Snow is one of the most challenging subjects when it comes to photography.
The bright white reflects sunlight, unsettling the balance of light in your picture. This results in less contrast, dull colours – and that frustrating feeling of having ruined a potentially perfect shot by pressing the shutter too hastily.
However, snow is also the key to unique and fascinating winter photos. Here are a few simple snow photography tips to help you make the most of it, and take pictures that look great without a Photoshop makeover.
1. Adjust Exposure
Changing the exposure value of your photo is the quickest and simplest way to achieve the right lighting effect. You don’t need a SLR camera to do it, as this option is available in most digital cameras.
The default exposure value is 0. Depending on the brightness of the snow around you, you will need to increase it by a value of 1.0 to 2.5. This will allow the camera to process a sufficient amount of light, and avoid your photo coming out too dark.
If you know your way around the manual options of your SLR camera, you can achieve the same result by either opening the aperture by one or two stops (e.g. from f5.6 to f3.5), or decreasing the shutter speed (e.g. from 1/125s to 1/30s).
Increase the exposure value to avoid your picture coming out too dark.
2. Meter Dark Objects
If you have a SLR camera, you’ll also be able to choose which object to meter. This requires a little more effort than simply changing the exposure, but makes achieving the perfect shot much more fulfilling.
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All you need to do is set the focus point on an object darker than the snow, and press the shutter halfway down in order to meter it. Then, without lifting your finger, move your camera to frame the composition you actually want, and click the shutter. Job done!
Making snow your main focus point is likely to result in an underexposed picture, so meter a darker object is very important to obtain the correct lighting.
3. Plan the Composition
One of the downsides of snowy sceneries is that they can look quite dull in pictures, because they are…too white!
As a general rule, make sure that there is not too much “white space” in your photo. Plan your composition around any elements that can break up a monotonous blanket of snow, such as trees, rocks, buildings – or even animals and people.
You’ll be able to add a little contrast to the picture, and make it more appealing. Chances are that you’ll also capture some shadows, adding up to the perspective and depth of your shot.
4. Colour Up Your Picture
There’s nothing better than vivid colours and action shots to enhance the beauty of snow-covered sceneries.
To add life to your photo, you should avoid composing your picture around objects that are white, grey or black, and place any “colourful” objects in the foreground or middle of the scene.>
You can also try and freeze the flips of a snowboarder, or a skier’s downhill slope. Using your camera’s Action function is the quickest way to do it, but if you feel particularly confident you can also play around with the manual options and increase shutter speed: the higher you set it, the more chances you’ll have of avoiding an unwanted blurred effect when capturing fast movement.
5. Nail the Detail
Smaller objects such as frosted branches or snow-covered pinecones can be great subjects for your winter photos. Your camera’s Macro or Close-up option is ideal to capture them.
This function works at its best if you get your lens as close to the main object as you can. As you start pressing the shutter, the surrounding objects and the background will become blurry, enhancing the features of your subject.
In your final picture, it will stand out so clearly that you’ll be able to see it in minute detail. If you’re patient enough, you’ll actually be able to count the snowflakes on that pinecone!
Photography is all about experimenting. You may not be satisfied with your photo after the first few attempts, but one of the perks of digital photography is the possibility to discard a bad picture and try again.
Feel free to share any winter photography triumphs and tragedies, or any pictures you’re particularly proud of, in the comment box below.
Federica Silvi is a passionate photographer. She is particularly fond of landscape pictures, which she likes to share through regular blogging. In her offline life she works at Lenstore, an online contact lens shop. You can trust her to know how important clear vision is to catch that perfect snapshot.