Winter can be full of great opportunities for photographers to capture stunning images. A layer of snow on familiar objects gives them new life. The beauty of falling snow tempts all levels of photographers outside to try and capture the amazing display. However, shooting in the snow offers unique challenges that require a bit of preparation and skill to overcome.
Dress for the weather
The last thing any photographer needs is a shivering body that inhibits their ability to shoot. Dressing appropriately for a winter shoot in warm clothing and insulated, waterproof boots ensure that you stay focused on the scenes around you without the distraction of numbness in your extremities. It’s important not to overdress though as this can cause overheating while moving around and risk hypothermia as the cold temperatures chill sweat and lower body temperature. Feeling a slight chill is acceptable, and it’s good to have gloves on, even if you have to remove them to take photographs. If it’s a sunny day, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare and reflection of sunlight off the snow.
Cold camera, warm/spare batteries
Rather than stowing your camera in your coat to try to keep it warm, keep it out, so it stays cold. Exposing a warm camera to the cold can fog the mirror and create damaging condensation inside the lens. The condensation can also short out electronic components in a digital camera. If you try to pull your camera from a warm spot to take a shot quickly in the cold, it’s likely that the lens will fog up, and you’ll miss your opportunity for that perfect photograph. Although the camera should stay cold, batteries drain quicker in the cold, so it’s a good idea to have extra batteries and keep them warm in your coat.
Gear in easy reach
To avoid digging around in your bag or dropping equipment in the snow, carry your gear in a water-resistant bag, backpack or your pockets to it’s always within easy reach. Placing a gear bag that isn’t waterproof down in the snow can get it, and everything inside it wet, causing potential damage.
If your camera can shoot in RAW format, then do so as this gives the highest amount of flexibility in post-production. With RAW images, you can fix issues that you are either very difficult or impossible to fix in JPEG images. Always have larger or extra memory cards on hand to accommodate the larger file size of RAW images.
Using Auto mode or Shutter/Aperture priority mode on your camera can lead to dark images because of the brightness of the snow, so it’s best to use Manual mode. In Manual mode, you can compensate for the reflected light from the snow.
Whiter snow from overexposure
Sometimes snow can look grayish or have a blue tint when you’re shooting, but slightly overexposing the shot can make the snow look whiter. If the image turns out too bright, you can adjust it during editing.
Eliminate falling snow blocking the shot
Photographing falling snow can be challenging when the snowflakes closest to the camera block the shot or overpower the image. Eliminate these troublesome flakes by placing your camera on a tripod, increasing aperture, decreasing ISO and using a delayed shutter. This way, the closer, offending snowflakes don’t find their way into the image because there isn’t enough time to capture them.
When you return to your home or studio from a cold, winter shoot, leave your camera and gear in the closed, cold bag for a while and then open it up so all of the components can warm back up slowly without the risk of condensation forming inside the lens or camera. During image editing, improve the depth of the photos and remove fuzziness by increasing the black intensity. Increasing black intensity with your image editing software can reveal lost detail, eliminate the haze caused by falling snow and increase image saturation.
Featured image by gigi_nyc