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Winter Photography:  How to Photograph Snow

Winter Photography: How to Photograph Snow

Winter photography can be a lot of fun, but it’s not as easy as pointing a camera and shooting.  You could end up with many blown out, over exposed photos.  It depends on the lighting on the snow, and of course how you have your camera set.  It also depends on the image you’re looking for.  There are some helpful rules for winter photography, not to mention the fun you can have with the contrast, and the great various types of shots that you can get.

There is an unlimited potential of terrific shots you can get with one snow storm.  The focal length of your lens will depend on the effect you want.  If you’re experimenting, play around with what ever lenses you have.  A long lens works great for a compact scene, as in falling snow.  It will also allow you to capture snow flurries at a distance. Once you decide on the length of the lens you’re going to use, now you have to think about the aperture settings.  Make sure to get a variety of shots, and if you’re photographing people in the snow, you may wish to get a little more scenic background in your shots.

Finding the right balance is important to create the shot you want, as far as what you want to be in focus, how much you want in the shot, and more.  Think about what you’d like to emphasize.  For example, if you use a 300mm lens with a f.16 you’d get more snowflakes in focus, but that means anything in the background will also be more in focus.  You want the background to enhance the snow, not blend in with it for most shots.  Using a small aperture in a blizzard works well.  It lets you capture the image you’re after in white-out conditions.  You’ll have to work the depth of field with the shutter speed or the snow will be blurred.  In some cases, you may need to increase the ISO to get the shot.  Have fun shooting, and experiment with the different variations, and you’ll end up with some really awesome shots.

Lighting is another key factor.  Of course, in a snow storm, you’ll have overcast lighting, but when the sun comes out, you’ll have problems with exposure and metering.  Snow and the sun can cause a lot of problems with overpowering the image, and many people end up with shots that are ‘blown out’ or in technical terms, over exposed.  This is what kills a lot of snow shots.  If you are new to this type of photography, try using the histogram on your digital camera for highlights or take a series of shots and do some digital work.  Play around a lot with your exposure and metering, and you’ll quickly learn what your best camera settings will be for the particular conditions you are shooting in.

The most important thing to think about when photographing snow, is your exposure.  Clearly, snow is white, and highly reflective, which can cause a photography nightmare for many.  One part of getting the right exposure for your shot, is to adjust the exposure for the darker subject(s) you have in your shot.  For really perfect, ideal shots, you will want to put your camera in manual mode and go from there.  Keep in mind that the goal is to get details of the snow in your shots.

Metering is also very important.  If you have spot metering, you will want to set it to that.  If you don’t, then do the next best, which is center metering.  Just keep checking your histogram and look at your shots to get an idea of if your settings are working for you.  When you get those amazing, beautiful snow shots, you will be thrilled!  Even though they can be tough at times to achieve, it’ll be well worth it when you end up with shots that you love.

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