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How to shoot amazing winter landscapes – Part 4: Get creative

(Image credit: Gettyimages)

Now we've covered the basics of kit, settings and exposure, let's look at ways to liven up your winter scenes with some more creative approaches.

Light is everything to the outdoor photographer, and in winter, the sun is fairly close to the horizon all day. A lower sun angle sun means dramatic light and shadows, so why not try including the sun in the frame, either directly shining for sunbursts or peeking behind snow-covered trees?

Winter landscapes can be inherently un-colorful, so don’t be afraid to shoot in black and white and focus on tones and textures in the image instead.

Best cameras for landscapes
Best lenses for landscapes

1. Feature ice patterns

Cracks and bubbles in ice make for dramatic elements in a scene, especially when they’re used as leading lines. Here, the ice fills two thirds of the frame, and its scale is shown by the tiny car in comparison, driving across the distant horizon. 

For a shot like this, use a wide-angle lens and position your camera on a tripod very close to the ground, looking across the ice.

(Image credit: Gettyimages)

2. Enjoy subdued colours

Winter is generally a time of calm and quiet, and pastel hues relay that feeling. A cold and frosty sunrise is the perfect time to freeze pastel clouds in their tracks, so head out early for the best light. 

With a tripod, you could also use long exposures to blur the movement of clouds across the frame. During editing, don’t spoil a tranquil scene by adding too much Vibrancy.

(Image credit: Gettyimages)

3. Go wider with a panoramic frame

This pristine pano scene was shot in South Korea by pro Nathaniel Merz. “Daedunsan looks particularly beautiful covered in just the right amount of frost and snow,” he says. “I  was lucky to catch it without footprints.” 

At first, Nathaniel was greeted by white-out conditions, but he waited for the fog to lift enough that the warm morning light could pour in and illuminate the tree. He used a 16-35mm lens for its wide view.

(Image credit: Nathaniel Merz/The Epson International Pano Awards)

4. Create a snow globe effect

Try shooting urban landscapes as well as rural ones. This aerial view of a Canadian residential area presents a winter wonderland feel, and it was shot at twilight on a snowy day in December. 

The golden lights provide extra atmosphere, and the photographer added a bit of tilt-shift magic to finish off the snow globe effect. If you don’t own a tilt-shift lens, you could apply a tilt-shift blur in Photoshop. 

To keep your shot sharp, mount the camera on a tripod and point the lens down. If you’re shooting handheld, set a high ISO like 1,600.

(Image credit: Gettyimages)

5. Stay after sunset

Twilight light can be ethereal as it casts a soft light across a winter landscape – especially near mountains. Shoot on clear nights, when even small amounts of ambient light reveal textures in ice and rocks. 

It will be much colder at night, so be prepared with even more layers. For longer exposures, use higher ISOs and a sturdy tripod. 

(Image credit: Gettyimages)

Read more: 

Landscape photography tips
Best camera for landscapes
Best lenses for landscapes

Lauren Scott

Lauren is the editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 


An experienced photography journalist, she has served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera magazine. When taking photos in her spare time, Lauren can usually be found romping around the countryside or visiting the coast.