White balance

Melissa Erickson

What could be prettier than a blanket of snow and a beautiful bride? Winter wedding photos present a romantic range of possibilities, but be prepared. Jack Frost can ice things down by adding challenges to your photo shoot.

Shooting in the snow “can create magical shots,” said Tom Cavalieri, a student advisor at the New York Institute of Photography in New York City. “Snow is pretty, but it can be a big, boring field of white.”

“Shooting in winter has it’s own set of challenges,” agrees Steve Chesler of Chesler Photography of Canandaigua, N.Y. If you can work around these challenges, you’ll be rewarded “with more unique shots” than a traditional summer wedding.


Starting with the basics, the first thing to consider is the temperature. “The batteries in your digital camera don’t react well to the cold. It reduces their output,” Cavalieri said. “Keep an extra set of batteries in an inside pocket to keep them warm. You may have to rotate the batteries several times,” Chesler said. To keep the camera warm, Cavalieri suggests carrying it under your coat.

Winter whiteout

“All that shiny white stuff presents all kinds of problems to the digital photographer,” Cavalieri said. To avoid the snow appearing gray, the photographer needs to let in more light by overexposing by plus 1 or plus 2. “Don’t be afraid to play with the settings. Try a shot, take a look at it, adjust the settings and shoot again. That’s the beautiful thing about digital cameras,” Cavalieri said.

“In all that white it can be tricky for the bride not to fade into the background. You want to add contrast,” Cavalieri said. Put her with the groom or wedding party. When she’s by herself, position her next to something darker and visually interesting.

Time it right

Every good photographer knows that good lighting is key to taking great photos, Cavalieri said. He refers to “the golden hour,” sunrise or sunset, when the color of light is golden and adds warmth. While early in the morning may be hard to pull off, late afternoon photos will often fit into the wedding schedule. The light at other times of day can make the snow appear bluish.

Another key is to always be aware where the sun is. “Position the bride so that the sun is coming toward her at a 45 degree angle, rather than directly at her so she’s not squinting. Keep the sun at a right angle to your shot early or late in the day and behind you when it’s high in the sky.”

Be creative

“Experiment with different angles, light sources and lens selection to help set your photos apart from the crowd. Think out of the box,” Chesler said.

While a broad horizon of glistening snow is an appealing shot, but don’t fall for it. Create interest with shades by shooting late in the day when the sun casts long shadows, Cavalieri said. Add contrast by composing the shot around something colorful or dark and textured. And keep moving to get the best shot.