One of the classic Christmas winter scenes, a marvelous landscape full of snow and warm lights catches the eye of every photographer. But when it comes to capturing this beauty on camera, the charm disappears – and viewers evaluate the Christmas scenes as boring and unengaging. But what if they were awesome? How can you bring this magic back? Here’s a guide to capturing incredible winter scenes and preserving their attractiveness in your photos.
Step 1. Prepare to shoot winter scenes
Cold temperatures, an inevitable part of outdoor Christmas scenes, call for appropriate preparation. Special gear and a clear understanding of how to use it will be helpful.
Use these tips for capturing outstanding winter scenes:
- Be warm. Though somewhat unrelated to photography, a warm outfit significantly improves the outcome when shooting winter scenes. The clothes you choose should be both warm and waterproof, since snowflakes in Christmas winter scenes tend to melt on your body. And don’t forget to take a hat and a pair of gloves! Consider buying gloves specially designed for photography that are made of fabric that’s both thin and thermally insulated, allowing you to control your camera. Also, wear warm high-quality boots so you can easily reach the highest and slipperiest landscapes to find those beautiful Christmas scenes. But don’t overdress – your clothes should be comfortable and not overheat your body.
- Buy a telephoto lens. Getting a lens with a focal length of 70mm or more is really useful while dealing with Christmas snow scenes. No more comments – just try it and you’ll see.
- Consider taking a snow cover for your camera. With a high-quality snow cover, not just the telephoto lens but also your camera will be protected. This way you can avoid a routine for winter photographers in which melted snow destroys some important functionality.
- Charge the battery. Don’t miss all the marvelous Christmas show scenes because of a dead battery! To save it, carry your camera in a bag when outdoors. Moreover, gradually move it from the coolest place to the warmth place when you bring it back home. Finally, take extra batteries and keep them in an inner pocket and as close to your body as possible.
- Avoid fogging on the lens. Besides the battery, be attentive to the camera’s lens when shooting winter scenes. You definitely need to keep your lens covered. And don’t be in a rush during an extreme change of temperature, such as when you first step outside.
- Use the beauty of sunrises and sunsets in your winter scenes. Choose the time of your photoshoots wisely – soft sunlight turns even boring landscapes into beautiful Christmas scenes.
Step 2. Search for the snow in Christmas winter scenes
What’s winter without snow? The same question applies to a classy Christmas scene.
You’ll need special skills to showcase bright and clean snow while shooting outdoor Christmas scenes. Specifically, you should learn how to overcome two basic problems: underexposure and color tint.
Here are some useful tips for capturing Christmas snow scenes:
- Use exposure compensation. Exposure compensation is a basic tool to average the light in Christmas snowing scenes. Typical settings are +3, +7, +1.0, and higher so the light can reach the image sensors. Trial images with overexposure should be fixed by choosing -3, -7, -10, and lower.
- Adjust the white balance. Christmas snow scenes can be tricky because of a bluish tint that can appear on a dark winter day without sunlight. To neutralize its negative effect, try adjusting the white balance on your camera to cloudy or overcast.
- Choose the proper shutter speed. To create lovely Christmas snowing scenes, try using a shutter speed of 1/250 or faster. If you do, you’ll see the trace of the falling snow. However, 1/60 can also work well, blurring the snowflakes.
- Decide on the type of lens. Different lenses work differently in Christmas snowing scenes. For example, a longer lens enables you to see more snowflakes in the foreground and the background. A wide-angle lens is perfect for extended Christmas scenes. In terms of aperture, a smaller f-stop will put more snowflakes in focus. But be careful about the correct combination of exposure and shutter speed for the better effect. To capture falling snowflakes, use a 200mm lens combined with a shallow aperture (f/4.5–6.3) and the fastest shutter speed available (something like 1/400).
- Shoot winter scenes in RAW. RAW format provides you with much greater freedom to fix mistakes during post-production. However, you’ll need to keep larger memory cards handy and avoid the temptation to delete shoots of Christmas scenes in the field. Once you look at them on a large screen, seemingly hopeless winter scenes can be processed in a high-quality photo editor (click the button below) and turned into masterpieces!
Step 3. Consider using a tripod (especially for Christmas snow scenes)
The magic of Christmas photography lies in creating a sharp contrast between outdoor cold and darkness and indoor warmth and light. A long exposure is needed if you want to capture really beautiful Christmas scenes.
This will work best with a tripod, as it will eliminate unnecessary noise. Besides, if combined with a slow shutter speed, a tripod enables a streaking effect in your images. To use a tripod wisely, work in manual mode, put the ISO to 100, and adjust the aperture to something around f/8 or f/16.
At the same time, a tripod is useful even if you only want to capture some chilly winter scenes. If you’re in a bright place (like an amusement park), the illumination will be strong enough that you can leave the tripod at home. In other words, pay attention to the circumstances.
Step 4. Include lights (an essential part of Christmas scenes)
As guides on winter photography recommend, you should search for something more than just snow in the chilly scenes of winter. For example, lights are powerful enough to turn basic winter scenes into magical Christmas scenes.
When it comes to capturing Christmas lights, the ability to create a sharp contrast between the dark background and bright light is a necessary skill. At the same time, a dark blue sky in the early evening is also among the most beautiful Christmas scenes. So use the magic of this hour in combination with focusing on lights.
Technically, making a good shot of this type is easier with the proper exposure. Here are some tips on how to adjust this setting when capturing Christmas winter scenes:
- Frame before focusing. To gauge the right exposure, zoom your camera into the brightest areas of winter scenes. Then choose something between +2/3 and +1 2/3 EV and the resulting images will be balanced, representing all the objects in the Christmas scenes.
- Use light meter reading. This is helpful in bringing more brightness to all the midtones in Christmas snow scenes and those containing lights. While using a light meter, don’t hesitate to set the exposure compensation to a negative setting (like -1/3 EV) so the lights will look attractive.
- Check the histogram. The histogram is useful for seeing the problems with exposure not commonly seen on a small LCD screen. However, learn to apply it wisely while shooting winter scenes. If the histogram shows a hump in the middle, that’s a sign to add positive compensation for brightness. If there’s a hump on the right-hand edge of the graph, just apply some negative compensation.
Step 5. Be creative in bringing uniqueness into beautiful Christmas scenes
Once you have all the necessary knowledge of camera settings and equipment, space opens for creativity. At this stage, your talent as a photographer comes to the stage. Though there’s no single recipe here, check out these ideas to reveal your unique approach to shooting winter scenes:
- Apply a white vignette. This will help you attract the viewer’s attention to the center of the image. In the case of winter photography, a white vignette looks natural and appealing.
- Use maximum contrast and saturation. While capturing Christmas snowing scenes, you can easily find yourself in the middle of a snowstorm. To increase the sharpness of falling snow in your images, try adjusting contrast and saturation. This can work even better than professional Photoshop plugins!
- Use the advantages of night mode. In terms of basic camera settings while working with Christmas winter scenes, experimenting with night mode is a good start. It will bring an interesting effect to your photos and is artistic while being easy!
- Experiment with frames. To add a nice effect to winter scenes images, use frames. At the same time, be aware of the harmony and the need to save the focus of the image. Winter photographs look better with white frames than pink ones, for sure.
Step 6. Use photo editors to deal with difficulties in Christmas scenes
Even if you follow all of these recommendations, your winter scenes may still contain many problems that can’t be addressed when you’re capturing the photos. To deal with them, don’t hesitate to use photo editors.
For example, if you have an image of a model with a red nose, consider using a saturation adjustment tool. Specifically, move the red saturation to around -10 and the orange saturation to around -5 in Photoshop. As a result, the red nose will be muted and the model will look more attractive.
Another useful measure is to balance the white-and-grey atmosphere that commonly accompanies winter scenes. To work on it, increase the black point in the image during post-production. Consequently, you’ll see more accurate details and sharper saturation in your images. Additionally, you can erase any haze from them.
Finally, photo editors include color editor that can change the mood of an image. For Christmas scenes, the effect is truly encouraging: with special photo presents available in photo editing software, you can easily change the atmosphere in an image from dark to hopeful, mysterious, or warm. You can make both dramatic changes and slight adjustments to your winter photos, so don’t stop yourself and start practicing!
Combining simplicity in use and Photoshop-like functionality, Luminar is the best choice at the post-production stage for Christmas scenes. Just download it and enjoy editing your winter photos with Luminar!