Street Photography is a genre that is naturally more enjoyable during the warmer days. Now that winter is approaching very quickly, many of us Street Photographers have a hard time accepting that the summer and warmer days are over.
It becomes more difficult for us to go out on the street and just do our thing. The cold makes it unpleasant to spent hours on the street and in general, there are fewer people out there in public.
Life happens mostly indoors and for Street Photographers this can mean that there are not as many interesting stories to grab. During the summer, the streets and parks are filled with people enjoying their lives.
In winter it gets dark very quickly and there aren’t as many opportunities for us. Or at least this is how it feels for most of us.
I felt the same, but have also started to appreciate the winter and don’t believe it is a season that we should disregard. There are a lot of interesting approaches and opportunities that we just have to use in our advantage.
If You are struggling in winter, here are 10 tips on how You can approach the winter season as a Street Photographer.
Using a Flash
I want to start the list with my favorite thing that I can do during the winter. This is using an off-camera flash and wandering through the streets flashing people.
If You are familiar with Bruce Gilden, this is exactly what I am doing as well and I believe that there are many benefits of using an off-camera flash. It lets You control the light exactly how You want it. Add in a long exposure and You are able to create some very moody atmosphere.
When I first started doing this kind of photography I was anxious how people would react. I was still using a flash up-close so it would be natural if people would give me weird looks or reactions. However, I noticed that most people didn’t care and while some were kind of “shocked” in the first moment, there was nothing to fear about.
The great thing in winter is that it becomes dark very quickly. When using the flash, darkness is my friend and therefore I like the winter for giving me the chance of using the flash more easily.
Photograph Christmas Markets
Another thing that is unique during the winter are the Christmas markets. Usually, I am not very fond of the Christmas Markets and the decoration is not really my favorite thing about winter.
Yet, for photography, it opens a lot of great opportunities. Especially when combining the Christmas markets with the off-camera flash, You can catch some pretty outstanding light. During the summer, there are chances to catch some background light like this.
Christmas markets are also a great opportunity to get closer and in general losing Your fear of doing close Street Photography. People tend to be much more relaxed and since there is a huge crowd present You can simply blend in and take pictures from within the crowd.
I would recommend using a small wide-angle camera and lens combination. The RicohGR II, for example, is a great camera for this kind of photography.
On the other hand, the Christmas Market is also a great spot to just enjoy some leisure time. So if You might have a bad day and feel unlucky with Your captures it is time to grab a few Glühwein (Mulled Wine).
Using the natural conditions
We often have the opinion that winter is very limiting for us. The sun doesn’t show that often and most days are very dull. In addition to that, the sun rises very late and it gets dark very early.
Now we could pity ourselves and claim that Street Photography is impossible under these circumstances, or we could do try to make the best out of it. That it gets dark very early is a great chance of using the off-camera flash in a unique setting. During the summer, it is almost impossible to use the off-camera flash in darkness because it requires to shoot at night time where streets are mostly empty.
Not only the flash, but other light sources can be used. In winter and during the darker hours, the atmosphere can be very intense. Especially when there is some snow, You can try to find some street lamps a lot of empty space and wait for a single person to walk in front of Your lens. You might get a picture that has a very strong atmosphere and those images are definitely out of Your reach during summer.
Under the rare circumstance that the sun is shining, it has a very different color than during the summer. The angle is lower most of the time, creating a much smoother light.
So instead of complaining about what You are missing from the summertime, You should appreciate the change during winter and use the new conditions to Your advantage.
Street Photography can be taken literally and that would mean that we have to walk the street up and down to find some great stories. This is a common misunderstanding and Street Photography describes taking pictures in public.
Public space is not only on the street, or even outside, it can also be inside of buildings. When the weather is too harsh and You don’t want to spend more hours than needed outside, You can also find some indoor places that are suitable for Street Photography.
A lot of photographers are going to art galleries and searching for some inspiration while taking at the work of other photographers. I would always recommend You to visit art galleries as well, not only for getting some inspiration out of the visit but also to do some Street Photography Yourself.
Art galleries have a very special light and often an interesting architecture. You can get a little creative there and get some decent shots. Just make sure to not bother the visitors and everything should work out nicely for You.
Other places can include malls or historical buildings. Malls often feature huge open spaces and this can be interesting as well as having a look at different floors. Libraries can also be worth a visit.
So when You are seeking some inspiration, make sure to take Your camera with You and get some interesting images out of Your own visit.
Meet other Photographers
Street Photography can be a lonely fate at times. We are wandering through the streets on our own and I often have the most productive time when I completely independent and on my own.
On the other hand, it can become quite isolated and it is great to meet other photographers that share the same passion. Winter can be a good opportunity to catch up with other photographers and hearing their opinion on Street Photography.
Maybe they have some tips for You, or You want to meet up on the Christmas Market for some photography and then some drinks?
When You aren’t in the mood to go shooting Yourself, wintertime is great to meet other photographers. Go with them to an art gallery, discuss some projects or share some images.
Meeting other people is important to become better and to distract Yourself from the more isolating time.
If You are not a fan of winter, cold days and minimal sunlight, there is also the chance to travel. Now You might think that traveling is very expensive and connected to a lot of preparation and work.
But from my own experience, traveling has become very easy and prices have declined substantially as well. If You are leaving in Europe, there are great destinations in winter that can remind You of summer. Lisbon or Barcelona are just two destinations that You can reach very cheap and quickly.
If You have a look at flights, they might cost less than 50 Euro one-way and good AirBnBs might be available for less than 30 Euro a night. That is a good opportunity for an extended weekend.
You can also combine the Street Photography and meet other photographers. There is an active Street Photography community in nearly every major city, so if You aren’t able to find a travel buddy, You shouldn’t hesitate to just leave on Your own. You will find friends everywhere and have a great time.
Wintertime for me also means to regain some inspiration. Whether I visit an art gallery, meet with photographers or just have a look in my photography books. All of those activities help me to keep my motivation up and I am eager to go out on the street again.
Summer can be exhausting at times for me because there is so much happening. It can be difficult to find some time to just enjoy a good book and when winter arrives, it can be a good opportunity to catch up.
Christmas is also a good time to find some good offers online for some books or to shop around on Your local flea markets. I would also recommend You to go for some books from unknown photographers.
Whenever I am out looking for books, I enjoy being surprised by some unknown photographer. Good photography doesn’t need to be expensive and some of my favorite books have not cost me more than 10 € and my interest in the photographers started to grow.
So don’t shop for names, but have a look at the images and decide which one You want to take a closer look at.
If You have been active during the summer and shooting a lot, there might be thousands of images in Your Lightroom. But did You have the time to go through them all very thoroughly?
Even if You did already have a look at all of them, it is now a good time to review Your images with a little more distance. Now that the images are lying on Your hard-drive for some time, You become detached and are able to have a more objective look at them.
When the year finishes and comes to an end, it is also a good time to review Your progress during the year. Did Your style change, are You content with the quality of pictures that You are producing or do You want to head in a different direction?
After heaving an honest look at Your images, You could set some goals for the next year that You want to achieve. Maybe You want to do more color work, or the overall style should change a bit.
During the winter You have some time to think about Your approach to Street Photography and integrating those changes.
Start a Blog
If You are a passionate photographer, You probably have a lot to share with other people. Your own photography blog can be an outlet of Your ideas, tips, and experience. Ideally, You should start a blog as early as You can and whenever You can find the time to do so.
But often there is simply not enough time to undertake such a project. Especially when You have no idea on how to start a photography blog, there may be a lot of overwhelming things. Although it is quite easy to set up a simple blog, there is still a lot to learn and the technical things can take a long time to learn.
A simple WordPress blog starts with the hosting. The costs are around $5 for a fully functional blog that works very well. WordPress comes usually pre-installed or can be installed in a few clicks. Hosters also have tutorials to assist You, or You can find additional resources by searching for a specific problem.
After that, You have to look for a theme. There are a lot of great themes for photographers out there and I would recommend using a very plain and simple theme that works well and doesn’t make any problems. The cost of a theme can take up to $100 but it is a one-time investment and lays the foundation of Your blog.
After that, it is up to You to fill the blog with content. Start sharing Your experiences and after some time You might attract a following that is interested in Your thoughts.
Prepare for Spring
Winter is also a time where we can prepare for spring and the time when we are out on the street even more. Maybe You have some old cameras that need some polish or You wanted to upgrade Your equipment, then winter is a good time due to the discounts that You can get.
Maybe You also have a certain destination that You wanted to travel to and now it is time to plan it all through. Or is Your goal to host a photo exhibition Yourself?
Then have a look if You have the pictures for that and see what is needed for a show. During the winter, it can be a useful time to prepare and make plans of the future.
This way, You can focus even more during the summer and spend more time taking pictures, when the sun is there and You are more motivated.
By all means, the winter is no time where You should fall into hibernation. There is a lot of useful things that You can do and that will help to become a better Street Photographer and become more content with Your work.