Tips for Taking Photos in Buffalo, NY Winters

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Let’s face it, whether you like it or not, we live in Western New York and those cold, snowy, short Buffalo winter days are here for about 5 months out of the year.
My motto….when life gives you frozen lemons, make some great wintery-photo-lemonade out of them.
It’s not fun to drive in it, it’s annoying bundling up in coats, hats, and boots for almost 6 months out of the year…..but I like to realize what we have and feel fortunate I get to experience it.
So often I will hear from photographers that live in warmer areas that they are so jealous of these magical winter scenes that I post. The most they may experience in a winter is a light dusting…..some have told me they’ve never even seen snow with their own eyes.
So, rather than be bummed about our 4 seasons, I choose to embrace it.
Here are a few simple tips on winter photography.
These may not be the be-all of winter photography rules, but it’s a few thoughts I keep in mind when photographing my winter sessions.

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  1. It’s bright out there!
    You know what it’s like to go out driving on a sunny winter day…..if you don’t bring your sunglasses it’s going to be near impossible to see without squinting & pulling down all of the sun visors. The color white is the ultimate reflector. So, on a bright sunny day there is basically light being bounced all around. And, even on a cloudy day the white snow is bouncing light back up on your subject. If you’re relying on natural light with your photography then this is great! Keep in mind though, that if it’s too bright/sunny…..your poor subjects are going to have a real hard time keeping their eyes open without squinting. One way to combat this is to have the light to the side or behind your subject.

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2. It’s also cold out there….

Do you subjects a favor and work quickly.
My winter sessions typically last no longer than 20 minutes.
So, make a plan of exactly you want to accomplish and make it happen.
Not only is there the obvious that people start getting cold, but the cold leads to shivering which leads to the “I’m trying to look happy and natural but my teeth won’t stop chattering long enough to allow me to smile so I look like I’m in pain instead.”
This also means very red noses or fingertips.

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3. The love-hate relationship with falling snow

Did you notice the perfect falling snow in these photos? These dreamy scenes are what I live for from about December - February. Not too windy….just snowglobe-esque snow.
This is all real snow….nothing has been added in photoshop.
So, what could be so tricky about that?
If you are using auto focus on your camera lens, you may think you’ve had a great session only to head back to your computer to start editing and realize only about 1 out of every 10 images is your subject in focus.
When you let your lens choose what to focus on it will pick up these little falling snowflakes that are between you and your beautiful family and think that is what you would like it focus on….and your family ends up blurry.
So, you could shoot away and hope one comes out in focus.
Or….get focused, then click your lens from auto to manual focus.
But be careful, once your family/subject moves even the tiniest bit forwards or backwards they may now be out of focus.

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4. Be careful where you stand

This may be less of a photography tip and more of a common sense statement…..but, watch where you or your subject stands!
Scroll thru these photos and you will see lots of gorgeous pine trees covered in snow.
If a good gust of wind comes (or even if it doesn’t) a large pile of snow could easily fall off of these branches.
Luckily, this has never happened to me, but I always keep it in mind! Because I’m sure nothing would ruin a winter photo session quicker than being completely covered in snow.

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5. Even your camera is affected by the cold

You might not think about it, but your camera is just as affected by the cold as you are.
I know I suggested being quick when being out in the cold & snow, but your camera’s battery life may be affected and shortened by cold temperatures.
Also, whether you’re using a DSLR or your iPhone, if you quickly go from heat to cold (or vice versa) your lens may fog up! And nothing is more annoying than missing a shot because your view is all cloudy looking.
So, give your camera time to adjust to the new temperature.
And even if you think your camera is weather-proof, I still will wrap my camera in a towel when I’m finished to help soak up any moisture that may have gotten into any crack. Wiping could only push water drops into a spot it shouldn’t go. So, just snuggle up that little camera in a towel for a bit and then take it out and put it in your camera bag/desk/etc. like you normally would.

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I hope you enjoyed these simple winter photography tips and hopefully picked up even a little tidbit of information to help you. Buffalo winters are long, but I try to embrace the beauty and find ways to work with it.
Any questions? Leave a comment!
Got a great tip of your own? Leave a comment!
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