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Seven tips for stunning winter landscape photography

21 October 2015

Find out how to photograph beautiful winter landscapes with these expert tips from Landscape Photographer of the Year founder Charlie Waite.

Winter landscape photography
Be patient and keep your eyes open for interesting details

Pay attention to the seasons

Keep your eyes open throughout the year for the locations that will work only in winter. Many views, partially obscured by leafy trees, come into their own at this time of year.

Increase exposure

The large areas of white and reflective nature of snow scenes can cause the light meter in your camera to under-expose and your image to be too dark.

Although this will seem counter-intuitive, you may have to increase exposure by up to two stops to match the whiteness that you see with your eyes. When everyone used film, this error was hard to correct once made, but one of the advantages of digital cameras is that it is possible to adjust the exposure when the image has been downloaded to your computer.

However, I still feel that there is a sense of pride in getting it right in camera.

Look for details

The neutral colours of winter can lend themselves to graphic shapes and simple compositions. It is not always about the big picture.

If the sky has very little definition, look around for smaller details - ice patterns and formations, and consider extreme close-ups with a macro lens. Sheep wool on barbed wire, water flowing over pebbles - nature always provides a canvas for us to work with.

Show the weather

Britain is famous for its variable weather, but it can be one of the hardest things to show in a 2D photograph. Catching the movement of trees in the wind or falling flakes of snow enhances the mood of a photograph. To convey the magic of falling snow, find a location that offers a darkish background; it makes the snowflakes look more pronounced. And experiment with shutter speeds.

Contrast is key

Contrasting colours can make a good image. Look for juxtapositions of warm and cool colours; the clear blue of a winter's day against the orange leaves of late autumn or a single leaf against the neutral white of pristine snow.

Convey emotions

To me, a successful photograph should evoke some of the emotions that the photographer felt at the time of creation in those viewing the finished result. It can be helpful to think what emotions you are trying to convey with a specific image (eg cold, calm, bleak, cosy, solitude etc) and ask those viewing your picture for their opinions and see if you get match.

Be patient

It may seem like common sense, but photography can be a waiting game, which in winter can result in frozen fingers and being caught out by early dusk.

Even if you are planning a short trip, you may just be enticed to linger by changing light. Make sure that someone knows where you are going and that you have plenty of warm clothes, a torch and a Thermos of hot tea to hand.

See a selection of the Landscape Photographer of the Year 2015 pictures.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.