5 Tips For Bright, Neutral Winter Photos
The biggest struggle for bloggers during the winter months is definitely getting bright, airy photos that are neutral in tone. Cloudy winter weather means dull lighting and blue-ish photos, plus the daytime is shorter so there's even less time to get good photos than normal. Over the years (and after a lot of trial and error), I've learned a few tricks that really help to achieve the same airy look I get during the summer months without making the photos appear washed out or distorted.
Play With Curves
The best way I've found to improve the overall lighting of my photos is by playing around with the curve levels. There are four different ones you can mess with - Highlights, Lights, Darks, and Shadows. When I'm editing my photos, I first increase the Darks level a bit (this helps lighten any dark shadowy areas), and then I play around with the Lights and Highlights levels to brighten everything up. The key is to not add too much light or your photos could end up looking washed out, but it's really up to each person's personal preference and style.
Plan Your Shoots
Since good daylight is so rare during the winter, it's definitely smart to plan on taking photos when it sunniest and to bulk shoot. I'm always checking the weather to see when our next sunny or partly cloudy day will be, then I plan on taking photos for as many future posts as possible (usually the next 5-7 posts). This allows me to get photos with the best natural light available, plus I really enjoy spending the evening editing all of my photos at once and prepping them for posts. Another quick tip - try to always take your photos when there's the most light available. Early morning (once the sun has risen) to mid-afternoon is when I find the lighting to be best.
Adjust Color Levels
One thing I absolutely hate is when the temperature of my photos is too blue or too yellow. It annoys me to no end, and I've actually spent hours editing photos before, trying to get them look just right. I'm a huge fan of clean, neutral lighting when it comes to photography. I like my whites to be bright and crisp, and I don't want any colors in the photo to be distorted by unbalanced temperatures. During winter, the darker lighting caused by heavy grey clouds tends to cast a blue tone on my photos, and for awhile I had no clue how to get rid of it. Finally one day I discovered the H/S/L levels, and my photos have never been the same since. I mostly adjust the Saturation levels, lowering the blue almost completely and then adjusting the purple and aqua if necessary. This is a super easy way to remove and blue tones from your photos without overcompensating and making your picture too yellow.
Prep Your Camera
Something super important to do before taking your photos is to prep your camera for whatever lighting you're working with. I always make sure to use natural light because it gives that airy glow that I absolutely love for my photos. Depending on what kind of natural light I have for the day, I'll adjust my camera settings accordingly - 800-1600 ISO on darker days, 200-400 for bright, sunny weather. I always keep my f-stop around a 2 so that I get a nice blurry background and the subject of my photos is crisp and in focus.
Choose Backgrounds Wisely
Lastly, I think a huge thing that can help make or break a good winter photo is what background you're using. Colored backgrounds, especially blue, pink, and green, are so much harder to shoot on because they tend to change the temperature of your photo and you might notice a weird pink tone to the shot. Instead, opt for neutral colors and backgrounds that have a little texture to them. Things like blankets, scarves, faux fur, and fabric swatches photograph so easily, and give the photo a softer, more even look.
Do you have any tips for better winter photos?
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