Photographing in the snow…

Snow has finally reached my part of Edinburgh – quite unusual in that I live close to the North Sea.  I’ve been asked how to photograph in this, so here are some bullet points to help (everything here is for digital cameras, if you’re using film with a camera that has a full matrix exposure meter – you’ll probably know if you do! – you just need to change the exposure compensation):

  • change your white balance: every digital camera, no matter how basic, will let you change the white balance (even my cheap mobile phone does this!).  It tells the camera what you think is really white.  Try using the cloudy or shade setting – take a few pictures and see what you think works best.  You can always change this later on the computer (easier if you’re shooting RAW not JPG), but why give yourself that extra step? – and this way you know you’ve got some good photos (you can, of course, always change your white balance manually, but if you know how or why you’d want to do this, why are sitting at your computer reading this instead of photographing the snow?!);
  • exposure compensation: you’ll need to adjust exposure compensation by anything between +2/3 or +1 stops or more depending on how bright it is… this helps the camera expose properly, and allows you to rely on your camera’s meter.  Every DSLR will let you do this, and most point-and-shoot cameras will do it too.  If using film start with +2/3, then try +1, or if it’s very bright, go straight for +2.

If it’s good weather outside, stop reading about making pictures in the snow and get out there – the rest of this post is just niceties:

  • use a slow shutter speed to capture falling snowflakes, though if this looks too blurred, you might want to use a flash as well;
  • rather than just lots of white, try including something with colour in it – a red car parked in the snow or a black lake or a half-covered tree can make the image more than just a boring white surface;
  • if you have one, you might find a lens hood reduces glare in really bright light;
  • if you can, get out in the late afternoon when the sun is setting – the golden light will transform your white into spectacular shades of golden yellow tones merging into white.

The obvious:

  • dress really warmly (you’ll be standing about a lot!), but wear thin gloves so you can adjust your camera;
  • don’t breath out onto your camera, or it’ll be covered in condensation – snow in that kind of ‘fog’ doesn’t look as good! 🙂
  • protect your camera from too much dampness, but don’t worry overly about this: most cameras won’t mind a bit of snow falling on them;
  • when you come back in, let your camera warm up very slowly (perhaps on a window sill), with the zoom fully extended if you can – this stops compensation building up;
  • if you have changed settings as described above, remember to change them back, or your Christmas dinner photos of your family will look very odd!!

Above all – HAVE FUN!

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2 thoughts on “Photographing in the snow…

  1. techmagnate


    Landscape photography
    is not about a specific place, but about seeing the significance of the natural world around you every day. Your own backyard literally can be a great starting place because you know it better than any other place. If you don’t have a backyard to call your own, a city or county park, a campground or even a drainage pond bordering the local shopping mall can provide a great starting place to explore landscape photography.

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