I don’t know about you but there is something special about photographing in the snow. Where I live (in South Wales) we get snow so rarely that it’s a bit of a treat. My 10 year old has only seen snow a couple of times and as I type he is begging me to go out and play but I had to get this down first before donning our wellies and heading out to build a a big fat snowman. It’s always important to capture memories but BIG snow is certainly something I remember from my childhood (I remember the huge snow of 1982) so I know many of you will be heading out with your cameras over the next couple of days to cement the adventure on ‘film’.
But. It’s not that easy to photograph in snow for many reasons so I thought I’d give you some top tips to make sure you get great results whether shooting on your phone or on a DSLR:
Cameras and phones don’t like the cold
In cold weather your batteries won’t last as long. Phones also have a habit of switching off completely so keep your phone as warm as you can. If you are shooting with a DSLR or other camera make sure your battery is fully charged before heading out. If you have a spare battery then charge it up and keep it in a warm pocket just in case. If your battery (or your phone) does die pop it into a warm place and you might be able to use it again once it recovers!
They also don’t like dramatic changes of temperature
When you bring your camera in from the outside to a nice toasty inside environment, condensation can form on the outside, and inside of your camera. Much like when your glasses steam up (happens to me all the time!). This is avoidable by popping your camera into a sealed plastic bag (ideally a zip lock one) before you come back indoors. Let it warm back up gradually until it gets to room temperature.
It’s all in the DETAILS
Don’t forget to capture some detailed shots and close ups to document your snowy story. Snow flakes falling on lashes, icicles, wellies in the snow. snowman details etc. etc. etc.
Now for the more ‘technical’ side … drumroll please …
Snow confuses the camera in many ways
It can be hard for your camera to lock on to something to focus on when everything is so white. If you are using a DSLR use a single focus point and try and get your camera to lock on to an area of contrast. This could be a tree or branch or even your subjects eyes. You won’t have so much problem with a phone unless you are getting in close to your subject or taking a detailed shot. In this case just tap on the screen where you want your camera to focus and it should lock on.
Light (this is a big one!)
Cameras are not as clever as you might think! When faced with snow the camera will see all of the white as light. If you are on automatic mode you might find that your photos come out darker than you would like and the snow a muddy grey colour. This is because the camera is compensating for what it sees as an image which will be too bright (over exposed) and making it darker – which you don’t want. There are a few ways to get around this.
If you are taking pictures on your phone just tap your finger of the screen of a darker area (perhaps your models face) or a tree or building and it measure the light from that darker area making your images brighter.
You can do this on your DSLR by changing the way your camera sees the light and selecting something like spot metering or evaluative metering. Instead of looking at all of the metering points in the frame and the camera making a decision for you your camera will only look at key points in the frame which will make your exposure more accurate.
Ideally, if you are on a DSLR or bridge camera you need to get your camera off of auto. In automatic mode your camera does everything for you and to get great shots in the snow you need to take back control (I told you they aren’t as clever as you think). This is what I teach people in my beginner’s classes and although scary it’s the best way to take your photography to the next level.
The best way to shoot in the snow is in Manual mode as you have full control of both shutter speed and aperture. You can totally override what you camera wants to do and get the shots you want. Semi-automatic modes such as Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority are also great and you might might find it saves you time messing around with the dials (with your gloves on). Aperture Priority is always a favourite as you can change your aperture (which will allow you to effect your depth of field) and the shutter speed will be set for you by the camera.
If you don’t have much experience with camera settings then the easiest (and least scary) way to do this is to put your camera on to P mode (or Program). This is an automatic mode but it allows you to change a few more settings that you would be able to with full automatic.
STILL FINDING YOUR IMAGES ARE A BIT GREY?
Unless you are shooting in Manual Mode you might still find your images are a bit grey and muddy looking. In this instance try playing with your Exposure Compensation button. This is typically a little button that is square and has a + and – sign in it. If you press this and turn your control dial you will be able to make your picture a little lighter or darker without changing any other settings. If you are reading this any you’ve been on my beginner’s class this was the cheeky trick I told you about at the end. Now is a great time to practice guys!
Want to make the falling snow vanish?
This is pretty easy to do. All you need to do is set your camera onto a slow shutter speed. You might need a tripod for this or set your camera on a wall and pop it onto self timer so you don’t get camera shake. Hard to tell you what setting to put it on as it depends on the conditions but try speeds lower than 1/15th second and have a play. On the other hand if you’d like to capture the falling slow (as in many of the shots shown above) speed up your shutter speed a touch. No need to go too fast unless you are in a blizzard!!!
Remember to have fun. If you aren’t sure about using your camera why not pop out for half an hour for a practice before shooting for real. All of these things can be practiced in the comfort of your own home or by popping into the garden for 10 minutes. This should take the stress out of it all and allow you to have a great time and enjoy the snow whilst it lasts.
Wrap up warm and enjoy.
If you are a beginner and are interested in learning more about mastering your camera I am running another 2 beginner’s classes in April and May. Perfect for beginners and they are FUN too, I promise! Click the image below or HERE to find out more.