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Common Questions About Photographing Snow

Common Questions About Photographing Snow  - Here, we answer the most asked questions when it comes to shooting in snowy conditions.

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Snow Landscape

Photo by David Clapp

 

At this time of year, across the UK, snow can start appearing in our landscape (as it has done in many places). But it's not the easiest of subjects to photograph, so we've rounded up some frequently asked questions to help you out when snow's filling your landscape shots. 


Why does the snow look blue/grey in my shot?
This is because your camera's metering system is fooled by the highly reflective tones of the white snow, which makes the image appear darker than it should be. Blue snow in pictures occurs where the snow is receiving no direct sunlight, but is simply being lit by sun reflecting off the blue sky (hence the cast). 

All cameras have built in metering systems that are designed to deliver a perfect picture assuming the contrast range is normal. They do this by scrambling the tones and then adjust so the scrambled colour brightness is mid grey or average. This is fine when the subject has a wide tonal range with everything from black to white being present, but when the subject is predominantly white, such as snow, the camera underexposes so that the white becomes grey.

If you are using a compact camera it most likely has a snow scene mode and by switching to this, your once grey snow should appear white. For those using more advanced cameras you can get around this by adjusting the exposure compensation setting to either  plus 1 or two stops depending on the amount of snow in the picture. If your camera has the exposure lock feature, which is usually set by half-pressing the shutter button, point it at a mid-tone in your scene, lock the exposure then recompose your shot.

To fix a blue cast in camera you'll need to switch your white balance settings to either shade or custom if you want to create a custom white balance from the snow. If working in sunny conditions the snow shouldn't appear blue but your shadows may but if you try and correct the image in-camera to remove the cast from the shadows you'll alter the colour of the snow so generally, it's best to leave the blue in the shadows so your snow is crisp and white. Plus, there's always the option to adjust the image in your image editing software once home. 

 

Why does my snow shot look boring? 
When snow covers most of your shot it can make the scene look a little bland, especially with a snow-filled sky as there won't be much definition between sky and ground. Try stopping down a little to add more depth to your shot, or if this doesn't work, try adjusting your position to include a stone wall perhaps, or a lone tree, to add a little more to the shot. To darken light skies so your shots are a little more moody fit a graduated filter to the front of your lens. 

 

Falling snow is ruining my shot. How can I minimise the appearance of the flakes? 
The simple answer to this is to wait until it stops snowing. If this is not an option, make sure you're not using your flash, as this can cause the light to reflect off  snowflakes  nearer to the lens, causing the rest of your shot to look really dull and grey. A better way to capture snow falling is to put your camera on a tripod and use slower shutter speeds. 

 

Why has my lens steamed up?
This is because you've moved from a warm house to the freezing cold outside, resulting in condensation. To avoid this, let your camera acclimatise in its case or bag for a while. Don't be tempted to wipe the lens with a cloth as this will cause smudges and marks which will spoil your image. 

 

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