Winter photography tips

Having returned from a recent trip to Stockholm, Sweden’s stunning capital city, I felt compelled to write a short tips guide for shooting in wintery conditions based on my own experiences.

Working my way round the various islands that form the city, there was one thing I found distinctly challenging – the freezing cold temperature! Although, the big freeze in the UK has been harsher than usual in recent years, nothing could really prepare me for Stockholm’s average day temperature of -10oC in February.

After my Stockholm encounter, I made the following observations and picked up some solutions for some basic photographic techniques:

Use a lens hood – there’s nothing worse than when you compose a shot to find your lens is covered with falling snow. Although it’s not a fool proof method of protecting your lens from the elements, a hood might save some precious time and effort in post-production editing.

Pack spare batteries - not an obvious one but camera performance can be affected by low temperatures and I found my batteries ran out of juice much quicker, plus the camera controls were a little less responsive too. Keeping a set of batteries warmed up inside your coat pocket or close to your body is a good idea.

Acclimatise your camera to the outside temperature – this is especially important when moving from the warm to the cold (and vice versa) otherwise your lens will fog up due to sudden change the in humidity. Unfortunately there’s no quick fix for this and wiping any moisture off lens tends to make the problem worse by leaving smear marks. To prevent fogging, try leaving the lens cap on the camera for a couple of minutes while the lens cools down.

Use a polarising filter – this handy accessory is great for cutting the glare reflected from snow and ice, which can fool your camera's metering system; it’s also good for cooling crisp blue skies. An added benefit of a polarizing filter is that it can help you ‘see’ through water by reducing reflections on the surface.

You can also use the camera’s histogram graph to help balance the exposure. Where possible try to achieve a normal distribution. Also, try to shoot images in RAW files (if your camera has this feature) as this will make fine tuning images in post-production much easier.

If you’re using a tripod, try insulating the legs - I was surprised how difficult it became to carry around as it rapidly became ice cold.

Know when to call it a day – photography is meant to be enjoyable, from my experience it didn't take me long to get cold when composing my images. In the desire to get the perfect image it literally took a matter of minutes before I struggling to use the camera controls as my fingers were so cold (despite wearing thermal gloves), so try a find somewhere warm for some respite or take a break from taking images if you can't feel your fingers!


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