Photographing in the Snow - How does it work?

I'm just sitting in my cute warm office while it rains outside at 6°. It is autumn, winter is just around the corner and just a few days ago the first snow has fallen.

Photographing in the Snow
Winter and Sun in the Picture

And while I was thinking about a topic for the blog, our previous photo courses came to mind. More precisely, an eternally recurring question from some course participants: "Tell me, Frank. How do you actually photograph in the snow?

Ouch! How should I explain this in a few words? Basically photographing in the snow is not difficult, but the reference to an exposure correction helps someone who does not (yet) know what an exposure correction is, not really further. But one after the other - I had a new topic for the blog: Photographing in the snow, and there it is also about the exposure correction :)

But not only, it's also about grey and blue, about how to get better pictures in the snow and what to do for it. And no, it's not about the subject or finding the subject.

Photographing in the Snow and the Blue Tint in Many Snow Photos

Photographing in the Snow
Blue snow cannot always be avoided when taking such pictures in winter

Well, this blue tint is basically no blue tint, so no problem with the white balance. Snow is colourless! Snow is ice crystals, and therefore crystal clear, so to speak.

And why is snow now white? To put it simply (I'm not a professor, for more background information just consult the technical literature on the net, e.g. Wikipedia), the light is reflected and scattered between the ice crystals. Snow thore appears white, a matter of reflection of light and light scattering. And so the snow in a picture often appears white.

But white is not blue! The blue tint in the snow is often created when the sky is cloudless. The blue in the snow is the reflecting blue sky! If the sky is cloudy, then the snow is simply grey instead of blue.

The attempt to correct this blue tint by image editing often fails. The white balance or the tone value or color correction leads to other, rather unsightly results. You can soften the blueness by changing the perspective. Move a little to the side, change the height, somehow change the angle of incidence and reflection. Or, and this would be my tip: Just live with the blue! For us snow is just white AND blue, also on a picture or your photos :)

Exposure Correction

Photographing in the Snow
Winter Landscape

A real problem when photographing in the snow can be the exposure correction. Experience has shown that exposure metering by the camera works very well in a snowy landscape with sunshine and a bright blue sky. But in cloudy weather it often looks quite different. Here, the photos are often underexposed, with the result that the snow is displayed in grey throughout. Here, an exposure correction of up to plus one aperture or plus one EV helps. There is no standard value for this, maybe you have to correct up to two f-stops in a certain light situation?!

No, it is probably best not to speak of f-stops but of EV (Exposure Value) for the exposure correction. For the exposure correction, I can of course also change the exposure time if, for example, a certain aperture is important to me for the image design ( Subject Depth Of Field). And besides the aperture or the exposure time, one can of course also use the ISO for the exposure correction. Even if not always by camera, but quite manually! It depends not least on the motive or on which kind of pictures should be created, which of the three exposure parameters one uses for the exposure correction.

What makes it more difficult is that the sensor often records very low-contrast images in cloudy weather conditions. Those who photograph in the JPG format can increase the setting for the contrast in the camera here. But basically, I recommend to photograph in the RAW format. Here you have the most and most effective possibilities to make corrections later by image editing.

And so, in principle, the same applies to photos in the snow as applies to outdoor activities. Avoid the midday sun. In the period of up to two hours before and after the peak of the sun it hardly makes sense to take pictures. The light sooner or later during the day is simply more beautiful. And, well, because I'm such a dessert man, I took the three example photos directly around noon. It just turned out that way :)

What else is possible...

Taking pictures in the snow also means cold! Um, yes, the thing with the cold. The poor batteries, they always freeze in winter. And they empty very quickly. Okay, batteries suffer from extremely low temperatures. But, I've had to take pictures outside at temperatures around or just below freezing. But I haven't yet experienced the batteries saying goodbye after an hour. And you always have spare batteries with you, don't you? It becomes critical when the temperatures are clearly below freezing, then one or the other battery should be specially packed (and kept warm).

It's also stupid if you expose the camera and the lenses to strong temperature fluctuations. They then develop the habit of fogging up. Moisture is deposited. This is basically not bad, the cameras and lenses should be able to withstand it. Stupid is only when a wet camera is pulled back into the icy cold. Here one or the other moving part could freeze. For me it was still enough to put the equipment in the photo bags in such situations. No fogging, no freezing later, camera and lenses work :)

Photographing in the Snow

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