Winter outdoor photography can present unique challenges due to the weather conditions and the quality of light during this season.

Here are some tips on camera lighting for winter outdoor photography:

  1. Take advantage of the “golden hour” – this is time of the day just after sunrise and the hour before sunset. remember you have an hour each side as the name suggests as the light changes fast and so does the environment, the mood and the colours. During winter, the sun’s angle is lower, creating softer and warmer light that can add a magical touch to your photos.
  2. Winter light can be diffused and flattering, especially during overcast days. try to make use of the soft light to avoid harsh shadows and create a more even exposure. editing out shine and uneven ‘blow outs” is not fun and often makes the image look over edited and fake.
  3. On cloudy days a reflector is great to take along with you to bounce light back onto your subject. This helps fill in shadows and enhances the general lighting conditions, almost washing the light evenly on your subject.
  4. Keeping an eye and paying attention to your exposure settings is key as winter scenes are often bright due to reflections lakes and water as well as snow on mountains, which will often confuse  the camera’s metering system. To avoid overexposure, use the exposure compensation settings or manual mode to control the exposure levels – take a few shots until the balance meets your expectations.
  5. Snow can cast a blue tint on your photos so keep in mind that the white balance and kelvins will need to be adjusted if the light temperature is incorrect.  Adjust the white balance settings to retain your natural colours.
  6. Do not use the built in flash…. ever, the results are poor all round. If you need additional light, consider using an off- camera speed light or a diffuser to soften the light., they are small and portable and simple to operate.
  7. Winter landscapes can have long shadows due to the sun’s lower angle, so use these shadows creatively to add depth and dimension to composing your photos.
  8. Cold temperatures can drain your camera’s battery quickly, so carry a spare in your bag too avoid disappointment. Also, keep your camera and lenses in a waterproof and insulated breathable bag  to prevent condensation when moving between warm and cold environments.
  9. Always shoot in a RAW format and make sure you have a decent size card in your camera. This is enable you to adjust exposure, white balance, and other settings without losing image quality.
  10. Research the Location: Study the location in advance, especially if you’re not familiar with it. Look for potential vantage points, interesting compositions, and points of interest that could enhance your photographs
  11. Make sure your camera and lenses are clean and in good working condition. Cold weather can drain batteries faster, so carry spares and keep them warm in an inside pocket. Bring lens wipes and a rain/snow cover for your camera to protect it from the elements.

Are Filters the answer for outdoor winter photography

Filters are essential tools for photographers, especially when shooting outdoors. They enhance the image quality, reduce any unwanted glare, help control exposure, and add creative effects to the mood.

Different filters and their advantages

  1. Circular Polariser (CPL) Filter: A CPL filter reduces glare and reflections from non-metallic surfaces, such as water and glass. It also enhances colour saturation and increases contrast, making skies appear bluer and clouds more defined.
  2. Neutral Density (ND) Filter: ND filters reduce the amount of light entering the camera, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds or wider apertures even in bright conditions. This is especially useful for capturing long exposure shots, such as smooth water in rivers or waterfalls.
  3. Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filter: GND filters are half clear and half darkened, with a gradual transition between the two. They help balance the exposure between bright skies and darker foregrounds, preventing blown-out highlights in the sky.
  4. UV Filter: Although primarily used for protection, a UV filter can also help reduce haze and improve image clarity when shooting in bright sunlight. It is recommended to use a high-quality UV filter to avoid any negative impact on image quality.
  5. Warming/Cooling Filters: These filters add warm or cool tones to your images. Warming filters can add a touch of warmth to your photos, ideal for cold winter scenes, while cooling filters are useful for balancing out overly warm colour casts.
  6. Infrared (IR) Filter: IR filters block visible light and allow only infrared light to pass through, producing surreal and ethereal images with unique color rendering.
  7. Soft/Hard Graduated Filters: These filters have a gradient effect that softly or sharply transitions from clear to dark. They can be used to balance exposure and control the brightness of specific areas in the frame.
  8. Close-up/Macro Filters: These filters allow you to focus closer to your subject, enabling macro photography without the need for dedicated macro lenses.
  9. Diffusion/Soft Focus Filter: A diffusion or soft focus filter adds a dreamy, romantic look to your images by reducing sharpness and diffusing light.
  10. Star Filter: A star filter creates a starburst effect around bright light sources, such as streetlights or the sun, adding a creative and dramatic touch to your photos.

When choosing filters, buy the high ones to avoid any loss of image sharpness or unwanted colour shifts. good glass is key. Additionally, consider the filter size compatibility with your lenses or use step-up/step-down rings to fit different lens diameters. The best suggestion is to experiment and see what suits you best from the results you get.


Remember that every location and lighting situation is different, so be adaptable and experiment with different techniques to achieve your desired results. Stay warm and enjoy your photography adventures this winter.