5 Useful Tips for Photographing in the Snow

Our weather lately has been hit or miss.  One week it’s 70 degrees outside and this week it’s ice and snow.   With times like this, especially during winter time, you have to be quick to take advantage of whatever weather nature throws at you.  This week I took advantage of the snow, and wanted to share with you my 5 useful tips for photographing in the snow.

Tip #1.   You have to get cold.  This seems like a no brainer.  If you shoot in the cold of course you have to get cold.  But you also have to be ready for everything that comes with it.  Here in the Midwest region that means you have to be ready for icy cold wind, freezing temperatures, icy roads as well as snowy and wet ground.  If you aren’t ready for any of these things you might be in for a surprise when you try to hold your camera bare handed for more then 5 minutes outside.   You might not need everything but it’s always wise to bring or be wearing a warm coat, gloves, hat, boots etc.  After this weeks experience I am considering adding a tow strap to the trunk of my car!

Tip #2.  You have to find a willing subject.  As much fun as it is to shoot in the snow and as amazing as the photos will turn out, you still have to find someone willing to venture out there with you.  Thinking about photographing kids outside?  Not a bad idea, just be ready for a quick session and be willing to be flexible with your clients!

Tip #3.  Use the right equipment.   Have you thought through what happens if you fall?  What if it’s snowing?  Can your equipment stand up to being in the elements?  A few years ago I helped photograph a trash the dress session with 7 brides.  There were three photographers there and none of us were prepared for what happened.  It started raining, not hard but constant.  I had an umbrella with me and that was it.  It kept most of the rain off but not all.  I was happy I was using quality gear that day.  It kept anything major happening to my camera and lens.  One of the other photographers wasn’t so lucky, he had a $400 repair bill due to water damage.  Just think it through and be ready for anything!

Tip #4.   Exposure is the key.  Snow is tricky to photograph.  Even on a cloudy sky, 90% of the landscape is pure white.  You have to take care not to blow out your highlights and at the same time not under exposing your subject who is a complete contrast to the white behind them.   Typically I will get an exposure reading from my subjects face through the in camera meter.  If you have a hand held meter then that’s even better.  That’s where I start.  Exposing for my subject I’m able to adjust the exposure accordingly to get the most detail possible from the snow.   For me and how I photograph, it works quite well.

Tip  #5.  Play.  How many sessions do you shoot in the snow in a given year?  If I am lucky I’ll photograph in the snow 1-3 times a year at most.  So when you have the stars align and you have your subject, your location and your gear just be sure to make the most of it.  As long as your subject is smiling away be sure to keep clicking.  Try new poses, new ideas, different outfits and backgrounds.  That way you know you’ll have a favorite to call upon when you need it.

Bonus Tip.  Keep your cell phone charged with a charger in the car.  If this week was any indication this could have ruined my photo session.  After parking in what I thought was a relatively safe spot on the side of the road, I soon realized I might have ended my day photographing.  When we were leaving my subject pulled away safely in their car only to have me stuck with a dead phone in mine.  Luckily for me after about 5 minutes I was able to gain some traction and get out, but if I hadn’t, the rest of our photo session would have been over!

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