Capturing the Holidays Like a Pro

When it comes to promising yourself you'll have those Christmas cards shipped out two weeks early, we all know sometimes things get in the way and delay that process. So what to do about coming up with quick family photos to combine into a holiday card that will impress friends and family?

Take a few of these winter shot pointers from the New York Institute of Photography as you browse through selected photographer's family holiday photoshoots...
Bundle up before heading outside! As for your camera, its batteries don't react well in cold weather and will reduce their potential output. Make sure to carry a few extras with you in case they die out, or you can rotate them out.

Use your camera's built-in light meter to read the snow's brightness. Compensate for the amount of brightness by opening up one or two stops, or over-exposing. Try to get a gray tone for snow.

Be careful when over-exposing to compensate for the brightness of snow. You have to decide which is more important, the snow or the people. If people are more important, get a reading of the light that hits their face and adjust accordingly to get the right amount of exposure needed. Can't get a close face reading? Use your own hand in the same lighting as your subject- without a glove of course :)

Every photographer knows timing is everything for a great shot, so that means good lighting is key for an awesome shot. The best time of day is early morning or late afternoon, especially when shooting in snow. Keep the sun at a right angle to your shot early or late in the day, and behind you when it is high in the sky.  

Look for objects that add color or contrast to your scene, they can add emotional weight and interesting composition. Shooting an all white field of snow can lead to a boring photo.

The glare of white snow can make it hard to see what you are shooting. Don't have a hood to attach to your lens? No problem, use ducktape to shade the display.

A photograph of snow is often under-exposed possibly with shades of blue, so add some light.

Without side-lighting there are no shadows in snow to cause textures.

There are usually many days that come with gray skies in winter, so use a graduated filter to color the sky while leaving the foreground natural.

Look for contrasting lines and objects that appear when the snow does not completely cover the landscape. Try placing yourself in multiple positions to find the most dynamic photograph.

Winter night photography can be accomplished with help from the moon. The landscape lights up under the moon's light and brings the reflection of the snow.

If it is snowing, use a slow shutter speed to add an interesting effect.

To reduce sky in your photo, position yourself at a higher location and look downward.

The snow reflection often goes up to 40-50% with dirty snow, 80-90% with fresh fallen snow, and an even higher reflection with wet fresh fallen snow.  

If the freshly fallen snow is pure white: spot-meter the pure white area only and there won't be any detail in the snow. Open up 2 stops.

If the snow is side lit with a lot of detail: textured snow is 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 stops lighter. If you open to 2 stops the photo will be too light.

When shooting animals in the snow, the best way to reduce contrast is to use a fill flash.

If you have a lot of sun during the day and the snow is shadowed, it can vary up to 1 stop.

If you have an overcast day, meter the snow and open up 2.5 stops.

It's important to keep your camera out of the cold for many reasons, but do not go from warm to cold consistently. If you do that, condensation will form. Falling snow on a warm camera makes for a big mess, as well as using your breath to blow off bits of snow- just use a glove.

If you need to keep your camera shooting and can't afford to have a few batteries die out from the cold, attach a chemical hand-warming pack to the battery compartment.

If you are planning to drive to another location for different landscape, keep your car moderately warm to cold: prevents condensation from forming before you need to shoot again.

One exhale at the wrong time and the back of your camera (viewfinder) will instantly be in a film of ice and can be very difficult to clear without having to warm the camera. 

I had to thrown in a photo by the coastal fishing pier. Think the girl in the middle is wishing there was some snow...ha 

Keep tripod legs together in the snow. If you push the legs while in the snow you can easily damage them.

Keep chemical hand-warmers in each glove with your hand so you feel more comfortable shooting for long periods of time. They usually last 6-8 hours.

You can wrap your tripod legs with pipe insulation to make it easier for carrying and picking up as they grow colder.

Clear winter days are usually pristine compared to clear summer days, as winter storms temporarily remove pollution particles from the atmosphere. The unstable cooler winter air also provides better visibility than summer's warm layers.

For great sharp photo quality, change your camera settings from low-resolution to the highest image quality option possible.