3 Tips for Better Snow Photography

Posted on March 03, 2016 by April Lahti | 0 comments

Have you ever gone out after a snowstorm and marveled at the beauty? Every surface blanketed in pure white and the details of every tree branch emphasized? You take some pictures hoping to capture some of that beauty--but when you look at them later they turn out to be a big disappointment. The snow might look gray, or your subject may be washed out. Here are a few tricks that can greatly improve your results. They don’t involve fancy equipment--just using the tools you probably already have on your camera.

1. SHOOTING TIMES AND CONDITIONS. Shoot in overcast conditions, or early or late in the day. The clouds act as a diffuser and soften harsh shadows. Shooting early or late in the day means that the sun's rays aren’t as harsh, their color is warmer, and they won’t cause those dark shadows where detail is lost in your photo. When you have extreme blacks and whites in your frame, the camera cannot expose properly for them both. You will end up with either gray snow or washed out dark subjects and shadows. Even lighting and tones within your frame will result in a better chance of your subject and the snow looking like you want them to.

2. EXPOSURE COMPENSATION.  If you are shooting in “auto” mode, use your exposure compensation tool.  Most cameras have them--either as an external button or as part of the shooting menu. Think of the camera in auto mode as wanting to expose everything as a medium gray tone. This is why when the majority of the scene you are trying to capture is bright (snow), you need to increase the brightness (exposure). Usually dialing in +1.5 or +2 does the trick. But you should keep experimenting until you feel that the snow looks bright enough.


3. STOP ACTION. If snow is falling during your photo shoot, use a fast shutter speed to stop the snowflake action. You will wind up with pretty little white wintry dots instead of blurry streaks that can get between you and your subject. Most cameras have a “shutter priority” mode. Set it to this mode and use a shutter speed of at least 1/500 seconds, but still experiment with different speeds. If you are using a compact camera without shutter priority mode, your camera probably still has a “sports mode” which also uses high shutter speeds to stop action. 

Posted in photo tips, snow photography, winter photography