Malinda’s Top Winter Photography Tips

Malinda Hartong is a local freelance photojournalist with over 20 years of full-time staff and freelance experience, including a daily newspaper – stills and video, news and features for all sorts of publications and purposes. Malinda truly enjoys sharing her experience and love of photography and Photoshop through classes, summer camps and workshops for beginners to aspiring pros. Here are her top five tips for capturing the best winter shots.

Watch the replay of her Facebook Live at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve here.

1. Creature Comforts!

A man wears red mittens, a black coat and a black hat while taking a photo with his camera on a snowy winter day.

If your feet or hands are cold, you’re not making great photos. Dressing for comfort and having appropriate footwear and gloves can make all the difference when it comes to getting the shot. Trust me! Having shot daily news for decades, I still remember days at fire scenes with cold feet and hands. Gloves matter! If you’re using your smartphone, make sure your smart gloves fit well: snug enough to be able to tap, swipe and change settings.

2. Acclimate!

Birds can barely be made out flying over a pond on a foggy winter morning.

Your camera will need time when changing temperatures to avoid fogging, both inside – which can damage your gear/lens – and outside – viewfinder and front lens element can fog up, making it almost impossible to see and shoot. Allow your camera to adjust gradually; plan on keeping it in your camera bag for a while, both when going from inside to outside, and outside to inside. Condensation is not your friend.

3. Timing & Outsmarting Your Camera! 

The sun sets over a lake, making the sky a vibrant blue. The clouds vary in color from light pink to orange and yellow.

Winter skies can be exceedingly gray and dreary, especially in southwest Ohio. Time of day and weather make a huge difference! Fog makes for an amazing mood in your photos, but it can be darn near impossible for your camera to autofocus due to lack of contrast. You may have better luck switching the autofocus (AF) to manual (M) on your lens and adjusting the focus yourself. Sunrise and sunset, and then immediately after sunset can be the best times of day for great photographs. Just after sunset, the sky still has some light – and turns the snow and landscape a beautiful shade of deep blue.

4. Details, Details!

A woman bends down with her camera, getting the best angle for a photo of a plant.

Look closer. Sometimes the best images are hiding in plain sight – you just need to slow down and look closer for things like spider webs in frozen fog, ice, frost and snowflakes. There are apps for smartphones with Macro settings. My personal favorite for iPhone is Camera+ 2. Or you can get clip-on lens adapters that allow you to focus very close. Texture and details can make for interesting subjects. I enjoy editing these images too, especially with a free universal mobile app like Snapseed. I enjoy increasing texture in the Details tool with Structure.

5. Get Wild!

A bright red male northern cardinal sits on a tree branch, looking directly at the camera.

Wildlife in winter can be fun to spot and capture. I’m often on the lookout for birds of all kinds, like this cardinal captured on one of our Great Parks Photo Walks at Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve. A telephoto lens of at least 300 mm on the long end should work fine for most park wildlife and still be affordable for your camera system. Patience, persistence and respect are three of the keys to getting great wildlife photos. When I’m shooting, it can take dozens of photos to capture that one where the bird’s eye has a catchlight, plus great expression, clean background and sharp focus.

I hope these tips help you capture wonderful winter photography! If you would like more hands-on instruction, join us for Great Parks Photo Walks, free with your Great Parks vehicle permit. You can register here. If you have any questions on photography, look me up online at HartongDigitalMedia or HartongDigital on Instagram.

Keep Shooting!

All photos provided by Malinda Hartong.