Minnesota Outdoor Winter Engagement and Portrait Tips

Winter in Minnesota.  It’s inevitable.   Hot chocolate, cold temperatures, hockey season, the whole deal!  We will have snow and cold here in the Twin Cities and around the state, there’s no avoiding it.   I’ve been asked a few times this fall, what I will do when winter gets here?  I’m a traveling photographer in Minnesota who specializes in outdoor and location portraits.  Do I quit shooting in the winter?  Heck no!

I’ll do the same thing I  always do in the winter, keep having a blast shooting outside.

Here are a few tips and tricks I use for winter photography to keep my clients warm and their winter portraits sessions awesome:

Dress in layers.

Especially if you are planning multiple outfits.  Give yourself a base layer of clothing, just like you would if you were going outside in the winter for any other activity.  Then layer your portrait clothes over it.  Even if you plan on having your portraits in your jacket, having an extra layer is the key to being comfortable.

Plan portraits that focus around an activity.

Building a snow man, sledding, skating, sitting by a bonfire.  They all make fort a great portrait session.  I look for locations where it’s easy to move around and stay warm outside.  You can also choose to do indoor winter portraits at home.  Doing a cozy activity like making cookies, story time, or decorating the tree create a unique personal photography session for your family.

Hockey engagement portraits in St. Paul, Minnesota

Laura and Robert’s Hockey Engagement at their favorite ice rink in St. Paul, MN.

Know what a safe temperature is for outdoor activities.

Yes, this is Minnesota, we go out and shovel, snowmobile, ski in all sorts of weather, but for photo shoots I follow the same temperature guidelines as local schools do for outdoor recess.  I also plan photography sessions for my clients’ comfort levels.  If we’re doing an outdoor shoot snowmobiling with adults or teens we’re a little more flexible on temperature than when we’re doing family portraits with kids.  I take that into account when planning.

Pick a backup day.

Sometimes we have to move sessions around in the winter for temperature and snow, just like when it rains in the summer.  Weather happens, and it’s okay!  It’s worth it for beautiful portraits.  It’s not something I stress about, I just plan for it.  I use a lot of the National Weather Service forecast tools to pick days that have the lowest probability of winter weather hazards.

Kid's Christmas Portraits in the woods in Victoria, Minnesota

Christmas Card Portraits on a chilly November day, dressing in layers and putting coats on between shots.

Schedule portraits not far in advance.

I tend to schedule winter time sessions more last minute, so we can see the weather forecast when we schedule.  If we know the next week will be cold and snowy, we can book farther out.  Usually a snowy week is followed by a break to nicer weather.  In the summer I am booking 3-4 weeks out, in the winter because I do have less weddings and portraits I will often just book a week or two out so we have a good idea of what our weather will be.

If snow isn’t something you love choose an indoor location.

You need portraits now, for an engagement, a new addition to your family, maybe new portraits for you business.   You don’t want to wait until spring.  You don’t have to.  There are just as many awesome indoor locations for portraits in the winter as there are outdoor ones. Como Conservatory is one of my favorites. The natural light there is perfect in all types of weather. Finding indoor location for portraits is an essential part of my job.  A studio isn’t the only place you can do indoor pictures.  I keep a list of photographer friendly indoor spots around theTwin Cities, and when you book we can choose a place you will enjoy.


creative professional portraits in St. Paul at the Como Conservatory

It was below zero when we did creative portraits and head shots for Julie at the Como Conservatory.



If you like playing in the snow, contact me and let’s plan your perfect winter portrait session!


(bonus: To see more from Laura and Robert’s winter engagement shoot click HERE.)

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