Whether you live in an area of the country that sees frequent snowfall, or you’re vacationing in a winter wonderland, snow possesses an undeniable magic and beauty that begs to be captured. Whether it’s blankets of undulating fresh snow sparkling in the winter sun or patches of snow dotting the bare trees, it’s amazing how frozen water can change the landscape so dramatically.
Snow photography is a great way to get outside and enjoy the magical landscape while creating art and making memories. Yes, today’s phones may work in a pinch, but if you really want to take the best snow photos, you’ll need a camera and a few tips to strengthen the quality of your images. Here are 14 tips & ideas for taking better photos in snowy landscapes:
1. Keep Your Camera Protected
First and foremost, invest in a camera bag to protect your camera from the elements and unexpected accidents like slipping on ice. To prevent condensation from forming on the outside of your camera in colder weather, put your camera in a large zipper bag before and after using it. When you’re done taking photos, simply put the camera in the bag and place it somewhere safe to slowly acclimate to room temperature. Always be sure to keep the lens cap on when the camera is not in use to prevent any snow from entering the lens. Keep a microfiber cloth ready to wipe your screen or lens.
2. Rely on Your Histogram
Your LCD screen is not going to show you the colors and the details of your images accurately. It’s also a tiny screen which limits how well you see your photos on it.
This is why you should learn how to read your histograms. They show you scientifically how well exposed your images are which is necessary for a correct exposure.
It can be especially important in snow photography because your screen’s brightness problems might result in completely useless images.
By relying on the histogram, you can see the dynamic range of tones. This helps to avoid overexposing or underexposing your images.
3. Don’tLet the Weather Stop You
One of the most basic snow photography tips we can give you is to prepare for the weather.
It might sound silly at first, but once you are outside, you’ll see it’s good to have a reminder.
When cold weather hits, we like to stay inside and enjoy room temperature. But don’t let the weather stop you!
In most regions, snow is rare, and it gives a unique sight of the world. Snowy landscape images are rarer than other kinds. Use these periods to shoot outstanding images.
It’s a perfect time for street photography as well. People behave a little differently in the changing environment.
They can struggle with walking in the snow. Or enjoy themselves and build snowmen with children at the most unexpected places. Focus on these out-of-the-common moments and use them to tell stories.
For this, you’ll have to dress in layers to stay warm. Wear a warm coat, a scarf and a hat. Wear gloves that allow you to press the buttons on your camera and use the touchscreen of your phone.
Snow can be really shiny, so in sunny weather, it’s advised to wear sunglasses to prevent snow blindness.
4. Invest in Equipment
Investing in photography equipment is investing in your art. Adding some of these items to your gear will help capture those special moments and enhance your pictures to the max.
Tripods help you steady your images without having to hold the camera. These are terrific for night photography, especially in winter, when you don’t want to hold the camera in the cold. If you don’t have one, create a makeshift tripod from materials that are around you.
Remote shutter release is another handy tool when it comes to night photography. You can capture a clear night sky without having to touch the camera. This gives you the opportunity to be in your own photos. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this piece of equipment, it will open new doors to your creative endeavors.
Filters work well in many situations. A UV filter protects your lens from the elements. A polarizing filter reduces reflections and glares from the snow and creates a dark blue sky on a clear day.
Try macro photography and capture an image of a single snowflake. Using a macro lens with an extension tube will help you accomplish this.
A wide angle lens will help you create a greater sense of depth from the foreground to background. These are amazing for landscape or nighttime photography with a clear sky covered in stars.
Batteries will deplete quickly in the cold weather. Keeping an extra charged battery in a warm pocket is always a good idea for winter photography.
5. Make Sure to Set Up the Right White Balance
Finding the correct white balance can be tricky. Snow has a blueish tone when it’s not directly lit by sunlight, because these times it reflects the blue sky.
You might want to compensate it, so set your white balance manually.
You can set it to shade mode or take a white balance preset from the snow. These two techniques are going to give a warmer and more realistic tone.
You can also try exposure compensation to balance the blue or gray of the snow. This is going to need +1 or +2 stops compensation. It helps the snow to stay white.
This may result in overexposed images, but your images are going to be softer. And you can take back from it during post-processing.
Beautiful snow covered trees in a winter landscape
6. Use a Lens Hood and a Polarising Filter to Limit Reflections
Snow reflects a lot of light, especially in sunny weather. This can result in light leaks and unwanted blurs or reflections in your images.
Your lenses come with a lens hood. This is a basic part of your gear, but you might not use it. Well, for snow photography, you should.
It stops lens flares from getting into your camera and reaching the sensor. Besides this, it protects your lens from the falling snow and other physical impacts.
Another solution against lens flares is using a polarising filter. It sits on the front element of your lens, and just like the lens hood, it can protect it. But this is not the best of its functions.
It eliminates unwanted reflections and it helps to darken bright surfaces.
With a circular polarising filter you can control the strength of the polarizing effect. It helps to keep details in the bright areas.
7. Try Snowflake Photography to Show the Beauty In the Details
When we talk about snow photography, we usually imagine snow-covered landscapes. But it takes uncountable snowflakes to build up these scenes.
Use your camera to show the beauty in the details and try snowflake photography. It’s a great way of guiding your viewers to a wonder world that is not even visible to the naked eye.
Someone’s coat, gloves or hats can give a nice background to the fallen snowflakes. A darker surface can enhance the shapes beautifully.
8. Capture Snow in its Different Forms
Don’t wait until the sun comes out and the snow begins to melt. Get outside when the snow is still falling or shortly after. A freshly blanketed landscape is bright and magical. If you wait a few days, you’ll miss the chance for to photograph fresh snow with footprints or plow tracks. Or, capture one location on the first snowy day and go back to the same location for a unique before-and-after perspective. Capturing snow while it’s falling can create a dreamy photo, but make sure your camera is protected by placing a special rain cover over it, or use a plastic bag with a hole for your lens to fit through.
9. Be Patient
This tip is a corollary to the one above – because while it’s important to always be ready, it’s also important to be patient, especially when you’re faced with rapidly changing conditions.
You see, depending on the light, snow can look sparkly, ethereal, three-dimensional, flat, and so much more. Sometimes, getting the right look simply involves waiting for the light to change.
So if the snow doesn’t look quite how you hoped, check the light. Is the sun behind a cloud? Is the sun too low or high in the sky?
Then wait for the right conditions to take your shot.
10. Wear Warm Gear
It’s going to be cold this winter, so make sure to wear warm gear when you go out on your photography adventures. A warm jacket, winter hat, proper snow boots, snow pants, face guard and fingerless mittens will keep you warm while you snap photos. Keeping your camera safe and warm is important, but the top priority should be your warmth. Consider investing in snowshoes or spikes so you can traverse smoothly through thick patches of snow.
Our final piece of advice is to have fun! Wintertime provides the chance to enjoy so many outdoor activities and gorgeous scenery. Winter photography may seem intimidating if you’re a beginner, but follow the tips mentioned above, and you’ll capture magical images. Lace up your boots, grab your camera and make some snow-filled memories.