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  • Jenny and Joe Mackey

10 tips for shooting in the winter/snow

Updated: May 6

engaged couple kissing in front of the grand tetons

Winter Photo Sessions Tips

Winter sessions are fast becoming one of our favorite times to shoot! For those of you that have visited the Jackson Hole area during this time of year, you already know why. There’s just something about those beautiful snow capped Grand Tetons against the bluest skies that is hard to beat when it comes to scenery. You’re probably thinking, ‘Hey we should do our session in the winter/snow when we visit Jackson Hole.’ You won’t get any arguments from us but there are definitely some things to consider before jumping right in. The main thing, it can be cold. No I’m talking like below zero, wind blowing, nostril hairs freezing cold, and tear drops freezing on your cheek cold. For a lot of the couples and families we work with during this time of year, they are visiting for the first time or they’re seasoned visitors but may not have taken photos outside in Jackson during the winter. On top of being your photographer, we very much become coaches/cheerleaders during winter portrait sessions. This is because one of the biggest challenges during winter engagements and family sessions is mental. Mentally dealing with the bitter cold when it starts dropping into the single digits and you’re trying to smile, relax your shoulders, and stay composed while wearing a short dress that the wind is constantly trying to blow up. Did we mention the wind chill is negative 15? The beauty is the curse. The snowy landscape painted in white that you came for is also painfully cold, even for us and we’re typically wearing 4-5 layers. Keeping all of this in mind, we realize you’re still going to want beautiful photos, so we have developed a list of 10 helpful tips for your winter/snow portrait session to make sure you stay warmer and look your best!

1) Decide on outfit style

For winter sessions you generally have two options. 1) Bundle up in cute winter outfits or 2) dress normal and then throw a coat on in between shots. Both can be great options. Obviously just making the decision to dress normal gives you more options, but you are going to feel that cold instantly. Going with the more bundled up look can also be cute, but the big benefit is you can generally last a little longer in the cold. A lot of our couples will do one dressy look and one more bundled up.

2) Shoot in 5-10 minute intervals

Probably our favorite tip for having your portrait session in the winter, keep your shooting time to around 5-10 minute intervals instead of shooting straight through. For one, this can help prevent frostbite (if it’s cold enough), but we find most people max out in these extremely cold temperatures around then. After that some people just can’t stop shivering. Not to mention the look of discomfort. Take a break after 5-10 minutes, your photos will thank you. Just make sure to warm up in between intervals.

bride being swept off her feet by the groom

3) Keep your car running

Speaking of staying warm in between, we can’t recommend this tip enough! Keep your car running with the heat on full blast. Having a warm refuge to hideaway for a few minutes can make all the difference in the world when shooting in these conditions.

4) Bring hand warmers and gloves

Bring your hand warmers and make sure to open them up and shake them once you start driving towards your session location. If you do it about 45-60 minutes before you arrive, by the time you get there, they should be nice in toasty. Keep them in your pocket if you can (meaning they aren’t too noticeable) and this way you can keep your hands warm in between shots). If you’re doing a cute winter outfit, you can also wear gloves as a part of your outfit.

couple smiling at each other in front of the grand tetons

5) Know whether its soft snow vs hard snow

It’s a good idea to know, whether the snow in the area you’ll be shooting is soft or hard snow. Hard snow is a lot easier to move on, generally you won’t sink down in it too much, so less risk of getting wet, and hard snow can give you a few more options to shoot in the immediate area since it’s easier to move around. Trudging through soft snow can be quite exhausting, and depending on your outfit, this could make it even colder. Lastly, for those of you that have walked through soft snow before, it’s not just ankle high snow we’re talking about. We’re talking waist deep and higher in some spots.

married couple laughing together as they fall in the snow

6) Use snow shoes if you’re planning on hiking in somewhere

If you were planning on hiking into an area odds are you’re going to hit some soft snow along the way. Having snowshoes can make the process of getting through this much quicker, and also easier.

7) Multi outfit consideration

If you’re doing like a lot of couples and bringing two outfits, first off awesome! But one tip we recommend is going with your dressier outfit first and then a more bundled up casual look next. By starting this way, you’ll move from colder to warmer. We find people struggle more mentally when they go from warmer to colder as you tend to get progressively colder throughout the session no matter what you’re wearing.

8) Wear your thick socks

If you’re wearing boots, whether as a part of a cute winter outfit or hiding them under a cute dress, do yourself a favor and also wear thick socks. They have socks specific to winter trekking and the level of insulation is night & day when it comes to keeping your feet warm. It never fails every now and then I will lose my pair of thick socks and I go almost an entire session with numb toes.

9) Wear color

With the landscape often times whited out by all of the snow, wearing a bold color can help you pop from the background. Going too light and you’ll just blend right in, especially if you’re choosing white. Even just adding a scarf, shaw, or blanket can help tremendously!

bride's veil floating as her groom holds her close

10) Mini sessions vs full

Our last tip for winter shooting is to opt for more of a mini session during the cold months. We usually recommend 30 minutes vs our usual 1 hour to 2 hour options. What we’ve found over the years is even when booking full hour sessions during the winter, most couples and families typically only last around a half hour anyway, so it’s just a good recommendation based on experience.

engaged couple looking at each other in front of the antler arch in Jackson hole

We can’t promise all of these tips will keep your perfectly warm, but we can promise they will keep you warmer longer so you can last a few more minutes for your session, and get a few more awesome pictures! We hope these tips help you for your next winter session!

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