Taking photographs in snowy conditions is notoriously difficult and if you use your camera’s automatic setting then you may find that your images are too dark. This is because snow plays havoc with your camera’s exposure and unless this is taken into account then photos tend to end up underexposed (i.e. there is insufficient light to produce that crisp clear finish that you are aiming for).
If you are trying to capture skiing, snowboarding or other action sports in snow then you’ve got the added complication of speed so all in all it is hardly a surprise that photographing winter sports is a challenging exercise which takes time and practice.
To achieve a better finish in your photographs, try following these simple tips:
1. Choose the time of day
Photographing snow is tricky simply because the sunlight that it reflected by snow and ice can create too much light and confuse your camera. At certain times of the day – early morning or late afternoon, for example, when the sun is lower and therefore less intense – capturing those wintry scenes is easier and you’re more likely to achieve an attractive reddish hue compared to the pale blues of midday.
2. Adjust the white balance
A function which is often not understood by amateur photographers, the white balance adjusts the exposure on your camera to ensure that white objects in real life actually appear white in your images. Snow can upset the white balance and therefore produce pictures which are dull or blurred so you will need to manually alter this on your camera; keep a check on the screen as you adjust the white balance until the snow appears white.
3. Turn on the flash
Yes you’re right, we’ve already agreed that snow creates too much light so it may seem an odd step to increase the amount of light by turning on your flash. However, the flash balances out the reflected light from the snow and helps to produce a more carefully-exposed sharper picture. Use fill flash for a subject close to you, such as a skier, to achieve better balance between the foreground and the background.
When capturing fast-moving subjects, such as skiers or snowboarders, panning at right angles can result in focused objects set against blurred backgrounds giving the impression of speed. Try panning smoothly from the point at which the subject appears and depress the shutter release when he is perpendicular to you. Alternatively experiment with a slow shutter speed such as 1/30th or 1/50th.
5. Action mode
Activating your camera’s action mode when photographing skiers, snowboarders or sleigh-riders will use a fast shutter speed to capture the action in a split second, creating a great record of every little movement or facial expression. A lot of light is needed for correct exposure in this mode so use it in bright daylight conditions, not when the sun is setting or when there is thick cloud cover.
Colours stand out brilliantly against the white backdrop formed by snow so plan your shots creatively or look out for impromptu scenes when out and about. A spring of holly berries, a child’s spotted wellies or a red-breasted robin can all add a splash of colour that will give your shots creativity and personality.
Photography in winter, whether it is of snowy landscapes, sledging children or downhill skiers, can produce some impressive and eye-catching images but remember that you will need to adjust your camera’s settings to accommodate the weather conditions. Also, as with any photography, practice and patience is key to success so take your time and enjoy the experience.
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