How to Photograph in the Snow
Snow is one of those situations where you can’t just grab your camera, set it to automatic and hit the ground running. Not to fear, with a few simple tips, you’ll be all set to photograph in the snow.
How to Photograph in the Snow
Overexpose Your Images
The most important advice I can give you for How to Photography in the Snow is to Overexpose your images by 1-2 stops. To explain that, let’s first look at Exposure Meter basics.
Exposure Meter / Camera Meter and Middle Grey
Camera meters see everything in shades of grey – from black to white and every shade in between. Halfway between white and black is middle grey. Middle grey reflects 18% of light; this is why it’s called 18% grey. Camera meters are calibrated to 18% grey. Meaning, regardless of the type of metering, the meter will give a reading designed to photograph at 18% grey.
What does 18% Grey have to do with Photographing Snow?
If you’ve already photographed in the snow, and your snow came out grey, then you probably know where I’m going with this. The camera reads all that beautiful white light and calculates an exposure that will turn that white to 18% grey.The meter wants everything to be 18% grey – even the brightest white and the darkest black.
Use Your Histogram
Your histogram is a huge help when you’re trying to get the best exposure for photographing snow. Make sure your histogram is weighted to the right, with no details getting cut off.
Make sure you’re paying close attention to your shutter speed when you photograph in the snow.
To freeze falling snow into little white dots: use a fast shutter speed.
To capture streaks of falling snow: use a slower shutter speed.
To make snow fall completely disappear: use a very slow shutter speed. (You will need a tripod.)
Click the photos to enlarge.
Set a Custom White Balance
Setting white balance will tell your camera which tone is neutral. When you photograph snow in shadow, the snow may take on a blue color cast. By setting a custom white balance you can ensure you have true color rendition.
To set a custom white balance on the Canon 5D Mark II, photograph the snow so that only clean snow fills the composition. Then, go to the second page of your camera menu, choose Custom WB (It’s under ‘White balance.’) and select the image you just took. Next, change your camera setting by pressing WB on the top of your camera and turn your back wheel until your Custom White Balance icon appears. It’s the same icon that you’ll see on the back LCD screen when you set your snow image as your CWB in step 1.
Shoot in RAW
If you’re like me, you ALWAYS shoot in RAW. But, if you tend to only shoot JPEG, now is the time to make an exception. When you photograph in the snow, shooting RAW will give you more latitude in post production to fix any exposure issues.
Protect Your Equipment
Keep your gear at a constant temperature while you’re shooting. When you’re finished for the day, place your gear in a sealed plastic bag and allow your camera and lenses to gradually warm to ambient temperature. This will minimize condensation inside the camera and lens elements; most of the condensation will form on the exterior of the bag.
While you don’t want to warm your camera and lenses in between shots, you do want to keep your batteries warm until they are in your camera (this will help prolong their charge).