10 Tips For Taking Portraits In The Cold and Snow

1. Choose your location before the clients arrive. In the summer it’s nice to walk around, shooting in several places. In the winter, the cold can get to you quickly. Have places picked out ahead of time, and walk your clients there quickly. Keep them bundled in coats or close to the car until the shoot, then move quickly. Avoid the red noses and cheeks if possible.

2. Wear all the snow gear. Your clients will be in a fairly comfortable place. But to get the best shot, you may need to head into a snow bank, lay down on the snow. Make sure you have boots, gloves and a warm hat, and maybe even snow pants to keep you warm and dry.


3. Have your clients dress for the snow too. It may seem silly to remind your clients to dress for the snow. But the last thing you want them to do is show up with a 3 year old in a holiday dress and shoes, crying because she’s freezing. Give them a clothing consultation, and have them dress similarly and appropriately.

4. You don’t need a ton of snow to create a great backdrop. Look for interesting viewpoints – tunnels, pathways or backdrops. Then move your subjects in the scene to complete the image.

5. Use the snow as a prop. Snow can add dimension to your portraits, and can give you a soft glow. Make sure you use a lens hood to prevent the snow from falling onto your lens.

6. Have the family bring along props. If they want an outdoor winter portrait, chances are they like to play in the snow too. Do they have skis, snowshoes or a snowmobile? Incorporate that into the image for something personal to the family.

7. Overexpose your images. With the majority of your background being white, you’ll need to overexpose your images by a stop or two. With digital, you can play around with your settings and see your results before you place your subjects into the image.

8. Have a call list for snow days. Many areas can go weeks without a snow storm, then be hit by several inches of beautiful snow. Create a reserve list, and give them a call early in the morning to head out and shoot. If it’s cloudy and snowy all day, you may be able to get several clients in per day.

9. Price your snow day sessions higher than regular sessions. These are limited editions – they can only take place when it snows. With your reserve list, they will quickly become an in demand item. Take the session fee up front in order to be placed on the reserve list. That will make them more motivated to keep the session.

10. End with photojournalism. After you get your posed images, stage a snowball fight or build a snowman. Capture the family having fun, and you’ll get some dynamite fill-in images that they may like even better than the posed.

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  • Lovelyn

    Thanks for the great tips for using the cold weather for your advantage in outdoor portraits. I just moved to a cold climate from Florida. I don’t think my blood has thickened up enough to take your advice right now, but once it does I’ll start taking some nice snowy portraits.

  • This is great! Thanks. But I did have LOL at the “make sure your clients are dressed for the cold”. Here in Quebec, that is never a danger. 🙂

  • C.T.Daniel

    thanks even we hoped for more technical advice

    realy enjoyed all of your tips

  • I understand – I’ve been to the midwest enough to know the true meaning of cold. Here in Denver we’re spoiled. It never stays super cold long, and you can often have 60 degree days even in the heart of winter. A lot of people here are used to running around with out coats, and they really get cold if they’re outside for more than a few minutes.

  • Another good tip is to bring extra sets of batteries and keep them close to your body heat as possible. Cold batteries act like dead batteries.

  • Great tips! We don’t have much snow here in Florida but we’re going to visit Utah soon and I’m sure it will be chilly.

  • I second the comment about bringing extra batteries. Cold batteries don’t last too long. I would also suggest giving your equipment a little time in the cold to adjust rather than waiting in the warm car for your clients to arrive. Otherwise you’ll be asking your clients to wait while the condensation on your optics evaporates.