It’s too easy to find reasons not to keep shooting during the winter months. It’s cold, it’s wet, you’re busy and broke – we get it. We’ve heard ’em all before. But the thing is, winter is one of the best times of year to shoot for creative photographers. Here are some great ideas to kickstart your inspiration.
01 Frost where frost shouldn’t be
We’ve all seen frost-covered flowers, but what about showing the textures and contours of frost on an object completely foreign to that environment? Such as your tea kettle. Or an old throw pillow. Find a common household object (or a group of objects for a photo essay) that might make for interesting subjects and leave them outside overnight. Then photograph them first thing in the morning when the sun is low in the sky. It might not always work with every subject, but then again it might!
02 Gritty still lifes
Still life photography is often a staple of photographers during the cold winter months, but too often we fall into the habit of photographing traditionally ‘pretty’ subjects, like flowers, fruit and vegetables. Why not pay a visit to your garage or shed? These spaces are rich in textures and interesting backdrops that many people spend hours trying to create in Photoshop. From old oil cans to nuts and bolts, the possibilities here are endless.
03 Free movement with flash
Water drop photography is the most common product of this technique, but there are all manner of fun ways to freeze movement with flash. You could throw water balloons at your shower wall, shatter a mug full of egg nog. A simple method is to kill the lights, leave your shutter open and fire the flash manually when you need it.
04 Create model worlds
While creating model worlds isn’t the most original idea on this list, what you do with it is. You can use your child’s Matchbox cars to create an elaborate traffic jam, or make beach scenes on a baking sheet using brown sugar and cocktail umbrellas. You can even incorporate a desk lamp to mimic the sun.
Follow this tutorial to create miniature food landscapes
05 Lure winter wildlife to your garden
Many people don’t realise that winter is one of the best times to interact with wildlife. As food is in scarce supply at this time of year, birds, foxes and squirrels can be tempted to carefully placed feeding stations around your garden. There are plenty of tutorials online for making simple feed tables, and you can use anything from a cheap pop-up tent to your garden shed for a hide.
06 Outdoor portraits
Winter is a fabulous time for outdoor portrait photography because the often overcast light is soft and more flattering to skin tones than the harsh light of summer. What’s more, snow and frost can serve as a natural reflector that bounces light back up on to your subject’s face, eliminating harsh shadows under their eyes.
The urban landscape makes for a fascinating study in winter, thanks to the early onset of dusk and the seasonal lights that mix with the usual artificial lighting. Using a wide aperture and focusing manually (many autofocus systems can struggle at night, particularly with overlapping subjects) you can create the effect – called bokeh – of blurring these lights in the background, which creates wonderful, colourful patterns that frame your subject.
Get lots of bokeh photography ideas on this collection of Pinterest boards.
08 Performance photography
When the weather is just too horrible to go outside, another way of getting great shots is to photograph local theatre and gigs. Most venues will allow you to bring your camera in, and if you ask nicely in advance you might even be able to blag better access up front. You can also approach local bands and theatre groups and offer to give them a few images to use in their promotional material in exchange for complete access.
09 Dramatic seas
By and large, most coastal landscape images you see are quiet and serene affairs, with strong, beautiful colours. This time of year we don’t get as many golden sunsets and pink dawns, but what you can experience with your camera is the sheer power of the sea. Provided you take all the necessary safety precautions (in other words: don’t do anything stupid) visit a favourite coastal location of yours during a storm. Experiment with longer shutter speeds to capture the drama of the heaving swells, or faster shutter speeds to freeze large waves at the moment before they crash.
We probably take more portraits in winter than we do all year, thanks to the slew of parties and family gatherings on offer. But we rarely take our own picture. Set your camera’s self-timer – or get a remote release – and learn what it feels like to be on the other side of your lens. You can experiment with different locations, wardrobes and effects. Some of the best shots happen when you really get out of your comfort zone.
For self-portrait inspiration, check out the work of Mr Flibble on Flickr
So there you have it. Why not give one of these winter photography projects a try! Let us know what you think below.