Pro Photo

Creating Visual Impact with Weather and Temperature

How to make people shiver in two dimensions

Go for the cold! Seasons are changing, and I found this inspirational image group to suggest a project for the coming winter.

Rendering a feeling of temperature is the third way to harness natural elements to create image impact. The first two are time of day (or more precisely lighting drama) and weather. When all three elements work together the effect can be, well, chilling.

Getting up early and staying our late to shoot will always net the most interesting photographic lighting. It’s more intense, evocative and dimensional. And simply because at these times most people are waking or eating or they just went home too early to see the drama of nature. That’s why everyone loves sunsets…

Capturing weather adds another level. Be willing to work under conditions; stay out in the rain, wind, blizzard, Las Vegas, hot desert darkness. Weather can really put you on the map artistically. However I don’t recommend tornado chasing for amateurs…

But how to render temperature? How do you capture or enhance a feeling that your breath is coming in little clouds and your ears and nose smart with cold?

winter scene original capture


This hundred-year old historic house offers a great comparative image series for inspiration. Just a sprinkling of early winter snow, frozen branches – no dramatic snow drifts, icicles, stranded cars. Soft grey lowering lighting is OK. Nice, a little different, but nothing too special. I decided to experiment with postproduction (just Lightroom and Photoshop, no special actions or complicated manipulations) to achieve COLD – capital letters please.

posterized winter scene

Serigraph variation

I went the direction of deepening saturation and blacks and adding a posterization or serigraph art look, a technique I use a lot on architecture. No wrong answer, but not really what I was looking for here to say cold. The color seems to move away from chill.


graphic outline winter scene

Pencil outline

The etching look give a whole different appearance, useful, but again not what I wanted. The now very dark trees completely lost the feeling of ice and tracery. To me the contrast does not really say cold.

high contrast winter scene

Contrast & Black Point

Hard contrast and deep blacks is often a good choice of technique for impact and the start of a tough, almost grunge look. Here it’s not all that much improvement over the original, at least to my mind. The sky is now totally blank, and the foreground color is distracting.



I finally decided the best bet was to get rid of color altogether. I still added some contrast to make the frozen tree branched stand out, backing the effect off on the house with a layer mask. I also embellished with an antique looking border from onOne. Much colder! Now on my idea of cold, but the roof line fades into the blank sky.

decreased clarity winter scene


Going back again after desaturization, I though about breaths of steam on very cold days and tried the Clarity slider. Bingo! Softer, less contrast, light, crisp, foggy even, lots of detail. Romance of a very chill day. You can almost smell the cold – and sense the hot chocolate waiting at home! Adding the same antique border completed my mental picture of how cold should look in two dimensions.

final COLD winter scene

RAW Report with Sara Frances

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Jarle Leirpoll is an Adobe Premiere Pro Master Trainer and the author of The Cool Stuff in Premiere Pro. Between film projects he travels the world doing Premier Pro and After Effects training for both…