Hi friends! I thought this would be the perfect post today for our #polarvortex! I know it is SO cold and this weather reminds me of my first wedding I photographed in Central New York! It was New Year’s Eve 2017, a high of 15 degrees and a low of 2!
There are so many challenges to photographing in the cold, and the snow!! I wanted to put this post from last year out there again to help you because I know overcoming weather elements can be so tricky. But it’s important that we as photographers learn how to handle them well so we can really help our clients and maximize our time with them when we have to be outside and brave it!
For engagement sessions, you can totally schedule around cold weather! I try not to photograph people in under 40 degrees if I can help it! It just becomes uncomfortable and noses turn red pretty quickly. But on wedding days, there is no choice the temperature or the weather and we as photographers have to serve them all and just make it happen!
I wanted to share a couple of things I’ve learned photographing in the snow and the cold, and hope it helps you too!!
1. Snow is a Reflective Surface – Watch your Exposure and Consider your Lighting
In any darkroom class we are taught that focusing on a card that is 18% gray will help us set the perfect exposure. And when using Manual settings in a camera, we are able to use the Lightmeter to predict close to the exposure that will overall be best for the entire photograph. But with snow, it is a reflective surface – so on any sunny day, or even with some sun coming through the clouds, it will make the exposure of the scene brighter. You may have to dial back your shutter speed settings more than usual to compensate for the increased exposure of the scene.
And also, you may have to photograph at different angles. I photographed a winter session last season where the sunlight being higher in the sky made reflection so powerful that I really needed diffusion from natural elements like trees, etc. I also could have used a more powerful fill light or reflector to do the same thing- and rather than blocking the light from the background, produce more fill light onto their bodies.
2. Snow Can Interfere with your Focus
When photographing in a steady snowfall, you may find difficulties focusing on your clients’ faces or bodies, and ESPECIALLY capturing movement. You may have to shoot faster, or have them move slower. Since the focus locks onto the nearest subject to the lens, the snow will fall between your subject and the lens. And in order to lock onto an object behind the snow, it will take more time and precision.
Shooting at a faster shutter speed and even a adjusting your frames per second rate will help, so you can capture more photographs in the same amount of time. You may just need them to create that extra sharp focus.
3. Snow makes Preparation and Patience necessary
One of the largest hinderances isn’t shooting in the snow itself but how the snow and cold affects your subjects – the PEOPLE you are capturing. You want to make sure you give them grace and help them prepare for their shoot the best that you can.
For my clients, I try not to photograph in temperatures less than 30-40 degrees. I have photographed in 15 degrees, and even this year, 5 degrees – but if you can reschedule a session, DO IT – if it will help your clients feel more comfortable.
Then, make sure they bring warm gloves, warm coats, scarves/blankets, and even wear long johns under dresses. The more comfortable they are the more they will be at ease.
As a photographer, that preparation applies to me as well. I want to make sure I’m in warm jackets, high boots, a hat, and even wear gloves that I can shoot in (cheap thin ones from Target are my jam – or ones with finger holes like pictured in the second image below!). The more comfortable I feel, the more comfortable I will be able to make them feel.
During the shoot, I find that balancing your desire to get the shot and push the client out of their comfort zone, while still relating to and understanding their feelings – is the sweet spot. You can joke about it if it’s cold or the situation is hard to shoot in, but offer them a solution. A time out to warm up with their fiance outside with a blanket or inside their car. And encourage them that the way the photographs are looking are way better than how they’re feeling.
Winter can be SO magical and beautiful! We just have to know how to prepare, both technically, physically and emotionally – for the adventure ahead! Hope this was helpful, friends!