How to photograph frost: 7 quick tips (2024)

Photographers get very excited about autumn, but winter also has lots of photographic opportunities. A clear sky overnight usually results in a dramatic fall in temperature and by morning there’s a covering of frost that can turn a familiar landscape into a more interesting, magical scene. It’s a recipe for great photography if you follow these tips on how to photograph frost.


Keep an eye on the weather forecast. If a clear night is forecast, then there is likely to be frost the next morning.

Charge your camera’s battery, format the memory card and get your bag packed that night, because if the sky is still clear in the morning the frost may not last for long. Unless its very cold frost melts almost as soon as the sun hits it.

Get out as early as you can in the morning.

What exposure mode should I use?

Like most landscape photography, depth of field is usually the priority rather than freezing movement, so I recommend shooting in aperture priority or manual exposure mode. If you’re a new photographer, you might like to try Landscape mode, that tells the camera to use a small aperture so that there’s a wide sharp area in front of and behind the focus point.

How to photograph frost: 7 quick tips (1)

How to expose for frost?

Some cameras will take it in their stride, but all the white glistening frost can trick your camera into underexposing, so you may need to dial in a little exposure compensation to brighten things up.

If you’re shooting in manual exposure mode, adjust accordingly. However, if you’re shooting in a shaded, frosty pocket in the landscape, you may find the opposite is true and the image is a bit too bright, so keep aneye on your camera’s histogram.

If you’re using a mirrorless camera, you should be able to assess exposure in the viewfinder but the hsitogram view is useful.

Which white balance setting should I use for frost?

The daylight or sunny white balance setting is usually the best bet as this will help retain the cool tones of the shaded frosty areas, while sunny spots look warm. Ideally, shoot raw files (or raw and jpeg files simultaneously) so that you have the maximum amount of colour data if you want to make any adjustments post-capture.

How to photograph frost: 7 quick tips (2)

Do I need a tripod?

A tripod is advisable, especially if you get up early to shoot the sunrise, or you’re shooting in shaded areas as light levels can be quite low in the winter time.

What should I shoot?

Frosty landscapes are lovely but there are plenty of other photographic opportunities in frosty conditions. Look for heavily frosted vegetation and leaves, ice in puddles, cobwebs and delicate lace-like patterns of frost on all sorts of subjects including cars, fence posts and walls. A macro lens can be useful.

Also, keep an eye open for backlit subjects. The sun is very low during the winter and this can result in some very attractive light.

How to photograph frost on windows

Frost can leave stunning patterns full of minute details on windows, which make excellent close-up subjects. To photograph frost on windows you’l want to mount your camera on a tripod and position it parallel to the window.

If you have a macro lens, this is the time to use it. Otherwise, you can still photograph frost on your window with even your standard lens.

If possible, you’ll want the frost patterns on your window to be backlit so as to reveal more of their intricate details. Then, set your ISO to its lowest setting and dial in a wide aperture to create a nice shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field will help emphasise your key focal point, or if there are repeating patterns it will create a nice effect as it leads out of focus.

Anything else I should know about shooting frosty scenes?

Before you walk into a scene, have good look at it and consider the best shooting location and angle. Then pick your route to the shooting location carefully, you don’t want to pick up your camera and realise you’ve made footprints across your beautiful landscape composition.

Also, while fingerless gloves are useful, they expose more fingers than you really need to use your camera. In the past, I’ve chopped the tip off index fingers and thumbs of a pair of windproof fleece gloves to make a pair of photography gloves (shown in the photo below). However, Vallerret makes some very good purpose-made gloves.

How to photograph frost: 7 quick tips (3)

How to photograph frost: summary

1. Check the weather forecast
2. Shoot in aperture priority or manual exposure mode
3. Keep and eye on the histogram and increase exposure if necessary
4. Use the daylight or sunny white balance setting
5. Use a tripod
6. Shot landscapes and frosted details
7. Remember that you make footprints in frost

  • Camera Tips
  • Landscape Photography
How to photograph frost: 7 quick tips (2024)


How to take pictures of frost? ›

Frost is heaviest in the early morning, so use all the skills of the landscape photographer. First light can be beautifully soft, but make sure there is enough of it – an underexposed foreground can look ugly and boring. So you might need to wait for the low winter sun to get a bit higher in the sky.

What camera settings are needed for frost? ›

Use a small aperture (high f-number). If shooting with a long lens, choose a small subject rather than a whole landscape, and put some distance between the camera and subject. Focus stacking could also help. Use a tripod and a longer exposure.

What settings should I use for winter landscape photography? ›

Use a cold white balance

When photographing winter landscapes, the best practice is to use Kelvin mode and set it to a low/cold number. It's more natural to have a colder cast to a winter image than a warm one. The latter quickly makes the image look grungy and amateurish.

What shutter speed is needed to freeze waves? ›

To freeze the motion of a wave, you need to use a shutter speed of at least 1/250 of a second. If you zoom in on a wave, you have to use an even faster shutter speed, perhaps as fast as 1/1000 of a second. You should also use a small aperture of f/11 to ensure a large depth of field.

How do you take pictures in extreme cold? ›

Before You Go Outside
  1. Batteries hate the cold as much as reptiles and other cold-blooded creatures. ...
  2. A camera bag or camera backpack is always great for keeping your gear clean and protected from the elements. ...
  3. Bring a large plastic bag along with your gear. ...
  4. Gloves. ...
  5. Hand Warmers. ...
  6. Tripod Leg Wraps.
Nov 9, 2022

How do you take pictures of hoar frost? ›

To capture these beautiful ice forms a macro lens or telephoto lens with close-focusing capability is ideal. I also recommend using a tripod for the sharpest pictures. Most of the close-up pictures in this article were photographed using a Canon 300 mm F4 lens (between F4-F11) on a Canon 7D camera at ISO 400.

What is the correct setting for a frost stat? ›

Ideal temperature for a frost protection thermostat

It's recommended that frost protection heating thermostats are set to around 5°C. This means that the boiler will fire up when the temperature of the water in the boiler reaches 5°C to prevent the system from freezing.

What shutter speed is needed to freeze people? ›

A shutter speed of 1/250 sec should be fast enough to freeze people walking around, whereas 1/500 sec is better if your subject is moving a bit quicker. For faster objects such as cars and birds in flight, shutter speeds of 1/2000 sec, 1/4000 sec or quicker are preferred.

What is frost mode? ›

Frost protection protects the heating system and the water installation connected to it against freezing and damage caused by low temperatures. Frost protection mode engages in two cases: For gas boilers. Frost protection will be active if heating circuit is in standby mode and outside temperature is below 3°C.

What is the best F stop for landscape photography? ›

Best aperture setting for landscape photos.

In short, you'll want to lean more towards the higher ranges (such as f/16 to f/22.) These are narrower apertures, which means they allow less light into your camera, resulting in the need for longer shutter speeds. This combination will create the correct light exposure.

What is the best ISO setting for landscape photography? ›

But we're talking about landscape photography, so set it to generally a100 ISO, which will serve most cases. Sometimes it may be necessary to knock it down to 50 or the lowest setting just to gain a little bit more exposure time. But in general terms, 100 ISO is going to be the best for landscape photography.

What is the best shutter speed for landscape photography? ›

Shutter speed is equally important when you're shooting moving landscapes like running water or if you're photographing without a tripod. Without a tripod, use a high shutter speed of 1/100 or more, so the camera shake doesn't show in the picture.

What should you adjust on a camera to freeze motion? ›

Camera settings to freeze motion

Use fast or high shutter speeds – anything that considered fast you should be looking at shutter speeds of 1/250 sec or faster. Avoid slower shutter speeds unless you actually want to show motion blur. But in this case, you may need to use a tripod.

What is the rule of thumb for shutter speed? ›

The most important rule here is that the shutter speed should be double the frame rate. This is known as the 180-degree shutter rule. So if you are shooting at 24 fps, your shutter speed should be 1/48 sec - which on most cameras is rounded up to 1/50 sec.

What aperture is freezing motion? ›

Shoot with a wide open aperture (small f-stop number) and a fast shutter speed. Shoot with a smaller aperture (larger f-stop)

At what temperature do you see frost on the ground? ›

A2: The ground, or any surface, must be at or below 32 for frost to form. However, if your thermometer was just a few feet above the ground, it may not have given an accurate reading for frost.

How do you photograph objects in ice? ›

A small aperture of about f/22 should help you to capture crisp images with sharpness all the way through the ice. It's an idea to spot meter from the object so the camera won't get confused and over or under expose the image because of the whiteness of the ice.

How do you take cold pictures? ›

Tips for Protecting your Photography Gear in Cold Temperatures
  1. Prep your batteries. Batteries will lose their power much more quickly in the cold weather. ...
  2. Prepare your camera. ...
  3. Pack a plastic storage bag. ...
  4. Check your Exposure. ...
  5. Pay Attention to your White Balance. ...
  6. Take Frequent Breaks. ...
  7. Bring a blanket and gloves. ...
  8. Slow down!
Jan 16, 2022

What is the best lens for winter photography? ›

To get the best shot, consider getting a telephoto lens—anything with a focal length of 70mm and up. For best conditions, you should use a 200mm lens and up, and shoot at shallow aperture (consider f/4.5-6.3). Make sure to set up the fastest shutter speed that you can (1/400 of a second or faster).

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