When the snow falls, it should make for a magical scene. With a few simple tips, you can learn how to photograph snow and leave with some stunning photographs.
Though it can be challenging, once you get to grips with your camera’s functions, as well as the conditions, it can be a mesmerizing experience.
Whether you venture out to ski resorts at a high altitude or simply want to capture your backyard as a winter wonderland (see also “What To Photograph In Winter?“).
In this guide, we will look at how to photograph snow. This will include the composition, timing, focus, exposure compensation, polarizing filter, contrast, and the correct gear.
- Check The Composition
- Choose The Best Time
- Get The Focus Right
- Consider The Exposure Compensation Feature
- Use A Polarizing Filter
- Look At The Contrast
- Pick The Correct Gear
1. Check The Composition
Quickly decide what you want to include, and what you do not want to include, in your photographs. It may be a particular tree or simply how certain elements work together in a scene.
Use the rule of thirds, how color is used, and how some leading lines can be featured to get a great shot.
2. Choose The Best Time
The available light is a key consideration for photography. For snow, that typically means that there are two times during the day when the light will help you out (see also “How To Photograph Snowflakes“).
Blue hour occurs during the early morning and late in the evening when the sun appears just below the horizon. This produces an exceedingly blue light that is almost cold in tone, ideal for capturing snow.
Then there is the golden hour which is just after sunrise then at dusk when the sun is setting. At these times, the light should be warmingly yellow and tone.
3. Get The Focus Right
It can be a struggle to get your camera to lock in and focus on your desired subject. The autofocus can appear like it is hunting to and fro which is why you should aim for some contrast.
With snow, that can prove difficult as it is typically a wholly white scene yet try to find something to lock your focus onto. That could be a tree, an animal, a building, or simply any object that looks to stand out from the snow.
4. Consider The Exposure Compensation Feature
If your snow photographs come out darker than you would expect, consider the exposure compensation feature. All that white snow can confuse your camera so find the exposure compensation feature and use it.
It may be a button on a camera or a setting you can access from the camera menu on your smartphone. There should be a scale so use it appropriately and test some shots out first to see how much of the feature you should use, typically +1 should work well.
5. Use A Polarizing Filter
With interchangeable lenses, you should consider using a polarizing filter with your camera. This is essentially a piece of glass that you can attach to your lens that will filter out a fair amount of polarized light.
This type of light will be reflected off a surface, in this case that will be snow. Using a polarizing filter will reduce the amount of glare, improve the available contrast and promote vibrant colors in your photograph.
6. Look At The Contrast
To find a simpler way to achieve contrast in your photograph, consider using the single-point autofocus mode. That way you can position the main focus point over an area of snow like a tiny animal poking its head out through the snow.
Basically, anything that is sticking out against the sheer white of the snow should provide a decent amount of contrast that you can work with.
7. Pick The Correct Gear
This final tip means both your camera gear and any gear that you take simply to keep warm. Photographing snow should be cold and if you are to use your camera properly then you should be able to move your fingers.
That should mean gloves but consider fingerless ones so your hands stay warm yet your fingers remain mobile.
For your camera, find one with a large sensor that comes with advanced ISO capabilities. If you want to capture snow properly then it should be on a typically dark and cold day.
That’s when the light is particularly limited and you will need your ISO for some sharp shots so the sensor becomes highly important. Perhaps an APS-C mirrorless model, a DSLR, or a full-frame mirrorless camera will work well.
If you do want to leave a wintry scene with some exceptional photographs, make sure that the camera settings are correct. That should mean your exposure compensation though you may want to consider a polarizing filter.
Make sure that the contrast works when you pick something out to focus on, pick the right time. Above all, choose the right gear to make sure you keep warm while you take some great photographs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Glare from the snow can leave your photographs looking overexposed which is a sign that your camera settings need to be adjusted.
To prevent overexposure, manually set your shutter speed to 1/2000 seconds, the ISO to a healthy 200, and the aperture should be around f/8.
An automatic white balance will involve metering on your camera that can turn snow into a gray color.
It should be a dazzling white so change up the white balance of your camera to the ‘cloudy/shade’ setting to provide a whiter snow. Hopefully, this should avoid the snow from looking gray and unnatural.