How to photograph frost

By Geoff Harris

crocus with frost

Winter is not many people’s favourite season, but even so, it does have some advantages for an outdoor photographer. The light is low throughout the day, which is great for texture and shape in landscape photography. And if you like the idea of photographing at dawn but don’t like getting up early, then winter is perfect, as the sun rises at a much more civilised hour than it does in the summer!

One of the other great things that winter provides is frost. It’s worth keeping an eye on the weather forecast, so that if a frosty morning looks likely, you can be prepared and ready to get out there quickly before it all disappears.

rosebud with frost

So what should you take with you? A zoom lens or two with a wide range of focal lengths will mean you can capture anything from wide frosty landscapes, to distant details such as frosty leaves high on a tree. If you have a macro lens, then pack that too, as you’ll be able to look for lots of lovely frosty details. Even the most mundane subject can look totally different when it’s sparkling with ice.

A tripod will help you to ensure pinpoint focusing, and also to carefully evaluate your composition before pressing the shutter release. And a lens hood will help to protect your lens from flare if you’re photographing towards the sun.

Battery life is shorter in cold weather, so make sure you have at least one spare battery with you. Keeping the spare battery in an inside pocket means that the warmth of your body will help it last a little bit longer.

spiders web with frost

If there is a lot of frost, especially in sunlight, it may confuse your camera’s meter, so check the histogram regularly, and if necessary you may need to bracket half a stop or a stop over the camera’s suggested exposure.

It’s best to use natural light, and avoid flash. If the light is coming strongly from one side of your subject, you can use a reflector on the other side to bounce some light back in.

Unless it’s an unusually cold day, the frost won’t last long – so make the most of it while you can!

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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