If you turn on the news this weekend, you'll hear about our major-snowstorm-of-DOOM, here in the northern Virginia area. I think it's all a major SNOWver-reaction. ;-) OK, enough with the bad jokes... Shooting photographs of snow requires a few adjustments to your camera and technique. Proper preparation will yield better results. The main concern is light. There is an over-abundance of light. It's bouncing around the pretty little snowflakes and can fool the meter in your camera. If you're a point-and-shooter, see if you have a snow setting on your menu; they adjust the light and usually change the white balance. DSLRs don't have such settings, so you want to prepare before you head out. You need to overexpose by .5 to 1.5 stops to get things right. Once you set your exposure compensation to positive EVs, you should check the LCD to ensure you have things where you want them. You can make further refinements in Lightroom, Aperture, or whatever you use for post-processing, but getting it right in the camera is always the best option.
As always, feel free to break rules that don't fit the situation. Let the highlights blow out if you feel it adds to your picture. Here, I wanted to maximize the bright (obnoxiously bright) pink hat on Granddaughter2, so I let the light pour in. You can see the yellow, reflecting from her hood, changing the pink to orangish. I shot it this way on purpose. This gives the photo a high key (very bright) effect.
In direct light, your camera may have a tendency to be a little bluish, especially in the shadows. This is, again, pretty easy to adjust out. If you're shooting in RAW, you'll be able to have the extra flexibility available there, but you can make some adjustments in JPG, as well. For example, the picture on the left is from my film days. After I digitized it, I noticed a distinctly blue cast to the photo. I had to live with it in the film days, but not any more. I fixed both of these photos in post.
Of course, sometimes the blue belongs. Glaciers have a great blue color from the density of the ancient, pressure-packed snow. This is another film image from my time in Alaska, courtesy of the US Army. I plan another trip there, this summer. To give you a feeling for the scale, that boat is 85 feet long.
Snow can be a good place to look for abstract shapes and forms. The snow adds uniformity to the scene and can cover a lot of the distractions normally there. Set a low shutter speed to catch the snowflakes blurred.
So don't just sit inside when the snow hits. Go out and have fun with your camera. When you come back in, make sure you wipe it down with a soft cloth to remove any moisture.
The final shot is a gratuitous plug for son-in-laws who help out the wife's old man. Sure glad they showed up this weekend: they brought the grandkids; and I'm getting too lazy to shovel 30" of snow. Thanks!
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