Street Photography in the Winter

Don’t fear the weather! We had a great street photography workshop during the first snow (December 2017) of the season in New York City and it was a blast! I shoot all year round and I’m not a big fan of winter. My passion for photography is usually enough for me to override my general dislike of the cold. Below is a list of things that I find are important when shooting in winter.

  1. No matter what the weather is, it’s always important to make certain that you take care of yourself first and foremost. Getting a good night’s sleep and not being hungry when I’m out shooting are at the top of the list for me. If your mind is distracted it’s difficult to be in the moment and quick to respond to what’s going on around you.
  2. Dress appropriately. I look pretty funny dressed in a million layers. It’s my attempt to keep the cold out. I use gloves without fingers for easier access to my camera. I will likely invest in some hand warmers soon as well. You can typically find them in pharmacies and department stores. I always used them when I was working on top of double-decker buses in the winter.
Santacon 2017
Santas in the Snow 1, New York City, 9 December 2017
Fujifilm X-E2 ISO 500 f2 1/160 second
  1. If you plan on shooting for a long period of time, take a break in a warm place like a cafe and if you can get a window seat all the better. Shooting outside from inside can make some nice photos. I’ve had workshops in January and February when we stopped for breaks indoors 3 or 4 times in a 4 hour period before going back out again.
  2. Just as you need to prepare yourself, you need to realize that your camera may not function as usual when it gets really cold. I was once shooting in Montréal in -20 degrees celsius without the windchill factor included. My Nikon D300 froze and I got condensation on the lens and a few really cool photos. Your camera and your batteries will appreciate the occasional break as well. To avoid condensation, don’t keep your camera inside your coat between shots.
  3. If you’re shooting on a bright sunny day with snow you might want to use a neutral density or polarizer filter. The snow even on an overcast day is brighter than it might appear. Also, you might find that you need to overexpose to achieve true white snow. An exposure compensation of +1 may resolve that problem. Take a few test shots first.
  4. If you want to capture the snow flakes you will need to use a shutter speed of at least 125th of a second. Falling snow actually moves faster than it might appear. Again try a few test shots.
  5. In New York City everyone uses an umbrella and they are great for photos!

So I hope that you will enjoy shooting during the winter. And for everyone in the Southern Hemisphere, winter will arrive again in 6 months!

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