Thursday, February 12, 2015

Photographer's Guide to Enjoying a Snow Day

Walking in a winter wonderland is certainly picturesque, but taking great images in a snowy landscape has a unique set of challenges. Exposure, white balance, glare, composition and even planning out where to walk can figure strongly in whether your photographs capture the magic of the sparkling drifts or end up in the slush pile.

First, always overexpose for snow! It’s sounds contrary to logic because it’s all one big white reflector but your camera’s meter will get confused and flatten everything out to mid grey so go up by 1 ½ to 2 stops.

If you’re shooting faces with a snowy scene as a backdrop, you can use fill flash, preferably off camera. But again remember all that snow acts like a reflector so be careful! Aimed incorrectly it can bounce off the snow and will be too bright. If it's actually snowing while you're shooting, the flash will turn those lacy flakes into big white blobs.

To capture falling snow, use a tripod so you can lengthen your shutter speed for a streaky effect. We like this sturdy Induro Carbon 8X. A faster shutter will stop snow in its tracks for a more romantic look. When it’s snowing the sky will be overcast so the shot may look dull or even a bit eerie and ominous. You can pop on a polarizing filter (like these listed here, now 20% off with code SDCFL20!) to deepen the sky and any colors that are in the frame.

Bright sunny blue skies can really cause glare from the snow, so don’t forget a lens hood! Also, this is another situation where the polarizing filter comes in handy as it can help eliminate some of the glare and really pops the blue skies. 

A polarizing filter can cut glare and deepen the blue of the winter sky.
Snow should be white, not grey or blue, so set your white balance by aiming at a large clean patch of snow. Alternatively, give your images more light by way of over exposing, you can always tone it down in post if you go overboard.

Don’t compose your images so that they’re all white! If you can, find a spot of color, an evergreen branch, red berries, or someone dressed in a bright color jacket or hat. And remember you don’t always have to shoot a wide expanse, get close in to a small branch piled up with snow and ice or a tiny resilient tree poking through a drift.

Look for small details and pops of color to add depth to your snow shots. 
Be mindful of where you’re walking and make sure you don’t mar a pristine snowscape with your own footprints. If you want to shoot that area later, you’ll be disappointed unless the footprints are part of the composition.

Finally, it should go without saying but dress warmly! Waterproof boots and gloves or mittens that can come off and on quickly are a must! Kids aren't the only ones who get to enjoy snow days; get out in the snow and get shooting!