How to Take Photos in Snow

I’ll use one photo to show the steps of how to take photos in snow. It has plenty of Colour and contrast. While perhaps not the most exciting photo, I’ve chosen it so the image doesn’t detract from the process. However, I’ll show better composed and more interesting photos as to what can be achieved. As can be seen below.

how to take photos in snow

How to take photos in snow

RAW

Always shoot in a Raw format. The reason why is that Raw format allows you more leeway when post-processing than you have with a JPEG. With snow photos, unfortunately, it doesn’t go right all the time! Some adjusting is necessary while post-processing.

Focusing

Focusing can be tricky in a very white image. Pressure shutter halfway, if it doesn’t focus, shift your focusing point to something with a bit of contrast. A darker area, a building or a tree, then it should focus. Then focus lock the camera or just click the button on the lens to set the camera to manual focus.

How to take phots in snow

How to take photos in snow – if shooting at night set the focus to infinity

Camera Settings

Snow is extremely bright and can fool your camera’s light meter. Set your camera to matrix/pattern metering and shoot in Aperture priority mode. And if you have it, bracket your shots. This will help your photos not come out all grey and muddy. They can come out darker due to your light meter being fooled.

Even just keeping the camera in aperture priority mode and slightly overexposing your images will make for whiter snow.

As can be seen below, the standard photo is a bit murky and dull.

how to take pictures in snow

Auto white balance, Aperture priority, No exposure compensation

Some modern cameras handle snow really well, but only you will know if yours does this. If it’s your first time out in the snow, play it safe bracket wildly! With bracketing, you’ll end up with many bad shots but chances are you’ll get some good ones in there as well. However, let’s try some exposure compensation with the camera.

No exposure compensation

0.3 exposure compensation

0.7 Exposure compensation

I soon found that on this particular day and time, using an exposure compensation setting of +0.7 worked well for the conditions. And I say this particular day and time, as each moment is different. Hence the bracketing!

White Balance

Make sure you use the correct white balance. You can adjust white balance in post processing but sometimes it’s easier to take the picture right the first time. Try setting your balance to flash setting.

Flash White Balance, Aperture Priority, 0.7 Exposure compensation

The photo, with all the different elements, is starting to come together.  Now the white balance and the exposure compensation have been adjusted, the photo is 100 times better than the standard one at the beginning of this blog.

how to take pictures in snow
Original
Loads better

The flash setting in the White balance menu is designed to compensate for the blue tinge of flash.

How to Take Photos in Snow - White balance

How to Take Photos in Snow – White balance

As with any picture, the composition is key. Contrast the black features and white snow with a bright colour. My example photo on here shows a red hut, making a great contrast against the snow.

Contrast the colours - How to take photos in snow

Contrast the colours – How to take photos in snow

Also, watch for extraneous things in your shot like your own footprints in the snow. And, your own shadow! Chances are the sun will be lower in the sky in higher latitudes, making shadows longer!

Also using a tripod and a slow shutter speed can sometimes get rid of falling snowflakes if you don’t want them in the scene. 

How to take photos in the snow

Iso 100, F22, 1/80, Aperture Priority, Matrix/Pattern Metering

Here the setting sun adds some colour to the snow.

Wrap up warm

Obviously, dress appropriately! Take warm waterproof boots don’t forget hat and gloves. Just be sensible. Also, he can be hard work slogging through snow so use a layer system in your clothing. That is, rather than one big jumper wear two little ones and maybe a T-shirt and a shirt under it rather than one thick shirt. If you find yourself getting too hot just take off a layer. But honestly, I’m not your mum. Wear what keeps you warm!

Fogging

Keep the camera cold, otherwise, at the very least you will end up with a foggy lens. Also, if you’re not careful, it might even fog up the mirror in the camera. To avoid this, don’t keep your camera under your jacket.

How to take photos in snow

How to take photos in snow

Batteries

Batteries drain faster in the cold, so always take a spare or two. Also,  keep them in an inside pocket to help keep them warm. I got through 3 batteries on one nights of shooting in the Arctic, when usually it would only be one.

When you get back, warm up your camera slowly. Keep it in the bag and put it in the coldest room of your house to try and acclimatise it. This, once again this to stop moisture forming inside the camera.

Memory Cards

Keep all the images on your memory cards. Snow can be a little ‘so and so’ to get right so don’t delete any images from the back of the camera while you’re out and about in the snow. Wait till you get home and see them on the big screen first.

Postprocessing

In something like Adobe Lightroom, increase the black intensity of the image. Snow can cause a lack of colour depth in your photo. This is due to the intense whiteness of the photo and a number of other factors like haze. In the image below, I’ve adjusted the black, contrast and increased the vibrancy and red saturation a little.

With post-processing tweaks

How to take photos in Snow – Conclusions

Snow can be quite a challenge. But with these camera settings for snow, you’ll have a better chance of capturing the image you want!

Camera Gear Used on How to Take Photos in Snow

For all my tips and tricks see my Photography Tutorials page.

Photography Tutorials

To see all my gear, check out What’s In My Camera Bag.

Definitive Guide to the Basic Essentials

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They form the Basis of  My Top 10 photography Tips

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how to take photos in snow

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