In some parts of the world, winter is setting in and the snow has already started to fall. As there have been quite a few requests for tips on landscape photography I thought would combine the two for a special winter landscape photography tutorial!

Basics of landscape photography

Although these are not hard and fast rules, they are good tips for starting out with landscapes. However, some rules are there to be broken, so don’t be afraid to try out new things once you have mastered a few classic landscape shots.
  • Foreground interest adds depth to a scene

  • Remember the rule of thirds – do not have the horizon (or point of interest) in the middle, split the shot 1/3 or 2/3

  • Generally speaking you want as much of the scene in focus as possible, so choose a small aperture to maximise your depth of field

  • Don’t let a bland sky dominate your shot – only dramatic skies should take up the top two thirds of a picture.

  • The golden hours are when landscapes really come alive – shoot at dawn and dusk for added texture and colour

Photographing snowscenes

The big hoo-ha about taking a good photo when it is, or has been snowing is that snow really throws the light levels out of kilter. You get bright light reflecting from the ground, providing a second very bright light source, you have to deal with over exposure and digital burnout, and if your white balance is out, the snow will appear either too blue or too yellow.

Here are some tips and setting tweaks that you might find useful to combat these dreaded spoilers!

  • Test out your auto setting – most cameras have a snow setting, if not use the auto white balance to get a good exposure value. If yellows or blues prevail, you will need to do a manual white balance or tweak with editing software.

  • Lower the exposure value to avoid digital burn

  • When doing a manual white balance, use a bright patch of snow – watch out for any shadows, it could mess up all your colours

  • Check the histogram to see if the exposure was correct, this will be easier to see than trying to look at a screen in bright light

  • Shoot in raw for better manipulation and colour correction in post production
    Dawn and dusk provides the best light levels (and adds texture… see Ideas to Try below!)

Did you know?
The colder the air, the clearer the air is! Renowned winter landscape photographer Moose Peterson says "Cold air is clearer… there are often ice crystals in the air that cause light to diffract; you get really brilliant, pretty-picture colors. So you want to be photographing at sunrise and sunset—the coldest parts of the day."

Ideas To Try

  • Shooting in the morning or afternoon will give more texture to the snow

  • Add interest with a brightly coloured object, or include a colourful natural feature – this will create a dramatic effect

  • Slower shutter speeds will capture more movement, a blur of snow falling

  • Fast shutter speeds will freeze the action, but you will need plenty of light, or to hike up the ISO

  • Macro shots will pick out the detail, highlighting the crystal formation on a plant for example

  • Look for dramatic lines, shapes and shadows to break up the expanse of white

  • Seek out reflective surfaces – ponds and lakes appear extra still in cold calm weather

  • Get your ND filter out an at the ready for some seriously surreal daytime long exposures – if you’ve never done one before, read our Daytime Long Exposure Guide

Top Tip
Think about your shot before walking around. You don’t want walk through a pristine snowscape then realise it would make a great picture!

A quick note on camera care…
To avoid condensation take your camera out of the bag once you get in and pop a towel over the top. Any moisture will then condensate on the towel, not on your camera!

If you have any tips to share on photographing winter landscapes, please share them in the comments below – we also want to see what photos you have been taking whilst the snow has been falling!

Thanks to Wendy, Shirley, Lesley and Joan for supplying such wonderful examples.

January 26th, 2013
These tips might be useful next time we have snow. It's all melting here from today onwards but we've had a lot of it for around two weeks and I've taken loads of photos of it! I did have issues with blue/yellow colours but I fiddled with settings, took several versions of the same shots and I think I did OK overall, still a lot to learn though - so thanks for the tips. There are several images in project in December 2012 / January 2013, here are a few recent ones

January 26th, 2013
January 26th, 2013

January 26th, 2013
taken on iPhone, but I love it
January 27th, 2013
I read some article on internet that said to avoid condensation then don't take the camera out of the bag but leave it for about 30 minutes so it would get same temperature. This applies both ways either we want to go out for shooting or just come back from.

Anyway this topic is really helpful to me as I'm learning how to shoot winter landscape. Thanks for sharing it. :)

Here they are:

January 28th, 2013
I really enjoyed this tutorial, thanks! :)

Here is one of the (very few) snow shots I have taken:

January 28th, 2013
Here is a recent shot I took of ice washing up on the shore of the Hudson River.

February 12th, 2013
Great tutorial, thank you!
April 2nd, 2013
There was no shortage of winter landscape opportunities here in Idaho this year. To all of the great tips, I would like to add black and white as a natural choice.
May 23rd, 2013
Great article, have to wait for next winter to try some of your tips now!
January 25th, 2015
Thank you for the tips. I have placed a cotton towel in my camera bag.
June 28th, 2018
August 29th, 2022
Do you know @lol beans? I live in an area where has no snow. However, my name means "snow". I really like to see those kinds of pictures.
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