibly helpful! Thank you so much!
I have a question regarding #4! By opening your f-stop to a lower number/bigger opening, although you are lowering your depth of field and as you said, not much will be in focus, are you going to lose quality in the overall photo/subject? Any tips? Thanks!
Its really cool that people now trying to find pose for cold or hot weather!! Great it is! In my country its already ending of cold season so need a post now for taking photos in hot weather.
Wow great tips man, thanks for sharing!!!!
Great tips! Thank you for sharing these with us! It’s been raining and cold outside so I haven’t had the chance to go out and take pictures in a couple of weeks unfortunately 🙁
thanks for all the great tips. i can’t stop checking out those mukluks.
yeeees! Thanks so much for that girls. As I live in Amsterdam, they will be totally useful