There’s nothing more satisfying than the first big snowstorm of the year — canceled classes, a day off work and no obligations other than hitting the untouched powdery slopes or even just your backyard.
Documenting these experiences can be slightly more challenging, though. (And we’re not just talking about how those bulky gloves get in the way of the impossibly tiny camera buttons.) With the different lighting and temperatures, there’s a whole set of techniques you should use when photographing snow. It’s time to bundle up, get yourself outside, and try out these tips to get better photos this winter:
1. Keep Your Camera Cold and Batteries Warm
Your expensive new camera + snow+ subzero temperatures = well, it just doesn’t mix well. Taking care of your camera in cold weather is something that most people don’t even consider when headed out sledding or skiing. It is important to keep your camera cool, but not too cold, so that constant warming and chilling won’t result in a condensation and frost. Batteries on the other hand, should be kept warm, so just store them away in a pocket close to your body until you are ready to shoot, ensuring that they last as long as your snow adventure does.
2. Work With the Sun, Not Against It
The way the sun reflects on snow is very different than it would under normal outdoor conditions. Reaching up to 80% more reflectivity, setting a suitable white balance is essential to prevent all your photos from having a strong blue tone. Instead, manually calibrate your camera early on by aiming at a clear patch of snow and setting an appropriate white balance so that snow appears as a pure white. Oftentimes, many pictures of snow end up being uninteresting large patches of white, so shooting during early morning or late afternoon can allow you to better capture texture and shape by using low-angle shadows the sun casts.
3. Catch the Action
Action shots are already difficult enough to capture, making shots of snow sports seemingly impossible. The key is all about timing and knowing your camera well enough to make changes without missing the a perfect jump or their flawless form. If you’re capturing a friend doing a trick down the slopes, make sure you prepare the shot and give a signal as soon as you are ready to go. To capture a still shot, use flash, but if you would like to show the skier or snowboarder “in action” use a panning motion so that the subject is still in focus but the background is blurred to suggest speed.
4. Color is Key
Colors and composition are essential elements as monochromatic fields of white quickly become boring shot after shot. When photographing your children, dress them in bright, contrasting colors but limit it to one or two so that the colors stand out against the snow without being overwhelmingly noisy. In addition, including other elements in the shot can really liven up a picture. Even simple addition to add a layer of perspective, such as a tree or a fence, can bring a lot to a photo.
So when the next big snowfall comes around, resist the temptation to crank up the heat and curl up in bed. Instead, throw on those long johns (we know you have them, too), grab your camera, head on outside and snap away.