Beginner’s Guide to Winter Photography

Pictures of fresh snow have always been mesmerizing, and every aspiring photographer looks to snap some great shots of powdery white landscapes. Here in Canada, we’re lucky enough to have all kinds of beautiful wintery spots to photograph right across the country. However, stepping out with your equipment in the snow can be a lot more challenging than you’d imagine. Here are some basic tips from our LDExperts in the Photolab that will help you get the best out of your next winter photography adventure.


Gear Tips

Keep batteries warm and carry spares

Battery life tends to reduce in colder weather. While newer lithium ion batteries have less issues, it’s still good to have a backup. Ideally you should charge two to three and keep the spare batteries in an inside jacket pocket. Once your batteries run low just replace them with a charged one and keep the drained battery in your pocket, you may still be able to use it once it warms up. The battery drain will vary depending on how cold it is and how power hungry your camera is.

Bag your camera or use silica gel packs

When you bring your camera indoors from the cold, condensation can form very quickly and instantly damage your camera and lens. One of the easiest and best ways to avoid this is to put your camera in a Ziplock bag and seal it tight. Once you’re in the house, place it near a slightly open window or any cooler location so it can gradually warm up to room temperature. You could also leave it in the car for a while to warm up. Once it reaches room temperature you can take it out of the bag and use it normally. Silica gel packs like the Pelican Reusable Silica Gel Hydrosorbent Unit are also an easy way to ensure all the moisture is absorbed. Just keep it in your camera case.

Avoid fogging the lens 

Cold weather adds new risks while photographing outdoors. A warm humid breath will condense on your lens creating a milky frost, and wiping it will just create smudges. You can wear a neck gaiter, or a balaclava pulled over your nose and mouth to avoid this. Never place your camera under your coat or jacket in the hopes of warming it up quickly. The warmth of your body heat and the moisture from sweat could potentially damage your equipment. Breath is the usual culprit of fogged lenses but sometimes at night natural frost can form too. Use your lens caps when you’re not shooting or moving from one location to another. If you need to wipe off the moisture from the lens, always use a microfiber cleaning cloth.


Photography Tips

Focus on contrast

When you’re shooting snow, an all-white frame can cause the autofocus to have a hard time locking in. It helps to focus on any dark object (a branch or the bark below the snow). Autofocus requires contrast to adjust itself properly, so if the focus isn’t locking on, move the focusing point to a darker area and then press your shutter half way to focus. This usually does the trick.

Correct exposure with a histogram

Don’t trust the preview of the images you see on the LCD screen on the back your camera. Checking photographs while outdoors on the LCD screen may not give you the best judgement of how a picture would look on your desktop. Ideally using the histogram is the best way to judge. Take a test shot and check the histogram. If it is slightly “humped” in the middle, then just add a little positive compensation to add brightness. If the graph appears to fall off on the right-hand edge, then just dial in a little negative compensation to stop blown out highlights.

Exposure compensation

Colour balance with snow is quite tricky. Cameras usually tend to make snow look grey. This can be easily corrected by setting the exposure compensation to +1 or +2. You can also adjust exposure compensation while editing. Also, when shooting in shade, be aware of a blue bias. If a photograph is taken in sunlight mode it may come out with a blue tinge, especially in high altitudes.

Shoot in RAW format (or RAW+JPEG)

Don’t bother trying to select and delete photos while outdoors. As mentioned earlier, capturing the correct exposure and color temperature when your scene is overwhelmed by reflective white snow can be tricky. Setting the file format to RAW will allow you to safely adjust your settings later. The camera LCD usually looks washed out so if you shoot in RAW, you’ll be able to recover highlights and adjust shadows afterwards.

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority (‘AV’ on Canon, ‘A’ on Nikon) will allow you to quickly change your depth of field. When shooting in Aperture Priority the camera will choose the ISO, (if the camera is set to auto ISO) and the shutter speed, so all you need to do is switch between aperture settings. This is great in cold weather and allows for a lot of creativity.


Preparation Tips

Capturing fresh snow

If you’re looking for fresh, footprint-free snow you will need to plan ahead and be outdoors first thing in the morning as soon as it gets bright. Planning what shots you want to take a few days in advance helps.

Plan depending on the weather and lighting

Snowy landscapes look great in both sunny and cloudy weather. Cloudy days add elements of colour to break up the white. If it’s snowing, use a shell cover to protect your camera. Winter skies are beautiful this time of year. Warm and cool tones create a different mood and will make your snow images pop. Make use of sunrise and sunset to capture warm tones from the sunlight reflecting on the snow. Looking to create a more dramatic image? Expose the sky and everything else will be darker; this technique adds a little mystery and changes the mood of your image.

Lighting during winter can change very fast. If the sun goes behind a cloud, it can completely change how the snow looks. Waiting for the sun to come out again may be hard, especially in the cold, but the pictures will definitely be worth it.

Play with shutter speed

Shutter Priority (‘Tv’ on Canon and ‘S’ on Nikon) allows you to choose your shutter speed, while the camera takes care of the rest. With a fast shutter speed, you can freeze falling snow in midair. With a slow shutter speed, you can turn those flakes into long white streaks.

Always dress warmly

Dressing right is an absolute essential while stepping out for a winter photoshoot. Getting frost-bite will certainly hamper your ability to operate the camera. If you’re shooting in –40 Celsius you’d definitely need the right gear, which includes everything from long underwear, to fleece or wool sweater and pants, down or synthetic vest, 800 fill down jacket with a hood, windproof insulated pants, a pair of thick wool socks topped by expedition quality winter boots, a hat complete with ear flaps, a balaclava or face mask, and thin nimble gloves with a pair of expedition overmitts dangling from wrist straps to wear between shots.


So, go ahead and snap some great shots this winter. You can create a nice coffee table photobook to display your photos or a photographic album. Another great way to showcase your photographs is to print a customized 2022 calendar so you can treasure your best wintery shots throughout the year.

Ordering items is super easy with our in-store kiosks, the London Drugs Photolab App for iOS and Android, or simply go online and select from multiple print options and sizes!

Winter Photography Tips for Shooting Indoors

Stuck indoors this winter and frustrated about not being able to travel and snap some great photographs? While winters are the perfect time to cozy up indoors, it doesn’t mean that photography needs to take a back seat. We’ve got just what you need to embrace indoor photography and keep the shutterbug in you happy all winter long! From creative shooting ideas to tips on how to work with low lighting, our LDExperts in the Photolab are sharing everything you need to know to set up the perfect shot, in the comfort of your home!


Choosing the right location

When shooting indoors you have to explore your working space, as the best spot to shoot may be the last place you think of! While the living room often has the best lighting, the kitchen, front foyer, hallways, bedroom and even the bathroom may sometimes be a great place to experiment. Bathrooms usually have a lot of white and there are also mirrors which reflect the light, making it a great place to get creative. While taking shots in a mirror, make sure your reflection isn’t making a cameo. It can take some patience to get the angles and reflections, but it’s definitely worth it.


Play with the lighting

With the limited lighting available in winter, window light is just what you need to create the perfect ambience. Natural lighting doesn’t like competition though, and electric lights can affect your white balance. Look for spots that have patches of light coming in through the doors and windows and place your subject accordingly. Place your subject a foot or two away from the light source. This way you’ll make the best use of the natural light, and avoid the harsh contrasts that can be created by being too close to the window or door. It also helps to take note of what kind of light enters each room throughout the day.

You can also utilize light sources you would never have considered before such as computer and iPad lights, oven lights, night lights, torches and candles. What’s great about this is that you don’t necessarily have to be taking photos during the day – it can even be while reading bedtime stories to the kids! Just make sure you watch your white balance when dealing with artificial light.


Using reflective surfaces & blinds

When using natural light coming in through a window, you may find the issue of uneven lighting, which creates shadows on the subject. While this does look good in some instances, there’s also an easy fix for it. Use a piece of white poster board to bounce the light around and brighten up the side of the subject that isn’t facing the window. Mirrors are another great way to control lighting.

Blinds and curtains also help control the amount of light entering the room. If the sun is beaming directly into the room, the light can blow out your photos. Proper exposure and curtains can help soften that light.


Getting the best angle

Playing with angles helps with achieving different perspectives. You can shoot up close to capture details or further back to include environment for context. Shooting from different eye levels can also be explored – up high, down low, or over the shoulder, for example.

You can also play with the angle of your lighting. If the light is on your subject directly, it will create the most even lighting across them. Meanwhile, light coming in from the side at an angle creates some great shadows and depth. If your camera is facing the window with the sunlight at your subject’s back then make sure you’re exposing for your subject’s skin. Otherwise, your camera will read the light behind them and underexpose your subject.


Selecting the correct exposure

When shooting indoors, you will have to bump up the ISO to make the most of the ambient light. When your image is too dark when you take your photo, and you try to bring up the exposure in post processing, you end up introducing more grain and defeating your original purpose! Don’t underexpose your image for fear of bumping your ISO “too high”. Ensure your image is properly exposed, even if that means a slower shutter speed (within reason) or a higher ISO.


White Balance

Colour temperature plays an important role while shooting indoors. It works best to shoot in natural light, turning off lamps and overhead lighting. While correcting white balance is possible during editing, it is best to achieve as much as possible with your camera settings. Setting your camera to custom white balance and using a white wall usually does the trick.


So the next time you’re stuck indoors on a cold day, pick up your camera and gear to snap some great shots!  And once you’re done capturing those cozy new snapshots, you can simply visit our London Drugs Photolab website or upload your photos to the London Drugs Photolab App for iOS and Android. From there, you can select from multiple print options, like wall decor, prints and enlargements, mugs, coasters and even keychains. Or, if you need the help of our LDExperts, just visit us in the Photolab in-store!