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Photographing in the Snow...There is a Trick.

by Paul Cook | November 23, 2012

When you are looking for some dramatic digital photography in the cold winter months, you are challenging yourself for some serious shots. With mountains draped in layers of snow and single flakes of snow fluttering to cover ever inch of the asphalt road, snowfall makes everything truly dramatic! If you have been inspired by snow and are photographically inclined, you may have clicked a few snapshots only to find to your dismay, a depressing gray picture of the bright perfect whipped snow in front of you. This is because photography in snow requires some serious tact which I would love to share here.

Adjust The Exposure

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When shooting in snow, you should consider the fact that snow being white presents a highly reflective background which can mislead the camera’s exposure meter that the scene is brighter than it actually is. This is why it results in underexposed pictures which can hence be avoided by adjusting the exposure. You can set the exposure compensation dial anywhere from +1/3 to +2 stops to add more exposure to the image.

Choose The Metering Mode

The camera’s metering system measure the light that is reflected off from the subjects in the picture and then uses this as a basis for setting the exposure aspects such as f-stop, ISO and shutter speed. Because of this the subjects in your photo appear a middle gray tone. When shooting in snow, choose the Spot Metering mode for the subject focused in the picture which needs to have the right exposure. But if you plan on focusing mainly on the snow, you should switch to a center-weighted meter mode to capture rich details of the snow.

Pay Attention To The Light Source

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If you are shooting snow then the sun would be the obvious light source. You need to be careful about the intensity of your light source, the position of your subject with respect to the light source as well as the light reflecting off the snow. By using a polarizing filter on your lens, you can vary the amount of polarized light that passes through it. In this way, the glare effect can be reduced on the ice and snow. Check to see whether the sun is to your right or left before you use the polarizing filter. The filter won’t be of much help if you are shooting facing the sun or away from it.

Set The White Balance

White balance settings are about the temperature light source you are shooting in which can range from shade to daylight, tungsten to fluorescent, and cloudy to flash. If you have a high end professional camera, you can have a specific color temperature too. The time of the day, the position of light source, the geography and the weather conditions have an impact on the color temperature of your light source.

You should set the option to flash, if you do not want to process your image in your computer, to get a warmer result. You could even use a skylight filter to warm up the scene. But if you are one of those who would prefer making adjustments in the RAW format, then you could fine tune the white balance in your computer rather than on your camera.


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Be careful that your snowy pictures do not have too much of blank space in the form of expansive white snowy areas. Add a bit of contrast by including trees, rocks or ice into the picture. Bring the picture alive by looking out for something interesting in the foreground.

Make sure your fingers don’t go numb out there in the snow!

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Tips-n-Tricks #422

Learning how to shoot in manual mode is a lot like learning how to drive a standard. You may stall out a few times before it makes sense, but after repetition it all starts to make sense.

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