How to take better pictures in the snow

A lot of cameras struggle with making great pictures in the snow. Very often instead of pristine, crisp, white snowy pictures they’ll come out dull and the snow a dirty white.
It’s all down to the way the meter works but I’m not going into technical details here, that’s an article for my photography blog, http://theLightMatters.com

Can you do anything about it? Yes you can. Follow these simple tips and start seeing improvements today.

Tip 1: Override the exposure

That may sound technical but it’s very easy on most cameras. If you have a compact camera you’ll most likely have a “snow” setting. Select it and you’re away. Some DSLRs also have this setting too but if yours doesn’t you can adjust the exposure manually.

I shoot with a Canon DSLR and it’s simply a case of switching to Av mode, half depress the shutter button and turn the big thumb wheel on the back. Somewhere between three and six clicks clockwise should be enough. You should see the meter bar change accordingly but if you don’t check that your power switch is in the second position, marked “\___”

What you’re actually doing is increasing the exposure to make the snow come out white rather than the dirty grey that the meter is setting it to.

Tip 2: Fingerless gloves

I hate using gloves when I’m working on location in the cold. I can’t feel the buttons and dials properly and I’m always worried about dropping the camera. The solution is simple. I wear a pair of fingerless gloves when I’m out. They keep my hands warm and I can still operate the camera’s controls correctly.

Tip 3: Keep your batteries warm

All batteries, not just camera batteries hate cold weather. Even when they’ve just been fully charged the cold temperatures can and will significantly decrease their usage in the field. Whilst this is only a temporary effect it is very annoying to suddenly run out of battery power. It’ll usually happen just before that crucial shot too.

My advice is to keep your batteries in an inside pocket where your body will keep them warm. Only take them out when you’re about to use them and you’ll find they last a lot longer.

That goes for your mobile too. Make sure you keep it warm as well. If you’re out in the snow and have an accident it may save your life. Especially if you’re somewhere remote. It’ll be no use if the battery is dead.

Tip 4: Wrap up warm

Keep yourself warm too. Wear a hat, coat, scarf, waterproof shoes/boots. Dress for the conditions that you’re likely to experience. The last thing you want is to freeze out there.

Tip 5: Keep your equipment dry

Most cameras don’t mix with water very well. If it’s snowing I take a small tea towel or flannel with me to wipe and sometimes even drape over the lens barrel. It’s great at stopping water seeping inside the lens and camera body. If the conditions are really bad you MIT need to consider investing in a waterproof jacket. I’ve used a carrier back with an elastic band before now to great effect (don’t forget to cut a hole for the end of the lens to poke through).

Tip 6: Beware of water on the lens

Water drops have a nasty tendency of finding their way onto the lens. Take a lens cloth and blower with you just in case and always use your lens hood. Replace the lens cap when you’re not taking a picture for added protection.

Tip 7: Guard against condensation

Condensation inside your lens and camera, on the sensor and worse on the electronics is a killer. It’ll ruin your images and may well harm your camera. Give your camera time to acclimatise to the temperature before switching it on. Many people also seal it inside a dry, airtight bag before bringing it into the warm.

Tip 8: Children get tired and grumpy when they’re cold

If you’re photographing children in the snow, remember that they’ll get very cold and very tired very quickly. Make sure you all have fun. Keep them engaged and happy. Don’t push them when they’ve had enough. Nobody wants to see a photo of a child crying in the snow.

Tip 9: Turn off the flash when it’s snowing

If it’s actually snowing when you’re out, turn off the flash. Otherwise you’ll get some strange results. The flash will light the snowflakes, they’ll become bright white splodges and the rest of the image will be very dark. Unless that is you know how to balance flash and ambient light manually.

Tip 10: Look for more opportunities…

…shoot wide then close. Focus on detail – a single snowflake, an icicle, a snowy branch. Get creative. Have fun.

Tip 10.5 Make sure you have fun

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