Spotlight: Winter Weddings

With this Spotlight – we wanted to feature the photographers who shoot in it all, sun, rain, wind .. and SNOW. I couldn’t think of a better person to put the spotlight on than on Kim Bednarski Anderson of KB Image Photo of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So grab your cup of coffee, wrap up  in a warm blanket and have seat ..  as Kim gives the best tips on how to photograph weddings in the cold and snow.
Here in Wisconsin the bulk of our weddings are seasonal, happening in the somewhat temperate climate of May-October.  However, each year a handful of hearty souls eschew the flowering trees of May and opt for a winter wedding hoping for snowflakes and mounds of pure white snow  banks to take their wedding photos in.    These are likely the same hearty souls you see sporting a tank top in February at a Green Bay Packers game; the brave, the few…the winter wedding client.
While admittedly there are more challenges to photographing in the snow, the opportunity to do so always delights me.  In the summer, we have hours of golden light to work with on a clear day.  With the late winter sun, the window  of photography time is short but the light produces a beautiful pastel quality you just cannot mimic any other time of year.  Here are ideas to prepare yourself and your clients for a fantastic outdoor photo experience in the colder months:
Things to relay to the bride and groom:
1. They Must be Practical.  While any  photographer wants to  magical pictures if the weather is right, extreme conditions can make it impossible to photograph outdoors.   I make it clear in my consults that I will photograph in any conditions as long as my photographic gear is not compromised. Consider adding in a clause to your contract about the possibility of doing a portrait session of the couple in their wedding finery  on another more temperate day if conditions are not amenable on the wedding day.  They should understand that this may mean  them having to rent a tux again for a day or cleaning the dress for this portrait session but often clients are happy to do so.  I find this simple gesture takes all the worry out of “will we be able to have great outdoor photos “.   In 15 years of photographing weddings, I’ve only had one client take me up on it.
2. Prepare.  Prepare your client with ideas about what to wear.   Fun boots, furs, capes, muffs and other photographically interesting outerwear make great photos.  Many area bridal salons will rent these if they don’t want to purchase them. Have them prepare the bridal party; if you plan on taking them out in the cold for photos, let the bride and groom it’s important for them to relay that to the bridal party prior to the wedding so they  know so they can bring along appropriate footwear. Suggest providing Pashmina shawls for the bridesmaids or  fedoras or other smart looking hats for the groomsmen.  Suggest things like having  warmers and warm beverages available on the transportation used for the bridal party as well so they can get out of the cold and warm up when their photos are done.
3.  Be the Pro and the Wedding Planner too:  Clients often have unrealistic ideas of a timeline and will sometimes insist that their 3PM ceremony will leave “plenty of time for outdoor photos 30 minutes away because our ceremony is only 15 minutes” when you remind them that the sun sets at 4:15PM in January. Take control and let them know that it’s just not possible to make good photographs at that time of day with that tight of a schedule.  They can have the option of doing their ceremony earlier, seeing each other before the ceremony and doing photos then or scheduling a session after the wedding day.  Part of your job is telling clients “it just won’t work photographically” so you do not disappoint them.
For  you the Photographer:
1. Don’t be Foggy.  Remember that  acclimatization of equipment is important when you take cameras out into the cold.  Just like glasses fog up when you go from a cold outdoor location to indoor, so do the elements of your lenses and the inside of your camera causing fogging.  Condensation in your camera can lead to nasty things like fungus growth inside your lenses and electrical shorts.   To combat this, I keep the camera and lenses I shoot outdoors with in my car in a separate camera bag well hidden so they are the same temperature or close to it as the outside temperature.  When driving to a location outdoors to photograph, I don’t turn on the heat in my car…yes, I am that hard core.   Batteries are also a concern as cold weather zaps them quickly, so keep them in a inner coat pocket and insert them just before you begin to shoot.  Have a few on hand and as they wear down, replace them with a fully charged set. Fingerless gloves and hand warmers will save your life.
2.  Take Cover.  If it’s snowing an assistant can hold an umbrella over your head and follow you, or you can use a Ziploc bag wrapped around your camera in a pinch.  My favorite photo accessory for this is the best man.  I hand him an umbrella and tell him to follow me around to keep my gear dry telling him “Well, you’re the BEST MAN for this, right?”
3.  Expose Yourself the Right Way.   Bright skies and snow can fool your cameras meter  and underexpose your images.  Check your histogram often and consider using  a custom white balance as the  light skews blue during the day, switching to ambers and reds towards sunset.   The light falls quickly this time of year often leaving mere minutes in between light and dark and the color balance shifts quickly.
4.  Smile.  Even though you are freezing , smile.  Your clients will sing your praises if you can create images for them that other photographers would shy away from.   Your portfolio will thank you, and so will your checkbook when you are booking weddings during the cold and bleak months.

Kimberley Bednarski Anderson is a wedding  photographer located in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  She is an proud award winning member of  The International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers and The Wedding Photojournalists Association and is the President of the Milwaukee chapter of The National Association of Wedding Professionals.  When she is not photographing weddings she likes to spend time with her two boys, two dogs, two bunny rabbits and one cat and  also likes to make irreverent posts on Facebook.  If you want to be her friend or maybe just tell her how cute her bunnies are you can find her at

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