How to Photograph Snow

Written by Robert Lowdon

Robert Lowdon is an internationally published commercial photographer based out of Toronto, Canada. He spends his time photographing architecture and industrial projects for the most part.

Published November 17, 2013

how to photograph snow

Photographing the snow can be difficult at times. Although it can be rather easy if we know what we are in for before we head out to take photos. Here are some quick photo tips to get you started taking great images of winter scenery.

5 Quick Tips on How to Photograph Snow

Over Expose by One Stop

Now, because of the highly reflective nature of snow, it can play havoc on a camera meter. Often your camera meter will be tricked, so you will want to increase your exposure by one stop to compensate. Any budding photographer shouldn’t be stuck with cameras metering system. Make adjustments as needed. The great thing about digital cameras is we can see our images immediately. Have a look pixels are cheap.

Long story short, adjust the exposure compensation to +1.0 this should give a more accurate frame. Or use exposure bracketing and take the guessing out altogether.

Finding Focus

Your camera is going to have a hard time finding focus on a pure white landscape. Either focus manually or find a reference point to make it easier. Meaning use AFS to lock in your focus on a stationery object. Then we want to re-frame the image.

Cameras use a contrast detection system when focus. The camera needs that contrast to determine focus. The system is great, but as I mentioned it has a bunch of travel with low contrast scenes, like snow.

Take Advantage of Elevation Changes

One great feature of snowy landscapes is that they often feature a lot drifts and changes in elevation. Take advantage of this in your photographs to really show a flowing motion in the landscape. Flat landscape can get stale over time. Fill the top of the frame by adding elevation shift.

Go Out on Windy Days

Use the wind to your advantage. Snow being blown by the wind can create some really great effects. These can include drifting and fogging to name a few.  Of course, it sucks to be out in such conditions, but sometimes it leads to the best photographs. And, also great conditions lead to great photographs, so just have fun with it.

Pay Attention To The Direction of Light

Having shadowing in the photographs will really help you define the texture of snow. Shadowing is complimentary. We want both light and dark tones to give depth to the image.

See how moving around relative to the sun can give some really different results in the pictures you take.

I hope these 5 Tips help with you winter photography.

Check out these other articles: