Top 5 Tips for Photographing Winter Weddings

Marianne Stenger
18th November 2019

Winter weddings are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and it’s not hard to see why. For one thing, tying the knot in the wintertime usually means lower venue prices, but other reasons include the lack of expectations surrounding weather conditions or wanting a wedding to coincide with a special occasion such as an anniversary or Christmas.

Aesthetically, winter weddings are all about the atmosphere, and the combination of twinkling fairy lights, cosy interiors, and the frozen wintery backdrop can make for some wonderfully romantic wedding photographs.

Of course, the shorter days and inclement weather can also make winter weddings a challenge to photograph, so here are some tips for getting started with winter wedding photography.

1. Plan ahead

Because there are fewer hours of daylight during the winter months, it’s important to know when each important event will be happening and where, so you can think about how you can best capture each scene. 

For instance, if you’re hoping to shoot the couple and group portraits outdoors, you’ll need to set aside an adequate amount time around midday when there will still be plenty of natural light available. Of course, you can take these portraits later on too, but bear in mind that they will likely be a lot darker and moodier. Although this isn’t a bad thing, it is something you should discuss with the couple beforehand so you can manage their expectations. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that flash photography can be too intrusive during a wedding ceremony, so if the ceremony being held in a dimly lit church, you’ll need to have access to fast lenses as well as a sturdy but lightweight tripod.

2. Keep your subjects’ comfort in mind

If you plan on shooting the couple and group portraits outside, it’s important to keep your subjects’ comfort in mind and watch out for things like red noses and watery eyes that might be difficult to edit out later. Try to work quickly as quickly as possible and plan frequent breaks so your subjects can warm up between shots.

You may also want to consider using props like umbrellas, winter boots, scarves, shawls and faux fur coats to keep the bride and groom cosy and warm throughout the photo shoot, while also adding a creative twist.

It’s also a good idea to have a backup plan and location for these photos in case of rain or extreme winds. Try to scout out the venue ahead of time so you can identify a few locations that would suit different types of weather. For instance, is there a gazebo on the grounds that could provide shelter as well as a scenic background? Or maybe there’s a large doorway, picture window or staircase that could serve as a lovely background for the portraits?

3. Protect your gear

Extreme temperature changes from warm to cold or cold to warm can cause condensation to collect on your lens and camera body. Aside from fogging up your lens and making it difficult to take photos, condensation can damage some of the electronics inside your camera.

With this in mind, it’s best to leave your gear inside the bag for 15 minutes or more when moving outdoors from indoors or vice versa, depending on how extreme the temperature change is. This allows it to get used to the temperature change gradually and prevents too much condensation from building up.

If you have two camera bodies and multiple lenses available to you, it can also be a good idea to keep one camera for indoor use and the other for outdoor use. This way, you won’t have to wait for your camera and lens to acclimatise each time you move from one situation to another. 

Batteries also lose charge a lot faster in cold weather, so make sure you bring spare batteries and try to carry them in a pocket close to your body to prevent them from getting too cold while photographing outdoors.

4. Master your off-camera flash and low-light photography skills 

Photographing a spring or summer wedding in pleasant weather and natural light is one thing, but winter weddings require a whole different skill set. Since photographing a winter wedding means you’ll often either be shooting in low light or in the dark, it’s important to master your off-camera flash and low-light photography skills.

You need to look at every aspect of the wedding and have a plan for how you are going to light the scene and capture it on camera. For instance, if you’re going to be taking portraits after nightfall, what equipment will you need if there isn’t sufficient ambient light? How will you capture sharp action shots of people dancing and enjoying themselves at the wedding reception? Are you comfortable using things like speedlights and wireless flash triggers? 

5. Incorporate colour for contrast

Winter landscapes have a tendency to appear a little drab and grey in photographs, so it can sometimes be nice to look for a way to incorporate some colour to add contrast to the wedding portraits. You can usually find little splashes of colour in your natural surroundings, whether it’s a row of evergreen trees, a sprig of holly, or even a clear blue sky. 

Even if your surroundings aren’t very colourful and the bride and groom are dressed in traditional white and black, there are always other things you can do to add a bit of colour. For example, you might be able to highlight a vibrantly coloured bridal bouquet or add in some other colours in the form of a scarf, wrap or jacket, or even some deep red lipstick. 

If you can time it right and the weather allows, getting in a few golden hour shots is also a great way to add a touch of colour. Of course, you should always discuss your ideas with the couple both before and during the photo shoot to ensure you will be able to deliver the style of photos they’ve been envisioning.

Looking for more winter wedding tips and ideas? Or maybe you’re already in the process of planning your personalised wedding album? Be sure to check out this piece for advice on planning and photographing a winter wedding, or read our interview with professional photographer Lisa Devlin who shares her tips for designing incredible wedding photo books.