A few weeks ago, New Jersey and most of the Northeast were covered in a blanket of snow courtesy of a historic blizzard. At our house we got just under two feet of snow that Brian shoveled out of our sidewalk and driveway for three-and-a-half hours (bless him). Daisy and I had fun exploring the new winter wonderland and I enjoyed taking some photos of her in the new tunnel-like path of our sidewalk.
Since snow is in the forecast once again this week that got me thinking - what are some strategies for taking better photos in the snow? It’s such a gorgeous background, but the swirling flakes and bright white landscape offer challenges to the amateur photographer like me.
Snow looks so magical and gives you a purely white background, so you might think “what could be easier?” But in reality, taking photos in the snow can be difficult. The brightness from the snow can cause your photos to look too bright or too blue-toned, sometimes there are weird shadows or reflections, and the photos don’t turn out like you imagined.
So this morning we did some research and found these 10 simple tips to make your snow day photoshoot spectacular (with lots of pretty images to demonstrate).
1 - Use a faster shutter speed.
If you’ve tried to captured a photo while the snow is falling and ended up with a blurry mess of white, it’s probably because your shutter speed was too slow. If you’re taking photos on your phone there isn’t really a fix for that, but with a digital camera, up your shutter speed to 1/250th of a second so the snowflakes are captured in motion and look beautiful and still.
2 - Cloudy is good (don't wait for sunshine).
This goes for any weather conditions, but especially snow. Cloudy is actually good. Too much sun can make the everything too bright and contrasted, especially when there is endless white in the landscape.
3 - Wear the right gloves.
This may seem odd, but if your fingers are freezing off you won’t be able to hit the right buttons or fiddle with settings. Not to mention, you’ll be extra cold and shaky. I’d recommend the gloves that are open at your fingertips to stay warm, but also practical.
4 - Don't step in the snow.
Something that makes photographs in the snow so gorgeous is the nature and simplicity of something so pure, but footprints can ruin that. This is a common mistake because most people don’t even think of it, but once the shot is taken, it’s not as beautiful as you imagined because of this small but important detail. Once there are tracks in the snow they can’t be covered, you’ll never get back to that fresh snowfall. So before your kids build a snowman or start a snowball fight, capture some shots in front of the untouched snow.
5 - Make it bright or black and white.
Black and white photos in the snow are timeless and really beautiful. But on the other hand, bright colors against a white snowy landscape are also undeniably eye-catching. For instance, red stands out against white and gives the photos warmth. Try throwing a red scarf on your child, or maybe you have a red shovel or hat - that will really amp up your snow day photoshoot.
6 - Take photos at night.
A dark sky next to a freshly snow covered world is beautiful, and surprisingly not too difficult. Street lights bouncing off the white snow brighten up a shot and can give a scene of your family playing or shoveling a warm ambience.
7 - Try taking shots from different angles.
When catching shots of your kids in the snow you immediately think that snow in the background is an essential. Although it is gorgeous, and screams winter wonderland, sometimes that rear brightness can darken out faces and other details. This brightness from the snow can be a perfect natural light source, so use it as one.
Professional family photographer Lena Antaramian of Live Love Laugh Photos says, "Winter is a great time for outdoors photos because the sun is generally low to the ground and the light is pretty flattering. Snow is a great reflector - i.e. it shines light back on your subject, illuminating their faces, which is ideal for portraits."
Make sure that light is in front of your child’s face with a darker background behind (the house, a shed, a fence, etc.). This will create great contrast and really pick up the details in the photo.
8 - Change the settings.
If you’re a bit more advanced, changing the settings on your camera will really help. The automatic white balance on many cameras can give your pictures a blue tone or make everything look a little bit grey because all of the bright white snow confuses your camera. If your camera has a snow scene mode, that will help to bring the colors to life. If it doesn’t, you’ll have to fiddle with the warmth (most cameras have this option). This is the setting that can make your photos a bit more blue or a bit more yellow.
Jen Davis of Photography by Jen Davis advises, "Use evaluative metering, the snow glare will really trick your camera. Make sure your white balance is warm enough. " So, just by adding a few notches of warmth, you can properly balance out the naturally occurring blue. This just takes some practice and testing.
9 - Do not delete.
Don’t delete any photos until you’re inside looking at them on a larger screen. Looking at a screen outdoors can create bad reflections (as we all know from trying to send a text at the beach) and make it difficult to see subtle details. So keep all the photos, even the ones you think look terrible, until you can see them inside or on a higher quality screen.
10 - Take action shots.
There’s something about posed photos in the snow that just aren’t as much fun as action shots. That’s a good thing since it’s nearly impossible to get your kids to stand still for a photo, especially when there are mounds of snow to play in. So let your kids go nuts sledding, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels. Capture those moments to have some authentic and fun shots for your next album.
I hope these tips help you capture some snowy magic the next time you find yourself in a winter wonderland!
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