12 Snow Photography Tips (How to Capture Magical Snow Photos)

Posting12 Snow Photography Tips (How to Capture Magical Snow Shots)first appeared inSchool of Digital Photography. It was written byDena Haines.

how to capture magical photos of the snow

Snow is stunningly beautiful, but capturing beautiful snow photos can be surprisingly difficult. If you’re simply heading out for a photo shoot in the snow without proper preparation, you might run into autofocus and exposure issues (plus, the weather can lead to all sorts of equipment failure).

Fortunately, I have been photographing snow for years and know how to handle any and all of the common snow photography problems. In this article, I share my absolute best snow photo tips, including:

  • The best scenarios for snow photography
  • The best time to go out and take photos in the snow
  • How to keep your photographic equipment safe from the cold
  • How to photograph falling snow for a beautiful ethereal effect
  • Magical Snow Picture Ideas
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to learn how to take beautiful photos in the snow, then let’s get started, starting with tip number one:

1. Focus contrast (or use manual focus)

The camera’s autofocus works by identifying contrast. This works great in normal shooting situations – But when everything turns snow white, your autofocus will have a hard time focusing, which can lead to a lot of frustration and even missed opportunities.

Fortunately, there is an easy way around this:

Change your camera to yoursingle point AF mode. Then place your main focus point over aheavy contrastarea of ​​your snow scene. For example, you can focus on the bark of a tree, some vegetation sticking out of the snow, the roof of a house – anything that jumps against the target.

Then press the shutter button halfway. If you have found a part of the scene with enough contrast, the focus should lock – but ifstillwon’t work, you’ll need to identify a subject with more contrast.

Finally, hold down the shutter button while you recompose the shot. And once you’ve created the perfect composition, press the button all the way to take the perfect snow photo.

photographing snow beginner's tips

Note that if you’re trying to photograph a low-contrast scene, such as a white house against a snowy background, you may want to forego autofocus altogether. Change your lens tomanual focus, then carefully turn the focus ring on your lens until you have achieved perfect sharpness. (For even better results, use your camera’s Live View mode to preview the image on the rear LCD screen and zoom in to check focus at high magnification.)

2. Choose the right camera settings for snow photography

While the best setup for a snow photo shoot will vary depending on the light, situation, and your artistic intentions,I have a few simple Recommendations to keep your snow photos looking sharp and well exposed.

First, set your camera to shoot onRAW. You see, when you use the RAW file format, you’ll have a lot more information to work with when editing. This will allow you to recover clipped shadows and highlights (and thanks to the sun shining on snow, the latter are quite common in snow photography).

ships on the ice

I would also recommend selecting the cameraEvaluative metering mode, also known asMatrix metering. This will analyze the entire scene to achieve the best possible exposure in most situations. If you are struggling to get a goodexposure, you can always try switching to spot metering or partial metering, but evaluative metering is a good starting point.

Third, shootAperture Priority Mode. It will allow you to adjust theopeningandISOwhile your camera automatically changes theshutter speed(with the aim of achieving a good exposure).

Aperture Priority mode is a great way to gain control over different camera settingswithoutfeel totally overwhelmed. It’s also a lifesaver in cold weather because you usually only need to turn a dial to set your aperture (cold fingers aren’t that good at complex operations!).

(Another option is to shoot inManual mode. However, in Manual mode, you will need to adjustallsettings, not just the aperture and the ISO, so Manual mode isn’t ideal if you’re still thinking about exposure, nor is it ideal for fast-moving situations, but if you want full control over your camera settings, and don’t mind working with cold fingers, then manual mode is an excellent choice.)

Once your camera is set to Aperture Priority mode, you’ll need to choose an aperture and ISO. I would recommend setting your ISO to its basic level (usually ISO 100, although this can change depending on your camera). This will keep your images clean and free of noise.

As for your opening setup: this really depends on your artistic interests. A wide aperture (such as f/2.8) will give a beautifulShallow depth of field gaze, but a narrow aperture (such as f/11) will keep most or all of the shot in focus, which can help bring out all the intricate details in a snowy landscape. If you’re not sure which aperture to choose for your snow photography, try taking two images of each scene – a wide aperture shot and a narrow aperture shot – then compare them when you get home and see which one you like best.

trees heavy with snow

After choosing an aperture and ISO, take a look at the shutter speed. Your camera will choose this based on exposure considerations, but if you’re shooting handheld, you’ll want to make sure the shutter is fast enough to ensure a sharp shot (1/100 or so is a good starting point, though it’s a good idea to experiment so you get a feel for your own handholding abilities and limitations).If your shutter speed is too slow, go ahead and widen the aperture or increase the ISO, which will force the shutter speed up.

Finally, you will usually need to dial one or two stops from positiveexposure compensation. Due to the quirks of your meter, your camera will try to make the snow look gray, and exposure compensation will counteract this effect to keep thingsshiny. Keep in mind that your shutter speed can drop below its acceptable limit (see the previous paragraph), and if that happens, you’ll need to adjust your aperture or ISO to move the shutter in the right direction.

3. Use the right snow photography equipment

You can capture beautiful snow photos with any gear, but if you’re looking to really improve your shots, I have some Recommendations.

First, be sure to use a camera with a larger sensor and strong high ISO capabilities. On dark, cold and snowy days, light is often relatively limited and you’ll need to up your ISO to capture sharp handheld shots, so an impressive sensor can make a world of difference. A full-frame mirrorless camera like theCanon EOS R5or theSony a7 IVwill do an amazing job, but you can also get great results with an APS-C mirrorless model (for example, theNikon Z50or theCanon EOS R10) or a DSLR.

Second, if you plan to shoot in bad weather, be sure to choose a weather-sealed lens. The focal length is not particularly important, although it should match your interests; You don’t want to be shooting super telephoto if you’re trying to capture snowy landscapes! If you’re not sure what type of images you want to capture, consider using a 50mm prime lens (which works great for street photography, portraiture, and hike photography) or a 24-70mm zoom (which is extremely flexible and can handle both wide-angle landscapes and tighter shots).

Third, if you’re going to be working in limited light, be sure to use arobust tripodor at least a monopod. That way, you can keep your shots sharp even when the sky is heavily overcast or covered in falling snow.

You shouldn’t neglect your own winter gear either; be sure to wear warm clothing, a thick coat, a warm hat, and warm but flexible gloves. You don’t want to go outside only to end up freezing (and it’s also worth noting that if you’re shivering from the cold, it’s harder to capture sharp shots!).

4. Capture the snow while it’s still fresh

If you want magical photos, go outside right after a new snowfall. The world will be bright and pristine. You won’t have to deal with footprints, yellow snow, mud or dirt; instead you can focus on creating stunning shots of your winter wonderland.

snow on a sunny day

That being said, if you want trackless snow, you need to plan the photos you’re going to take and the order in which you’ll take them. Otherwise, you might accidentally stomp on the snow during the shooting process, which will ruin your ability to capturefuturepristine photos.

Keep in mind that pristine snow does not last long. Capturing fresh snow can also mean getting out early to shoot (before the kids get up!), or monitoring the weather and heading out just when it stops snowing. Of course, if your schedule isn’t as flexible, that’s fine. Only take your camera to an area that you know people won’t disturb, like a forest or a field.

5. Keep Batteries warm

Can’t take pictures in the snow without fresh Batteries – and unfortunately, in cold climates, your Batteries won’t last long.

Therefore, carry at least two Batteries and keep one in an inside pocket at all times. (Depending on your camera’s battery life, I’d even recommend shooting with three or four Batteries. You can get third-party options online for cheap.)

When the camera battery is running low, replace it with a warm one. Then put the dead battery in an inside pocket; you can even use it again once it warms up.

6. Put away your camera when you enter

When you bring a cold room into a warm environment, what happens? You get condensation on the lens and potentially even on the inside of the camera, which is – you guessed it! –not good. (If you’re really unlucky, you can grow mold.)

Fortunately, it is an easy problem to prevent.

When you go out into the cold, take a large ziplock bag with you. I usually keep one in my camera bag or jacket pocket. Then, when you’re ready to head in, simply fill the ziplock bag with cold air, place your camera in the bag, and make sure the lock is sealed. tight.

Once you’re in the house, place the camera somewhere where it can slowly warm up. When the camera reaches room temperature, you can take it out of the bag and use it normally.

(And if you decide to returnoutside for photography after a short break in the house, you can safely take the camera out in the bag in the cold, open the bag outside and start shooting again.)

Keep in mind that you’ll need to bag your cold room before taking it into any warm environment, including stores, heated elevators, and a heated car. So, if you want to shoot an outdoor snow scene and a beautiful interior in one photo shoot, shoot the interior areas first,thenTo go outside. That way, you won’t be stuck waiting while the camera warms up (which usually takes several hours!).

7. Shoot in any light

Snowy landscapes look good in both sunny and cloudy weather, so don’t limit yourself to shooting in a specific light. Just learn to work with the lighting conditions given to you!

snow photography trees on ice

When the sky is cloudy, look for items that break up the white snow and add interest to your photos, like trees, grass, or ice. You can also search for intricate landscapes, such as grasses against snow or patterns in frozen puddles and streams.

When the weather is sunny, look for shadows created by the bright sun and try converting your shots to black and white. If you shoot early in the morning or at night,do what you can to capture the warm light on the cold snow. Consider using a wide angle lens and see if you can find a high angle that really conveys the expanse of the landscape.

You can also capture beautifulblue hoursnowy landscapes, although you will need a tripod to keep the camera steady during a long exposure. If you decide to go this route, I recommend identifying several potential comps ahead of time, and then setting up a few minutes before the blue hour hits. Once the light comes on, take lots of photos, but be careful not to touch the camera; You don’t want it to look blurry due to vibrations! Here, a remote shutter release can be extremely useful.

8. Photography when it starts to snow

Some photographers don’t like to take their cameras out in bad weather, which is perfectly understandable; just know that snowy days often provide amazing picture opportunities!

Here are some ideas for shooting on snowy days:

  • Birds nestled in snow covered trees
  • Trees surrounded by a minimalist expanse of white
  • Pedestrians hunched against the wind
  • Plants with “little hats” of snow
  • Cityscapes with snow blizzard and warm lights in the distance

If your goal is to capture scenes with snow falling, you’ll want to avoid using long shutter speeds, which will simply blur the snow into almost invisible streaks. Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the snow (if necessary you can always increase the ISO – noise doesn’t show up as clearly when mixed with snowflakes!).

Of course, be sure to protect your camera, especially if the snow is wet and/or heavy. Consider using a rain cover or – if the wind is minimal – an umbrella. I would also recommend bringing a towel, which you should use to wipe any loose flakes off the camera and lens, as well as a rocket blower, which you should use to remove snow from the front element of the lens. It’s also a good idea to use a lens hood to keep snow from falling on the front element, although you’ll need to check the front of the lens often to make sure it’s free of snow. .

9. Act fast

Snow changes quickly. It can stop falling in an instant. And when the sun rises, the snow melts, so those beautiful trees go from stunning to drab in the blink of an eye.

Watch the weather carefully. Look out the window often. Have your equipment ready to go.

And if you come up with an idea for a snow photo that you like, or if you look out the window and see beautiful opportunities for a snow photo shoot, don’t hang around. Capture some snow photos while you can!

abstract snow photography of ice and branches

10. Be patient

This advice is a corollary of the previous – because while it’s important to always be ready, it’salsoIt is important to be patient, especially when faced with rapidly changing conditions.

You see, depending on the light, snow can look shiny, ethereal, three-dimensional, flat, and much more. Sometimesgetting the right look simply means waiting for the light to change.

So if the snow doesn’t look the way you expected, check the light. Is the sun behind a cloud? Is the sun too low or high in the sky?

Then wait for therightconditions to take your shot.

snow in the sun with beautiful light

11. Play with perspective

As with all forms of photography,compositionis an essential ingredient of great snow photos – for what you should payverycareful attention to the elements you are including in the framework, and you should also carefully consider yourperspective.

For creative snow photos, try crouching down to shoot straight up, like this:

photographing snow up a tree

You can also find cover or a hill that you can use to shoot down; that way, you can show how snow covers the ground, weighs it down, and sticks toall.

And for every photo you take, look for opportunities to make the shot even better. Walk on either side of your subject, consider different angles, zoom in, zoom out, even switch lenses. After all, who knows what beautiful photos await you?

12. Capture a brilliant bokeh effect

A sunny winter day is a good time tocreate bokehthanks to all the sparkling snow and ice.

You see, pinpricks of light – for example, light that shines in the snow – when rendered out of focus, it can create amazing bokeh effects, like this:

ice on a branch snow photography

So this is what you should do:

First, find a subject that has something bright or shiny in the background. This background element could be light reflecting off melting snow, light broken by tree branches, or light shining through ice. Set your camera to a wide aperture (for example, f/2.8 or f/4) and make sure there is some distance between your subject and the bright background.

Thanks to the wide aperture, the subject will be in focus, but not the bright elements in the background. And when you press the shutter button you will get a beautiful background bokeh!

Pro Tip: You’ll get the best results if you can get closer to your subject, so choose the closest focus lens and have fun!

Snow Photography Tips: Final Words

Will you go out to take pictures the next snow day? I’m planning it and I hope you are too.

Have fun with your snow photography and experiment with different settings for creative results. Just remember to dress for the weather and protect your gear!

Now it’s your turn:

Which of these snow photography tips and ideas are you thinking of trying? Do you have any snow photo shoot tips that I missed? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Posting12 Snow Photography Tips (How to Capture Magical Snow Shots)first appeared inSchool of Digital Photography. It was written byDena Haines.

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