Every year, winter brings its share of changes and sometimes covers everyday landscapes with a white coat, which gives photographers the opportunity to take snow photos. Here are some tips on how to shoot well in snowy weather.
Taking pictures of snow or a snowy landscape in winter can be problematic for a novice photographer. If it is sunny, the picture will quickly become overexposed. On the other hand, if it is dark, you’ll usually end up with greyish, underexposed and dull-looking photos. The culprit? The snow! This highly reflective element will interfere with the way the camera measures the exposure and thus affects the overall quality of the photo.
Normally, the camera’s automatic mode adjusts the exposure to get as close as possible to what is known as “18% grey”. However, when faced with a very white scene the camera will tend to think there is too much light and therefore underexpose the image to get closer to this reference value.
To make sure that the snow is really white (thus preventing it from being grey as the camera suggests), you need to adjust the exposure settings in manual mode. Increasing the exposure compensation by +1 to +2 stops will make the snow look brighter and whiter, and will give better end results.
In winter, snowy, all-white backgrounds change throughout the day. There are whites that go blue, as well as whites that go yellow — depending on the light and weather conditions. However, the camera’s automatic white balance does not understand the difference between these whites.
In order to optimize the result, it is again best to turn off the camera’s automatic mode and rely on your photographic skills. The simplest solution is to adjust the white balance according to the context, trying to choose the white balance that best matches what you see with the naked eye in natural light.
When there is precipitation and snow is falling heavily, shutter speed is an interesting parameter to consider, in order to bring unexpected effects to the photo.
To make the snowflakes appear as snow streaks, which will reinforce the effect of abundant precipitation, it is better to use a slow shutter speed, below 1/30th of a second. On the contrary, a fast shutter speed (1/250th of a second) will freeze the snowflakes and give a different look.
By simply playing with the shutter speed, it is therefore possible to obtain very varied atmospheres depending on the desired final result and to immortalize beautiful atmospheres.
Discover Spéos’ photography courses
In order to take successful snow photos, it is important to know the settings of your camera very well. There is no secret: the most important thing is to practice! However, beginning photography without help can be frustrating. Taking a course or workshop to learn the basics can be a good way to learn the photographic techniques before you start taking pictures.
Spéos offers various training courses ranging from simple one-week photography courses (introduction and advanced) to fully-fledged 3-year courses. The long programs to become professional photographers not only allow you to master all the photographic techniques and vocabulary (blurs, hyperfocus, sharpness zone, depth of field, backlighting, focal length, shutter release, autofocus, wide-angle, rule of thirds, etc.), but also all the shooting and post-production techniques.