I’m not kidding when I say it’s my favorite season for family photos. But I have to tell you the truth – where I live in the Bay Area we don’t really have Winter. In my coastal neighborhood of San Francisco Winter is often sunnier than summer. But I think with a little flexibility to avoid the worst weather, my reasons for loving Winter hold true just about wherever you live. Except maybe Canada. Or Siberia. If you live in either of these places, forget everything I’m about to tell you 🙂
While I share many reasons to take family photos during the Winter months, the ONE REASON that I come back to, time and again, is fewer crowds. Quiet, empty spaces put everyone at ease, and they are much easier to find during Winter. Scroll down to see all the other reasons!
Fewer crowds (THE reason)
Kids are in school and the perception is that Winter is a good time to stay indoors. Even sunny weekend afternoons are less than half as busy as summer. Iconic locations like Land’s End, Baker Beach, or anywhere along Highway 1 are especially seasonal. Fewer crowds make for better photos and a more enjoyable experience.
Bonus – there’s less traffic too.
Since this is a great time of year to check out the most popular locations in San Francisco, check out my guide to the 12 Best Places for Family Photos in San Francicso!
Perfect light all day
Photographers prefer “directional” light and avoid overhead sun. But the farther north you are, the lower the sun stays all day during Winter. That makes for great light all day. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I find that Winter sunlight is incredible for photos up to three hours after sunrise or before sunset, and it’s still pretty darn good even midday. This means we can get outside during the warmer hours, and we can work around your busy schedule!
Wear your gifts (or dress your partner)
I asked my wife to think of a unique reason why she loves taking family pictures in the Winter, and this is what she said – “You get to wear the clothes you were gifted!” And she was only sort of kidding.
In our house, she tells me what clothes to buy her for Christmas, then she can wear them in the photos. Pretty straightforward.
Also, 95% of my wardrobe consists of what she buys me for Christmas (I don’t like shopping for clothes). In short, you can use the holidays as an excuse to style your entire family for your Winter photo session!
A slower pace
Everything goes into overdrive in the Fall. The transition back to school is often exhausting, and before you know it Thanksgiving is upon us. Which blends into Christmas and then New Years and…well, it’s a crazy time of year.
I have noticed a tangible decrease in the level of stress that families bring to Winter photo sessions. It’s like night and day. Winter sessions tend to feel more thoughtful and connected. And, if we’re being honest, your photographer is probably in a better headspace too!
Bright energy and rosy cheeks
There’s just something about the crisp, clear air that Winter brings. With it comes a sense of newness. Adults are refreshed and positive, the kids are bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. You can see it and feel it when you look at the family photos that come from sessions in January, February, or March.
Lots of movement and snuggling too
My favorite family photos are full of movement. I love to capture the motion of being outside and interacting with each other and the environment. During Winter photoshoots, motion is ever-present because instinctually, we know that it’s important for staying warm. Everyone feels it, everyone wants to move!
The other side of that coin is that hugs and cuddles and snuggles also keep us warm. During Winter family photoshoots, I have noticed how much more likely we are to wrap our arms around each other, hold hands, or press our cheeks together and laugh.
More sunshine than you’d think
Ok, so this is specific to the Bay Area, but I think it is true for plenty of locations (no, not Seattle). Our weather is more variable during the Winter, with big storms followed by periods of calm with light winds, clear air, and lots of sunshine.
Below is a chart of daily percentage of sunshine in San Francisco. So yes, there’s more sunshine in Summer, but not by much. Winter has plenty too!
(source Weather & Climate)
And gray is awesome too
We tend to think of overcast or foggy weather as bad for photos, but nothing could be farther from the truth! Grey weather creates beautiful portrait lighting and allows the colors in your outfits to pop. Fog in the forest can be incredibly beautiful, creating an ethereal vibe. On the beach and in open spaces it brings the focus toward you and your family, which is what we’re here to capture anyway!
We can still go to the beach!
I live about eight blocks from Ocean Beach, and during the Winter I try to make a habit of taking my dogs to the beach every morning. The beach is empty, and for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, the experience is incredible.
Once the sun hits the sand things warm up quickly, and kids are ready to pull their shoes off, roll down the dunes, and even splash in the shallows. We have to be cognizant that they shouldn’t spend too long in wet clothes (they won’t notice that they are cold until their lips turn blue), but Winter in San Francisco is mild enough for awesome Winter photoshoots at the beach.
Or go puddle stomping
Where we live, Winter brings rain, and rain makes puddles. Pull on your rain boots and enjoy some puddle stomping! Believe it or not, I have yet to convince a family to complete a full family session in the rain. Don your umbrellas, pull on your boots, and join me this Winter to embrace the rain!
We can even find snow
San Francisco is too warm to see snow more than once a decade. But the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe are only 3 hours away. Family photos in the snow require next-level preparation, but they are pretty awesome. Think snowballs and sledding, hot cocoa and warming up by the fire.
A lot of Bay Area families regularly make the trip up to Tahoe to enjoy Winter activities. If you are one of those families, I’d love to join you and document the journey.
Thanks for being here. I’m David Enloe, a San Francisco family photographer. I make soul-stirring pictures for families that find adventure around every corner. Want to learn more about the person behind the camera?