Photography Ideas for the Long and Dark Winter Nights

Photography Ideas for the Long and Dark Winter Nights

At the end of the year, when the nights are long, and the days dark and weary, photographing can become less interesting. Some may even lose inspiration during these days. I have some ideas for you to get through the dark winter months in the Northern hemisphere.

During the winter solstice, the nights are long. Photographing can be a little more difficult, unless you perform night photography. During these months it's easy to lose inspiration. You don’t have to spend all of your time photographing, of course. After all, there are also other things to do. Nevertheless, if you like to continue photographing during this period, it can be difficult to find something interesting to shoot.

If you don't like shooting during the evening, or you won't go outside in this weather, you need to find somehing else to photograph.

That’s why I have gathered some ideas that may give some ideas or bring inspiration. It may not be your kind of photography, but trying these things out can also help you understand certain aspects of photography. In a way, it can improve your photography, or it may just bring a lot of fun. That’s also important.

Falling Water Droplets

You probably know the photos of water droplets falling onto a water surface. These can get very artistic, and form amazing shapes when colliding with other water droplets. If you have never tried this kind of thing before, it can be much fun to do.

Water droplets, shot with a flash and a color gel. I used a remote to trigger the camera and not an automated system of sorts. You need a good timing and a bit of luck.

It is possible to buy all sorts of equipment that makes it relatively easy to do, but just a dripping water tap can get you started. But you’ll need a flashgun, preferably off-camera. I must admit, pressing the shutter release button at the right time can be a difficult thing to do when done manually. But when the nights are long, there is a lot of time available for practice.

Using a glass for water droplets can be nice. The lighting needs to be perfect, just like the timing when you want droplets to collide.

It can be educational also, learning how to set up the flash and combine it with the ambient exposure. Use color gels, or colored liquids, and try different setups. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it's fun to do.

Fruits and Other Food

You probably have a lot of food during the holiday season, and perhaps fruits also. Why not use it as a subject for your photography before you consume it? It can be simple like a simple but nice mise-en-place on a plate, or you can make another setup. Falling sprinkles or a sliced-up apple can also be challenging. You can use the short flash time to freeze motion, or you can learn the way light and shadow works in a multiple flash setup. 

With some creativity you can make nice images of fruits. A bit of Photoshop for the finishing touch is very helpful

A short flash duration can freeze the moment. Be creative with the food before you consume it.

Objects Inside Your House With Macro

You can also use other items in your house to photograph. Water droplets on a feather are a great subject if you own a macro lens. Play with the depth of field and use all sorts of lights to make it interesting. Christmas lights can also work.

An old CD with some water droplets and a narrow depth of field. You can see the bokeh rings that gives the image more atmosphere.

Normal household items can be photographed in an interesting way. Kitchen cutlery, like forks, offer great possibilities when casting shadows. The reflection may offer a nice challenge. You can learn a lot from shooting shiny objects like spoons and knives. Find out how to get rid of your own reflection, or use the reflections to your benefit. I don't have any examples yet, so it's the subject for me to experiment with this winter.

Feathers and water droplets are great to photograph. Play with the lights for all sorts of effects.

Playing With Fire

Who doesn’t love to play with fire? You can photograph a lighter, but fire matches are much more fun. Capturing the igniting flame can be a sport, and its emerging form can give nice surprises. Be creative and try to capture more than only the flame itself. Perhaps some bokeh rings from the Christmas lights in the back?

An igniting fire match can take surprising forms. It can be quite challenging to capture it in a great way. Just try it out.

If you dare to go outside, it can be fun to shoot burning steel wool. Place some fine steel wool in a whisk, ignite it, and swing it at the end of a rope. It can give amazing results. It’s something you can’t do alone, but there is always someone else around who likes to play with fire also. Your kids will love it.

If you dare to go outside with a friend, burning steel wool can be a great subject. But be safe, and don't start a fire.

Just be careful when spinning burning steel wool. Keep away from flammable things, like trees and plants, and even your clothes can be flammable. If you want to be sure, keep a fire extinguisher at hand.

Finding a New Look for Your Photo

As photographers, we always try to get the best out of our photos. For that, we use all sorts of post-processing. Perhaps the dark winter nights can be used to try new things. Maybe you find a nice look for your photo or for a photo series.

Just playing with post-processing. The result may not be to your liking after all, but you will have learned a lot of techniques along the way.

Especially when you don’t have a signature look, it can be a nice thing to experiment with. But don’t try too hard, just play with different looks and come back to it a few days later. Only then we can get an objective opinion about the things you’ve tried. Most of them are probably not worth it, but that’s okay. You’ve probably learned a lot about post-processing along the way.

I love black and white. If I have time I go through my images to look for the ones that might look great this way. 

Learning Fun Photo Manipulations

Another way of learning post-processing is by making fun photo manipulations. Blend different photos together into surrealistic and fun compilations. Make it as real as possible, with shadows and the right direction of light. You will learn a lot by just playing with it.

Just for fun, at the edge of the world. I look a drone shot I made last year, and added a waterfall from another photo. I also tried to add a night sky beyond the edge, but that didn't work.

Perhaps you can also use different objects you can find on the internet. Who knows, perhaps you come up with a nice idea for a series of manipulated photos in the end. Remember, it's just for the fun.

The Empire crashed a Star Destroyer. I learned masking, and practiced for matching light and color tone. 

Making a Photo Album

You probably have made a lot of photos during the past months. Why not make a photo album with the best images of the year? This way you can take your work with you when visiting friends and family. It’s much more fun to look into a photo album compared to a digital screen. And most of all, your work will get more appreciation this way.

My photo book Winter at Lofoten. During the long winter nights there is lots of time to go through the images and design a nice book.

If you don’t like a real photo album, it’s also possible to make a digital slide show. Lightroom Classic has the option to make such a slide show in an easy way. But it's just one of the programs that offer this ability. After you're done, you can share it on social media and YouTube. It’s a nice way to give your best work a new revival.

The design I made in Photoshop for every spread in a photo book of the Auvergne in France. This will become another great photo book.

Do You Have Other Ideas?

These are just a few ideas to work with if you are looking for a way to get through the dark winter nights. You can learn a lot this way, or find new subjects of your interest. But perhaps you have another idea that can bring some inspiration. Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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long winter nights - sit in front of computer screen with a bottle of decent bourbon

you'll either discover a creative streak, or you'll fall asleep

The only good thing to come out of this Covid era is with less travel, I decided to make a studio in my Garage, plus It forced me to get rid of a lot of stuff that I have not used in years. It's been the best thing I have done in most of my Photographic career. I also purchased a few master Class's from a Pretty cool Photographer "Joel Grimes"

I'm creating still-life shots and having a blast!

That still life looks wonderfull. Could almost be a painting.

Great piece. I love these ideas and winters are a good time to experiment on new techniques

And don't forget that the golden hour is on a really great time schedule this time a year.