I have wrapped up my winter project, my quest to prove that outdoor photography sessions in the dead of winter in New England can be done AND produce beautiful images. I photographed 6 dogs beginning in December and ended my quest in February. Here is what I encountered.
Winter temperatures are definitely not for the faint of heart. It was cold, especially since I only shoot early morning and early evenings. It is important that the humans are dressed appropriately, layers, boots, and pocket warmers are amazing! Obviously I drew a line in terms of how cold the temps were and still hold sessions as there was no point in putting anyone in harms way for a photo. So I did my best to ensure temps hovered around 30 degrees or higher. If it was too cold, the session would be rescheduled. But all the models and their owners seemed quite happy to be outdoors and no one had any issues with the cold, especially the dogs. However, I would not recommend dogs who are not built for the cold to do a winter session. All the dogs I worked with included, Boarder Collie, Australian Sheppard, Retrievers and Husky. These dogs are built for cold weather, I would not recommend dogs with thin coats to book a winter session, unless it's unseasonably warm.
Weather is a bit tricky in the winter months. Aside from the temperatures, no matter how closely I watched the weather forecast, the weather had a mind of its own. I was caught in a couple of rain spells while shooting. My gear doesn't like rain and most dogs once wet, look wet in photos. I do have covers for my gear in the event I get stuck in the rain, but it doesn't make for a fun outing. Luckily they were brief and light rain spells.
Sun was also a bit scarce. Although I was not too unhappy about that. Clouds provide very even lighting and I didn't have to worry about harsh shadows or blown highlights from the sun during most sessions. But I was able to capture a few golden moments. Ultimately my style of work doesn't require a lot of sun, since most of my work is in wooded areas. But the weather at least this year wasn't that bad there wasn't a need to reschedule due to snow or rain.
Another area specific to the winter months were the short days. This was a challenge in terms of the later half of the day. Because it gets dark at 4pm-5pm, most people have jobs and those times are not doable unless its on the weekend. The morning was actually nice, because it doesn't get light until about 8am and that meant no one had to get up at 4am for a session. So definitely some pros and cons depending on how you look at it.
So are winter sessions a good idea? I think yes. Is it for everybody? Maybe not. I would not recommend having sessions for dogs that are not naturally equipped to handle cold temperatures. As the dog will be uncomfortable and that will show in the images. Plus exposure to the cold is never good for long periods especially if their coats are not insulated properly. There are definitely some adjustments to be made when working in the winter, but all seem very reasonable and manageable. Pro's for you, because winter is slower overall in terms of business for me, booking in the winter months provides you more flexibility.
But the biggest most important question, despite all of the above, at the end of the day can I get beautiful photos of your best friend, I think so. Of course if you are someone who prefers a lot of greenery in your final images, then maybe winter isn't ideal, but there is still green out there in winter. I'd love to know what you all think. Watch the video below of some of the images I was able to capture in the winter months and let me know what you think in the comments below!