Telemark skiing photographPhoto by coolhil

If your getting outside in a northlerly clime lately, chances are you’re taking photos with snow in them. Snow can be fun to shoot, but it requires some technique to produce really striking winter photographs.

Here are a few tips, in case you’re headed out this weekend:

ADJUST THE CAMERA WHITE BALANCE

Camera’s tend to misjudge the color temperature of snow shots and produce blue photos (see the blue snow in the top picture below).

To correct for this, set your camera’s color temperature, typically called the “white balance,” to a warmer – redder – color. You can also shoot early or late in the day when the light is reddish. The goal, typically, is to make objects that look white in real life also look white in your photos.

In the bottom photo below, the color temperature setting is correct so the snow appears white.

Snowboarding shot with blue snowPhoto: Richard Sunderland

Snowboarding shot with white snowPhoto: Dion Crannitch

LET THE SUN SHINE IN

Cameras tend to react to brilliant, snowy scenes by overly limiting how much light hits the image-capturing sensor. Dark photos result, in which whites appear as grays. Experiment with letting more light into the camera, either by overriding with “exposure compensation” setting (many point-and-shoots have this) or adjusting the aperture size or shutter speed (SLR cameras). Some cameras have a “snow scene” setting that may help.

LIGHT YOUR SUBJECT

Bright snow can cause people’s faces or other objects to appear dark in photos. Use a fill flash or have subjects face the sun at an angle to brighten their faces and highlight objects. If you feel like getting fancy, use an off-camera flash to light people from an angle, thus bringing out the contours of the face. For tutorials on basic off-camera flash techniques, visit the website Strobist

Snowboarding at Killington, Vermont

My wife Monica and I are facing away from the sun at Killington ski area in Vermont and the camera is struggling to cope with the bright background, resulting in shadows on our faces. A fill flash would have helped.

PLAY WITH CONTRAST AND PATTERN

Snow opens up all kinds of possibilities for dark objects or brightly colored objects against white backdrops. Look for pleasingly stark patterns of dark against light and vice versa.

Mountaineers climbing snowy ridge

Notice the yin-and-yang of the darks and whites in this mountaineering photo.

Photo:Kat Clay

BRING EXTRA BATTERIES

Yes, batteries get cold, too. When it’s cold out, they will drain faster and die on you just as your friend pulls the powder turn of a lifetime. “Did you get it?!”

This article was originally published in the January edition of the STRAY Email Newsletter.

About The Author

Chris Emery is a mutt. Half woodsman, half geek. He spends as much time outdoors as possible. On rainy days, he writes and publishes STRAY.

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