5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a “winter person”. Unfortunately I’ve fallen in love with the frosty city where I live, so 6+ months of snow on the ground every year is just a part of life. By February, I’m always really starting to miss the sight of grass and blue skies. But you know what helps? Getting outside and appreciating this beautiful season for what it is.

Whether you’re just trying to see the beauty in a snow-sprinkled landscape, taking advantage of a warmer-than-usual day to take some family portraits, or just trying to capture the fun side of winter as your kids play outside, here are some tips for winter photos that aren’t drab and depressing.

1. Don’t Miss the Light

This is the simplest but often the toughest part of getting great photos in the winter. If you’re at work all day, the sun might already be setting by the time you get home. Taking outdoor photos after dark isn’t impossible, but it’s sure a lot more difficult, especially if you are photographing people or pets (who have a tendency to not hold completely still while you try to grab a shot) rather than just landscapes. So if you’re wanting to take your little ones out to build a snowman and are hoping for some magical photos, plan for a specific time when the sun will still be up to get out there. And pack snacks, because you might need to go out before you have a chance to eat dinner!

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
This photo of my rosy-cheeked 7-month-old daughter was taken early afternoon on a cloudy November day. I put down a white fuzzy blanket to protect her bum from getting too wet without taking away too much from the appearance of the snow.

Also, don’t shy away from sunrise and sunset hours. The light might be a little more dim, but a winter sunset can really be magical. Landscapes or cityscapes at these hours can be particularly stunning.

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
A stunning winter sunset landscape by photographer Christopher Mills

2. Dress appropriately (and make sure your subjects do, too)

Nothing kills a good time like being too cold to think about anything else. Make sure you bring a warm enough coat (when in doubt, wear lots of layers so you can shed 1 or 2 if you get hot), a hat, scarf, gloves, etc. Fingerless gloves can be your friend when you’re trying to operate a camera but need to keep your hands as warm as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you have good warm boots that will allow you to trudge into deep snow if necessary to get the perfect shot.

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
Here’s me taking some photographs at Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park in the dead of winter. Note the super-warm parka and thin but cozy gloves!

Just as importantly, make sure your subjects are cozy! Dress everyone in warm clothes so they won’t be miserable and shivering in front of the camera. If your subject would rather not be in a bulky parka for the shot, you can always have them shed a layer or two just before you snap the photo, then bundle back up before they freeze.

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
My daughter at 11 months old on a cold March day, proving that warm can be adorable

3. Look for pops of colour

There’s a certain beauty in the endless white expanse of a fresh snowfall, but it can look a little boring in a photograph. For winter photos with impact and visual appeal, look for bright pops of colour that will really stand out on all that white.

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
The family (and the snowman!) in this shot are dressed brightly and colourfully enough to add some life to the snowy backdrop
5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
Evergreen plants, frozen berries on trees, or even spring flowers that came out a little too early can make a brilliant contrast to the snow, such as in this shot by flickr user Jörg Schubert

4. Increase your exposure

If you’re using any kind of automatic setting on your camera, it will do its best to compensate for the light available to give you the best possible image quality. However, when the entire landscape is white with snow, your camera may think there is too much light and compensate by making your images darker. This can make snow look a drab gray, blue, or purple rather than the brilliant white you see with your eyes. Check your camera’s manual for how to manually increase the exposure compensation, and ensure the snow is the brilliant white that you want it to be.

5 Simple Winter Photography Tips to Make the Most of the Snow! | PixPortal Blog
A brilliantly bright winter shot from flickr user Filippo C

Helpful links: Exposure Compensation on a Nikon camera or on a Canon camera

5. Protect your camera from the elements

If it’s extremely cold or snowing when you’re out shooting, take care to protect your camera. Keep the lens cap on when you’re not shooting, and carry a small soft cloth to dry the lens off if it gets wet to avoid gray blotches or blurred areas on your photos.

To avoid your lens fogging up at inconvenient times, allow your camera time to acclimatize to the cold before you begin. When you’re done, let it warm up slowly inside. You may also find your battery capacity is seriously reduced by the cold. If you’ll be out for a while, carry a spare fully-charged battery, and ideally keep it warm (like in an inner pocket on your jacket) to make sure you get the most out of it.

How to get the Perfect Christmas Card Photo

It’s that time of year again! I don’t know about you, but I’m still feeling like summer just ended, and it’s hard to shift gears and start thinking about Christmas. Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather here; it’s so odd to not have any snow in mid-November! But Christmas is coming, snow or not, and this year I’m determined not to miss the boat (again) on getting some awesome custom Christmas cards made. In a pinch you can always buy some pre-made cards and stick a 4×6 photo print inside, but I prefer to get organized a little earlier in the year so I can order some custom-printed cards with our photos right on the front. All the better for Grandma to stick on the fridge and show off our beautiful faces 🙂

Here are some of my tips for making the best Christmas cards, start to finish:

1. Start by thinking about what your finished card will look like

It can be helpful to have some idea of what you want your card to look like before you even go to take photos. Do you want a collage of different images, or just one large one? Is there going to be a photo on both the front and inside of the card, or just on the front? It’s helpful to know what kind of shots you need to get to put your vision together. Maybe you don’t even need a photo of the whole family, and you just need good shots of each individual to put together a nice family collage. Whatever works for your family!

So how do you even begin to plan? Start by browsing the templates that are available and seeing if any grabs your fancy. You’ll need to choose the basic format first (flat vs folding, size, orientation) and then take a look at your template options. Here’s the link to the greeting card section on PixPortal to start browsing:

Browse Photo Greeting Cards

2. Make a photo shoot game plan

So you know what you want and what photos you need: now what? Well, it depends. If you just want to grab photos of each individual family member, you can probably shoot most of them yourself and then have another family member take a photo of you. If you want everybody together, it gets a little trickier. The larger your family, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to stage something presentable with a tripod and a self-timer. Professional photography will definitely yield some beautiful results, but isn’t always in the budget. Sometimes just a family friend who can work a camera is all you need.

Whether you choose a pro or enlist a helpful friend, do some searching around (I love to use Pinterest for things like this) and find a few examples of shots/poses you like. If you’re going with an amateur photographer, you’ll probably want to tell them exactly what you’re trying to do and give as many examples as possible; if you choose a professional, just give a little guidance and let them put their expert spin on it to create something beautiful and unique.

3. Choose a location

I always tend to think outdoor shots are best. The lighting is a lot more fool-proof than indoors, where photos often look very yellow, dark, and dull if not using professional lighting and equipment. If you prefer indoors, going into a professional studio can be a great option, or just make sure you open up all the curtains and pick a time of day when there is ample natural light in your home.

How to get the perfect custom photo Christmas card | The PixPortal Blog
A super-cute example of an indoor Christmas portrait from iStock

I don’t think it’s necessary to worry about your pictures being very wintery or having an over-the-top Christmas theme. Everybody in Santa hats can definitely be cute, but your card can have a festive, holiday feel without needing a lot of special props or costumes. If your picture is a little more generic, it also becomes for versatile. Since you’ve gone to all the effort to get a family photo anyway, it’s nice to get something you’re proud to display year-round without it seeming out of place.

How to get the perfect custom photo Christmas card | The PixPortal Blog
Our family portrait that I used on my Christmas cards last year, shot outdoors in October by my sister

Because Christmas cards need to go out ahead of the season and taking portraits outdoors when it’s 20 below is pretty unpleasant anyway, our Christmas cards usually feature fall images rather than winter ones, and that’s totally fine.

How to Get the Perfect Photo Christmas Card | The PixPortal Blog
An excellent family portrait, taken in October and then used for a Christmas card – courtesy flickr user lorenkerns

4. Have fun!

As always, the mood your family is in will shine through your photos, for better or for worse. Let go of your perfectionist tendencies and just try to enjoy an afternoon spent together taking your photos. If using multiple photos for your card, it can be fun to have one “formal” shot and one or more silly, candid shots to let your true personalities shine.

How to Create the Perfect Photo Christmas Card | The PixPortal Blog
Fun candid shots can come together for a cute, fun collage card from PixPortal

5. Order those cards!

Don’t procrastinate ordering your photo cards! They’ll take 7-10 days to get back to you, and you’ll want to give yourself lots of time to get them signed, addressed, and in the mail ahead of Christmas. The more you can get done earlier in the holiday season rather than rushing at the end, the better. You’ll feel like a rock star dropping your cards in the mail on December 1st and just waiting for the compliments to roll in as they arrive on people’s doorsteps.

And if you don’t get them done ahead of time? Well…we offer plenty of Happy New Year card templates as well 🙂

Good luck this holiday season! I’d love to see your Christmas card creations below – leave a comment!

– Emily