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Winter Photoshoot Ideas for Landscape Photography

During winter, the weather can discourage photographers, both from a personal comfort and a visual interest perspective. However, winter can provide some excellent opportunities for great photography.

All you need are some ideas, and then some planning to take advantage of it. Here are some winter photoshoot ideas for landscape photography to help you get great winter photos.

Winter Photoshoot Ideas for Landscape Photography

Photography challenges during winter

Winter is officially defined by a range of dates. In the northern hemisphere this is usually around December 21st through March 21st. Depending on where you live, the weather conditions most people think of as “winter” can run longer or shorter than the official season.

Typical winter weather conditions are rain, snow, wind, ice, fog, frigid temperatures, overcast sky. Other conditions experienced during this season are bare trees, short days, gray sky, poor lighting.

The challenges are pretty obvious. Rain can get your gear wet. Fog makes it hard to see features and subjects. The wind keeps everything in constant movement.

Turning challenges into opportunities

Winter photoshoot Ideas and some planning can help you turn winter conditions into terrific opportunities. For example, the photo above. You can use spindly bare trees to their maximum advantage. Taking something not so pretty and using them to create something awesome.

Below I am going to cover just a few scenarios. Also, the planning that would go into them and then how to execute when the time is right.

How to Photograph Winter Landscapes

Starting with the first thought everyone has when you say winter, we’ll talk about falling snow. Where I live it’s only a couple of miles to find small stands of trees. Also, small ponds and little lakes, creeks, streams, etc. All of these will make a great backdrop for falling snow. Add falling snow to your collection of winter photoshoot ideas.

To grab a frame that captures the snowflakes in mid-air, you need to have a fast shutter speed. I like to use 1/750th and 1/1000th. So put the camera in Tv (Time value) mode and set the shutter speed. Make sure that ISO is on “AUTO”. This will allow the camera to automatically adjust both the aperture (F stop) and ISO.

Use a somewhat short focal length like 24mm to 50mm. Focus on an object that’s about halfway between where you are standing and the “back” of the scene you are shooting. This will get most of the objects in focus and freeze the snowflakes in midair. Keep sunlight to your back to make sure subjects are well lit.

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1. Using fog to create dramatic scenes

Fog is basically a cloud on or near the ground. And like clouds in the sky, it can be everywhere, or just scattered here and there. When fog is thick and everywhere, it is pretty hard to get decent photos, although you might get lucky. However, if the fog is patchy and scattered, you can likely make use of it for some great photography.

The main photography issue with fog is the diffuse light it brings along with it. Therefore, this can really cause everything to wash out and lose any definition. You just need to watch for opportunities to add some contrast with darker objects and color when you can.

One of the best winter photoshoot ideas using patchy fog is to look for something sticking out from it. Something like the top of a building, or a bridge that’s half covered. The photo above uses early morning sunrise as a back light and the foreground silhouette to contrast the fog. Using the sunrise also adds a little color, which is often missing in fog photos.

2. Winter wildlife photography

In addition to great landscape scenes, snow also provides a good opportunity to catch wildlife in action. Especially around bird feeders and other food and water sources. If you are really lucky, you may catch a bunny or even a fox looking for dinner.

The same camera settings that are good for catching falling snow, are also good settings for catching nervous fidgety wildlife. And there is the added benefit of possibly catching falling snow along with it. Keep in mind that you are going to stand out like a sore thumb against a white background.

I should mention that dogs can provide some great winter photoshoot ideas and opportunities. Especially if you happen to own or know someone with a husky or malamute. The best thing is just to take them to place they can be loose and just let them play as you snap away.

3. Using the Rain

Winter also provides an opportunity to use the rain to your advantage. Photo possibilities abound with rain drops on various objects. Leaves, pine needles, car windows, dripping off the slat of an umbrella. Just think rain drops and start looking around you. Its amazing how many things start popping out.

Wet streets also get very reflective, so getting reflection shots both during the day and especially at night is a snap (pun intended). I have gone walking in the city after dark on rainy nights and gotten some great shots.

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If you are prepared you can pause while crossing a street, point your camera toward some reflections, take the shot and keep moving.

4. Add Wind to Winter Photoshoot Ideas

Normally one would think that wind is the enemy of photography. And in many cases, it is. But it’s also an opportunity for interesting winter photoshoot ideas.

Snow blowing around, trees all leaning in one direction, flags all waving on one direction. If you happen to live near the coast, wind blowing most off the top of waves always makes for a great photo.


Finally, I hope I have fueled your imagination, and given you several winter photoshoot ideas for landscape photography. And in the same way, you can also use some of these ideas for portrait or family photography as well.

When getting out in the elements to do winter photography, just be sure to stay safe. Consequently watch for slippery conditions, localized lightning, flooding, etc.

Wear appropriate clothing and tell people where you are going. Most of all, have fun and bring home some great photos!

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Jason Baxter

Jason is a professional photographer based in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Loyd has been doing photography for over 14 years and specializes in fine art landscape photography. Loyd's work has appeared on book covers, CD covers, television, internet galleries, and on the walls of private residences.