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  • Writer's picturePhil Davenport

Snow Photography, a Beginner’s Guide

Updated: May 19, 2021

Are you ready to run outside and start shooting? I know how you feel, I love snow photography too. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Camera settings

Set your camera to shoot in RAW. When you take photos in RAW, you will have more to work with in editing. JEPG files are already condensed, and don’t allow for much editing.

Choose Evaluative (Matrix for Nikon) metering. Evaluative metering will do a good job. That’s what I used for all the photos in this post. If it’s really sunny, you may also want to try Spot or Partial metering to see if it handles the light better.

Exposure Compensation – Your camera will try to make snow look gray, so set your exposure compensation to +1 or +2. That will keep the snow looking white. You can also adjust exposure compensation while editing.

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture Priority (AV on Canon, A on Nikon) will allow you to quickly change your depth of field. When shooting in Aperture Priority the camera will choose the ISO, (if the camera is set to auto ISO) and the shutter speed, so all you have to do is switch between aperture settings. This is great in cold weather, and allows for a lot of creativity.

Capture it fresh

There’s nothing like a fresh snowfall.

If you want footprint free snow, you might want to plan which photos you’re going to take, and what order you’ll take them in. This might also mean going out early, before the kids get up.

Keep your batteries warm

In cold weather your batteries won’t last long. Charge two, and keep one in an inside pocket. When the one in your camera runs low, replace it with the warm one. Then put the drained one in your pocket, you may be able to use it again once it warms up.

Bag your camera

Condensation can form on the outside, and inside of your camera, when you bring it in from the cold. That’s scary, but it’s easy to avoid.

When you are heading out, just bring along a large zip-lock bag. I usually keep one in my camera bag or jacket pocket. When you are ready to go inside, put your camera in the bag, and make sure it’s sealed tight. Then, once you’re in the house put your camera somewhere it can warm up slowly. Once it reaches room temperature, you can take it out of the bag and use it normally.

I leave my camera bag in the car while I’m taking photos. Before getting back into the car, I put my camera in the zip-lock bag, then in the camera bag. This way the camera comes up to temperature slowly and condensation doesn’t form.

Don’t let the weather stop you

Snowy landscapes look good, in both sunny and cloudy weather.

On cloudy days, when everything is white, include elements that will break up the white, and add interest to your photo. If it’s snowing, use an umbrella to protect your camera. Or if it’s too cold to go out, roll down your car window, grab your shot, and roll it back up.

Act fast

Snow can change quickly. It can start, or stop falling in an instant. When the sun comes out, snow can start melting really fast too. Those beautiful trees can go from dazzling to drab in no time. Don’t wait. Get out there and photograph it.

Be patient

Light can also change really fast. The sun can go behind a large cloud and totally change how the snow looks. You may need to wait for the sun to come out again. This can be hard when it’s cold, but it’s worth it!

Keep all your images

Don’t delete any photos from your camera, wait until you’re warm and comfy, sitting in front of your computer. You’ll be able to see your photos more clearly, and your fingers won’t freeze.

Play with perspective

Shoot from different perspectives. Try to show the way snow blankets the ground, weighs things down, and clings to everything.

Watch out for falling snow. It’s not so nice to have a clump land on your camera.

Play with shutter speed

Shutter Priority allows you to choose your shutter speed, while the camera takes care of the rest. With a fast shutter speed, you can freeze falling snow in mid-air. With a slow shutter speed, you can turn those flakes into long white streaks.

Capture some Bokeh

A sunny winter day, is a great time to create bokeh. With all that sparkling snow and ice, it shouldn’t be too hard.

To create bokeh in your photos, look for a subject that has something bright or shiny in the background. This could be the light reflected off of ice, melting snow or some sunspots. Use a wide open aperture (a small number like f/3 or f/5), and make sure there is some distance between your subject, and the shiny background objects.

With a shallow depth of field (from the wide aperture), your subject will be in focus, but the objects in the background won’t. This will create bokeh.

Let it snow

Will you be out experimenting on the next snow day? I’m planning on it. Have fun with your snow photography. Experiment with different settings on your camera. Just remember to dress for the weather, and bag your camera.

If you have some snowy photos to share, I would love to see them. I hope you’ll share your tips too. Please add to this article by commenting below.

Filming with the:

Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital DSLR

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens

Hand held photography with the Joby Gorillapod 5K Video Pro:

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