Get Stunning Snow Photos With These (Simple) Tips

The best advice for photographing snow is not to trust it ๐Ÿ™‚ , which for you is a scene with perfect lighting, of a spectacular pure white; what a priori it is a bucolic scene that is sustained by its own beauty; it can end up being a very gray image in your camera. Literally and figuratively ๐Ÿ˜‰

That is why I propose to leave you with some tips for snow photography and thus transform that beautiful bucolic image that you have before your eyes, into an absolute reality. In this article I will talk about:

  • The best settings for photographing snow
  • The best photo accessories for photographing snow
  • Other essential accessories
  • Equipment care in cold situations
  • The composition in snowy landscapes
  • Wildlife in snow photography
  • Edition

The best settings for photographing snow

These tips will help you master the technical part of a photo in a snowy setting:

manual mode

The manual mode is the one that I recommend the most in general for landscapes, it will allow you to control and play with all the variables of the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) to generate an image that perfectly meets your expectations.

There is life beyond automatic mode (spoilers: and it’s a much better life ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

control exposure

If you have already gotten excited about snow photography, you will have realized that one of the main problems we encounter is that of exposure. The explanation is simple:

Snow reflects a lot of light, and this makes our photometer believe that there is much more light than there really is. For this reason, it offers us some exposure values โ€‹โ€‹that, if we apply them, are not correct.

This is because the photometers or exposure meters integrated in our cameras measure the reflected light and not the light that actually reaches the objects:

The photometer or exposure meter of reflected light measures the light reflected by people or objects what we are photographing This means that the exposure values โ€‹โ€‹that the reflected light photometer will offer us, will depend on the tones that the objects havesince objects or people with shades Lighter colors reflect more light than objects or people with darker hues..

From our article: Photometer or Exposure Meter (what it is and what it is used for)

The result of using the exposure values โ€‹โ€‹offered by the camera is an underexposed image. And this is seen above all in the snow, which should be white but instead takes on a gray hue.

Luckily, this aspect has a very easy solution. Assuming that we know that the light meter is “cheating us”, all we have to do is simply increase the exposure (via the exposure compensation button (+/-) ), by +1.5 or + 2, depending on the light we have at the moment.

You should check the result, ideally by looking at the histogram on your camera. The white of the snow should be placed to the right of the histogram but without getting out of the graph (in that case it would indicate that you have burned the snow and that the information in the lights has been lost).

white balance

Another aspect to take into account in snow photography is white balance. While the white balance usually works well in automatic mode, in this case make sure that it is, because depending on the time of day, the light, etc., snow can lead to images with a bluish cast.

RAW mode

If you want to take a step further in terms of the quality of your images, you have to start photographing in RAW format right away ;).

this format does not compress the information nor does it make any type of adjustment, it is processed in raw and therefore it allows you to work with much more information than any other, offering you infinitely better editing results.

Use a low ISO

If you photograph a snowy landscape in sunlight, you will not need to work with a high ISO, so leave it at native values โ€‹โ€‹(usually around 100) and you will gain sharpness in your landscape photos.

Remember that the higher the ISO value you use, the more noise appears in the image.

Choosing a suitable metering mode for photographing snow

There are many ways to photograph snow, you can take a portrait, make a nice minimalist composition, photograph snowy peaks… Each type of image may require you to use a certain exposure mode.

My recommendation is that you cheer up with him. punctual mode when the protagonist is an object or person (a tree, a person, an animal, etc.). This way you will correctly expose your protagonist, otherwise it would be underexposed by the intensity of light reflected by the snow.

If you photograph a beautiful and pristine snowy landscape, you can opt for the matrix or center-weighted mode, if the protagonist is snow (and you remember to overexpose the exposure), it will give you a pretty tight result.

The focus when photographing snow

It is possible that your camera has a hard time focusing between so much white and it does not know very well where to stop.

In this case I recommend:

  • Use somewhat closed apertures (medium or high f/number) to have a good depth of field.
  • Find an element that contrasts with white and is within the area you want to have in focus. So the camera will have a point to focus on to focus.
  • If all else fails, focus on manual ๐Ÿ™‚

You can take a look at our detailed guide to learn how to set the focus according to the photo you want to take.

The “snow” mode of your camera

If you have a โ€œsnowโ€ mode on your camera and you are very lost with the settings, you do not get clear with the manual mode or the white balance, it may be an option to consider.

Now, the more you control the settings yourself, the better results you will get.

The best photo accessories for photographing snow

  • The right lens depending on the type of photography you want to take.
  • A monopod can be very useful, it is very portable, it gives you stability, and it is quick to use.
  • various batteries (they discharge quickly in intense cold).
  • More than one memory card (you don’t want to run out of space or have it messed up in the snow and miss your session).
  • A waterproof backpack.
  • a rain cover in case it snows If you don’t have any, take a plastic bag and some elastic bands (or chicken rubber bands as we say here).

Other essential accessories to photograph the snow

It is very important that you protect yourself well against cold and humidity, the more time you spend photographing, the more you will notice the effects of the cold.

  • Always wear gloves. The equipment freezes and besides being unpleasant, you can even get stuck to the surface. The more extreme the cold, obviously the worse. Carrying a pair of gloves, some thick ones for when you are not taking photos and other thin inner ones to use when you want to take photos can be a good solution.
  • Dress in layers. It is always better to dress in layers and adapt your clothes to the cold. If you wear a very warm single layer you can get hot and sweat, and sweat when it gets cold will make you much colder. The top layer should always be waterproof.
  • Waterproof boots and suitable for the terrain where you are going to walk.
  • Wool socks. They are best for extreme cold environments.

(A trickif you go into the snow, for whatever reason, with non-waterproof shoes, put plastic bags over your socks).

Equipment care and protection in cold situations

The cold and, above all, sudden changes in temperature can be a dangerous enemy of your equipment, so you must be especially careful with it when you go out to photograph snow:

  • Do not subject the camera to sudden changes in temperature. The best thing is that you try to acclimatize it slowly, for example, if you go by car, store it in the trunk, which is cooler than the interior of the car and thus you do not subject it to such a sudden change. Or if you enter the house, do not leave it near a radiator, etc. You could create condensation inside your camera and make it prone to fungal growth.
  • Keep batteries close to your body. The cold discharges them quickly. One way to avoid this is to keep them as warm as possible until use. Likewise, always carry spare batteries for what may happen.
  • If it’s snowing, always use a waterproof cover (if not, you can use a plastic bag).
  • Take a look at our extra tips to protect your team from the cold.

The composition in snowy landscapes

When you photograph snow you should pay special attention to the composition, it is easy to fall into somewhat boring images if you are not looking for something that makes it stand out. So that your image is not just one more, you must not forget the importance of searching a story.

  • patterns: Play with the rhythm or break the rhythm.
  • Minimalism: Very much in line with snowy scenes, compositions based on “less is more” or minimalist.
  • The contrast: Look for colors with tones that contrast with the pure white of snow (reds, for example, generate a lot of contrast and strongly attract the viewer’s attention).
  • The rule of thirds: To add interest to the image try not to center your photos.
  • keep the straight horizon.
  • Experiment with black and white: Snow and black and white photography can be perfect allies.
  • Look for the details: Beyond wide shots, the best images may be those that go unnoticed by the naked eye. Some flowers with traces of snow, a lonely leaf, a footprint… Open your eyes wide and look beyond the general image.
    • The ice: During the first hours of the day you may find frost on plants and flowers. The shapes that ice forms on surfaces can be a good subject to photograph as well. Get really close and, if you have a macro lens, reversing rings or close-up lens, play around with those extreme close-ups.
  • Natural frames: They can add interest to boring images and/or help you focus interest on a certain point.
  • Look for scenes with no footprints and clean snow. The best time is always after a snowfall in the early hours of the day before it ends up being stepped on or destroyed by the sun. You can also take advantage of the light of dawn, which as you know is spectacular.
  • Do not miss our mega guide on photographic composition where you will find many more tips and tricks.
  • The human element: We are naturally drawn to it and it is a way to add interest and scale to the image. Experiment with the portrait, play with minimalist compositions. In the following video you have a portrait session in the snow from which you can get some inspiring ideas.

Wildlife in snow photography

Although spring is the best season to photograph wildlife, the truth is that in winter it is possible to find birds and other animals to photograph.

  • A telephoto