Winter is a magical time to take photos. But if you’ve tried it before, you probably know that it’s not as simple as putting your eye to the viewfinder and clicking the shutter button.
You have to be prepared for the weather and know how to tweak some camera settings to get the perfect winter wonderland pictures.
Here’s everything you need to know to photograph snow.
1. Dress for success
Pay attention to this step carefully. When you plan to be outdoors for a long time, add a layer or more than you normally wear. Remember to bring hats, mittens, gloves, scarves and an extra pair of socks in case you get wet.
Investing in temperature-resistant jackets, snow pants, and shoes is a good idea if you frequently spend time outdoors in the snow. They can be expensive, but they are a long-term investment. Plus, your photos tend to be more enjoyable if you’re cozy and comfortable.
2. Use spot metering
When taking photos, especially portraits, in the snow, your camera will usually underexpose your subject, assuming the scene is bright from all the snow. This happens when you leave the camera in its default metering mode: evaluative or matrix metering.
If you change your metering mode to spot metering, your camera will calculate the exposure settings based on that particular spot, so your subject will be correctly exposed.
3. Try Exposure Compensation
Exposure compensation is another way to solve the above problem that occurs with evaluative metering. It can be incredibly convenient if you use shutter or aperture priority modes. If you’re not sure, this is all you need to know about exposure compensation.
When your camera underexposes a snowy scene, dial up a stop or two of exposure compensation to brighten the scene.
4. Compose creatively
Snowy views are great, but viewers’ eyes can lose interest without a particular focal point. So have a unique theme to direct the eyes of your viewers. Find trees, rocks, or a cabin to add visual interest to your snowy scenes.
The use of layers is effective in making your composition dramatic. For example, you can add your theme on one of the layers with supporting elements on the other two layers.
Falling snow can be a wonderful layer to include in your composition. But you have to be in the right place at the right time. Look for slow falling snow. The snowflakes should also be considerably larger. Then use a shallow depth of field so the flakes make a beautiful bokeh effect around your subject.
5. Look for colors
An all white scene can sometimes seem bland. Adding a touch of color to your composition will break the monotony and make it more exciting.
Find vibrant birds, colorful berries, or evergreens to include in your composition. A lit-in-the-dark cabin can also be an interesting theme. If you are taking photos of people, let them wear brightly colored jackets, scarves, or hats.
For those in the north, the aurora borealis is the most sought after subject. So do not miss it if you have the opportunity to see it in your town.
6. Wear weatherproof gear
This is evident; you have to protect your gear so you can expose it to the elements without worry. If you shoot in the snow for a long time, moisture may enter the camera and lens.
Usually expensive cameras are built with weather protection. You can also buy cases and covers to give them extra protection. If you are in the habit of leaving your lens hood at home, winter is the time to use it to protect your lens.
Your camera’s LCD screen can be reproduced while shooting in the snow. You can avoid this by disabling autoplay. Also, hold your camera close to your body when you’re not actively shooting to keep it warm and insulated.
7. Check your white balance
Do your snow photos show a yellowish or bluish cast? Go to your camera settings and make sure you have chosen the correct white balance setting. In fact, you can leave it in the default auto mode. You will get the correct white balance in most cases.
Shooting RAW is also a way to avoid white balance issues. This is because your camera will retain all the details when you shoot RAW. So even if you’ve chosen the wrong white balance by mistake, you can correct it in post-production without losing any detail.
8. Bring spare batteries
Do you know that your camera battery will drain faster in cold temperatures? The best temperature for optimal performance of your camera is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. Temperatures colder than this can mess up the chemical reactions inside the battery and cause it to drain faster.
Carrying a spare battery is a good idea if you are planning a long drive in the snow. Also, remember to store it in a warm place, wrapped with a scarf or glove. Storing it in jacket pockets can also insulate you from the cold.
9. Grab a polarizing filter
A polarizing filter is a powerful tool in any landscape photographer’s arsenal. It’s a safe way to bring out colors while avoiding unnecessary glare. Unfortunately, snow scenes often have a lot of glare. You can add a polarizing filter to make your winter scene easy on the eyes.
Of course, you can use your trusted software to edit the details, but the effects of a polarizing filter are much smoother and more pleasing. So be sure to take them along on your winter photography adventures.
If you want to get the smooth, milky effect on waterfalls and other bodies of water, a polarizing filter is a must to slow down the shutter speed enough.
Photographing magical snowscapes doesn’t have to be difficult
So there you have it: knowing how your gear will perform in the cold and being prepared for it is the key to a successful snow shoot.
As they say, there is no bad weather, only bad clothes. So take care of yourself too. Other than that, just go over some songwriting techniques. The winter wonderland is waiting for you!