How to take landscape photos during the winter

Camera Exposure Mode Matters-Especially During the Winter Months

Nov 09, 2021

Winter is filled with countless peaceful scenes. All of that fresh falling snow quiets the once-bustling growth of spring and summer and hides the vibrancy of fall with her soft white blanket. The peacefulness within these scenes is both calming and stunning.

During one of my most recent masterclasses, I was asked by an attendee, "What single tip can help me improve my landscape images." There are, of course, many tips and techniques that will contribute to more successful landscape images. However, if I have to choose one tip, it'll always be that a landscape photographer should use manual settings on the camera if there's an option to do so. Manual options include manual exposure mode, manual white balance settings, manual bracketing and so on. 

Snow during the winter months can pose a challenge to the landscape photographer who chooses an exposure mode outside of manual exposure mode. The camera can easily overexpose or underexpose snow in a landscape scene in an automatic or semi-manual exposure mode, like aperture priority mode. Using a manual exposure mode will allow the photographer to choose the best exposure settings for a scene while maintaining detail within a landscape setting dusted with snow. 

ISO 31, 16mm, f11, 1/3 sec

When exposing for snow in highlight, I always recommend exposing at a light meter read of about +1 2/3 as this should, in most situations, retain highlights and produce a well-exposed image. 

If you are not familiar with or comfortable using manual exposure mode, look at my online learn-at-your own pace workshop, Manual Mode for the Landscape Photographer. It'll help you take control over vital camera settings and result in more successful landscape images. 

Whether this workshop is for you or not, keep in mind that during the winter months exposing for snow and setting your exposure triangle based on a light meter read for the snow will usually result in the best exposure for a wintery landscape scene. 

After all, a well-exposed image will retain details in highlights, shadows and produce higher quality landscape images. 

Have fun this winter season in all that snow!