Typically, when you use your camera’s “auto” setting to take pictures outdoors in wintry snow conditions, the pictures will come out too dark.
All that white snow messes with your camera’s internal “exposure” settings.
To avoid drab, gray winter pictures, and get the brightest, crispest photos with the brightest colors in snowy conditions, try these simple steps:
How To Take Great Winter Pictures
#1. If it snowed overnight, then take some shots very early in the morning, before the sun’s light becomes too bright. This way, the lights will be softer, the colors will be truer, and the snow will be fresher, and still untouched. Shots taken very early or late in the day will result in warmer photos with the snow taking on reddish hues. If you shoot midday, you’ll get much cooler, bluer photos.
#2. Most of today’s cameras (digital and film) have a way to change the “exposure compensation”. If you set the control to +1, it will overexpose the scene by one stop, admitting twice as much light into the photo.
#3. First focus your camera on a darker object, then press the shutter down halfway so it meters the dark object instead of the snow. Then, without lifting your finger, re-frame your photo to the shot you actually want, and depress the shutter button the rest of the way down to take the picture.
#4. You should do this any time you’re taking pictures, but its even more important with winter outdoor photography… Make sure the sun is on the right or left side of your subject during morning and evening hours and directly behind you when it’s high in the sky. You should never shoot into the direction of the sun.
#5. To photograph frost-covered branches, snow resting on a pinecone or mailbox, or the family pet with a face-full of snow… move in close to eliminate much of the background and use your camera’s “macro/close-up” mode.
#6. To photograph ice skaters, sledders, snowmobilers, snow shovelers, skiers, etc… all of whom are “on the go”, you’ll want to use your camera’s “action” setting
#7. If it’s sunny outside, turn on your camera’s “fill flash” and get as close to your subject as possible. (This lightens facial shadows by reducing the amount of white background in your picture, so your camera’s automatic metering will be more accurate.)
#8. Another fun technique for action shots is to “prefocus” (or lock the focus) on a spot in the path of someone in action. Then, just as your subject reaches that spot, depress the shutter the rest of the way down, effectively freezing them in action!
#9. To photograph a snowman, kneel down to get a low angle and shoot up toward the snowman. This will make the snowman seem tall and mighty.
#10. While completely snow-covered scenes can be beautiful, try to compose a few shots around something that’s noticeably colorful. Any object placed in the foreground or middle of your shot that’s not white, gray or black will add life to your photo.
More Winter Photography Tips From The Pros
- Snow & ice close-up shots… tips for advanced photographers
- Great winter photography tips for beginners (righthand column)