Peak District Winter Photography Tips
10 tips for photographing in the snow
As the winter approaches, and Christmas is upon us, many of us will be tempted to venture out into the countryside to play with our cameras in the snow, seeking beautiful pristine white landscapes.
Here in the Staffordshire Moorlands there are many opportunities to go out in the winter and get some great seasonal images. So here are my top 10 tips for better winter photography…
Apart from the obvious advice to dress according to the weather conditions, here are my tips to help you get better photographs in the event of a fall of the white stuff:
1. Don’t get your camera too warm before you take it out in the cold. If you do, condensation will form on the lens and viewfinder, resulting in (unintentionally) foggy images.
2. Avoid changing lenses until all your kit has become accustomed to the ambient temperature. Temperature differentials could cause condensation to form on the camera’s internals, resulting again, in foggy images.
3. Battery life is reduced at lower temperatures, so keep a fully charged spare in your pocket where it won’t get too cold.
4. While it’s snowing, prevent snowflakes form settling and melting on your lens’s front element by keeping the cap on until you’re ready to take a picture. Always use a lens hood if you have one AND make sure its not on backwards or you’ll look very silly. Backwards is for convenience during stowage!
5. If you’re first on the scene, try to avoid leaving footprints in the snow you’re about to photograph. Walk around the edge of the scene, outside of your planned composition. Plan ahead!
6. Ignore your camera’s built in light meter. Yes, that’s right. Your camera is set up to assume the average scene you are photographing is going to comprise mainly of mid-tones. However, a typical snowy scene is mainly whites and highlights and your camera will most likely underexpose the shot by between one and two stops, leaving your white snow… grey. Use exposure compensation if you’re shooting in Aperture priority or Program. The more white in your composition, the more you’ll have to compensate. Use your histogram to check exposure. A snowy scene should peak over on the right hand side. It should extend all the way over to the right, but not fall off the end. If you’re shooting in Manual, the same applies.
7. Shoot in RAW. Assuming you have software to process RAW images, this is far better than shooting in Jpeg, as far more exposure latitude is possible, resulting in far better shadow and highlight detail.
8. Use Auto White Balance. Some photographers may disagree, but I find AWB gives reliably consistent results for virtually all my work. Any minor discrepancies can be fine-tuned in post production (in Lightroom, in my case). Snow scenes where the sun is shining can give very blue casts (from the sky) in shadow areas. Conversely, the colour temperature will be very warm where sunlight falls on the ground. This results in no one single white balance preset being ideally suited. So, don’t faff about fiddling with presets while your hands are freezing, AWB will do just fine.
9. Add a point of interest which contrasts with the snow – too much snow can look rather boring. As per landscape photography under more typical weather conditions, use a fence, footpath, dry stone wall, or even a road to lead the eye into the composition.
10. Look beyond the obvious and keep an eye out for more abstract images like textures on snow drifts picked out by the low winter sun. Use diagonal lines to guide the eye through the composition.
Have fun, and never eat yellow snow 😉
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