I won't lie, I find the winter months quite tricky when it comes to taking photos. The days are shorter, the skies are greyer and lets be honest, none of us really look our best! I've drawn up this list as much as a reminder to myself, as it is a prompt to others. In the past I have shot some great pictures over these colder months and digging them out to review, helps me remember the ideas behind them...
The short days mean this time of year is perfect for light painting. All you need is a tripod, a camera where you can control shutter speed and a source of light. That source of light can be anything from a sparkler, to a torch, LED lights or in the photo above burning wire wool! This picture was taken last year when I spent a great evening with half a dozen friends trying out various light painting techniques in the grounds of a Scottish castle. We set our cameras up for a 30 second exposure and infinite focus and then ran around drawing shapes or lighting up parts of the building. Light painting doesn't need to be complicated though, you can also try it at home by writing your name with a torch in a dark room.
Switch to manual to achieve great snow photos
Snow photos are notoriously hard to get right in auto as the camera will often under-expose in reaction to the large quantity of white it sees. So when the white stuff starts to fall, switch to manual and join your kids in the garden to see if you can get your best photos yet. Children tend to be both happy and occupied when snow is around (err unless they are Theo in the photo above!) so they are less likely to get bored of you fiddling with your camera settings
Begin a photographic collection
If you are bored with photo projects like 365 or 52, how about a photo collection instead? Decide on something you are going to photograph for the next 6 to 12 months and start snapping. Whether it's shoes, cars, road signs or things with stripes on! At the end you can put them all together in a collage style poster and make some unique artwork for your wall. It will also help sharpen your powers of observation.
Play with reflections
Winter means rain and puddles, so use them to your advantage and try out some creative ideas with reflections. Get down as low as you can to shoot and then try reversing the image (like I did with the beach huts in this post) or cut off object fully or partly to just focus on the reflected part. You don't need an SLR either. I took the photo above on my iPhone this morning.
Shoot into the sun
The sun is lower in the sky during the winter months and not as strong as at other times of year, so it's a good time to play around with shooting into it. This effect often works best if you have the sun obscured or partly-obscured by an object, but shooting at it directly can also produce a pleasing hazy look in a photo as above.
Snap festive lights
In the run up to Christmas there are lights everywhere. On shops and houses and draped around the tree in our homes. These lights can produce a lovely effect known as bokeh, an aesthetically pleasing way that the lens renders out of focus points of light. The photo above was taken of the fairy lights on the Christmas tree in our sitting room, but this effect also makes a great backdrop for portraits like in this image.
Try shooting for black and white
Winter is a good time to shoot black and white. Stormy skies and bare tree branches make good subjects for monochrome images and crucially they hide the lack of blue skies and green plants. It may sound like a funny thing to say, but the best black and white photographs always contain both black and white and not just a muddle of grey. To achieve this increase contrast in an image before converting to black and white.
Use shutter speed creatively
Sometimes being trapped indoors when you'd rather be outside taking pictures can inspire creative solutions. I took this picture using a one second exposure spinning around on an office chair in my radio studio (so that's what we do when the record is playing!) The bands of lights you see are the blurred lights on the broadcast console. You can also achieve other great effects by using a long exposure to photograph cars on a road or (if you dare) by throwing your camera up in the air!