Last week I shared with you my best tips on how you can prepare your gear and yourself for outdoor winter photography. If you missed it, you could find that article here. This week, in Part 2 of The Magic in Winter Series, I want to get specific about technique. Several different technical photography components are essential when photographing outdoors during the winter season. I’m sharing all of that goodness below!
Snow is often bright, which is fantastic because it can act as a natural reflector and bounce pretty light up and into your wintery scene. However, it’s easy to overexpose snow, especially if you are photographing in bright conditions. Overexposing snow will result in loss of details, which is not ideal. When I’m photographing my children outdoors, I typically expose for their skin. However, during the winter, when snow is present, I typically exposure for a bright area of snow. My light meter usually reads about +1 for that bright area of snow. Most often, this results in good exposure throughout my entire image and preserves those details within the most highlighted snow. If my subject is a little underexposed, this is okay, as I can address this issue in post-processing.
Creative consideration of aperture is useful during the winter months, especially if you want to capture pretty snow or sparkle snow bokeh. Using a large aperture like f2.8 or f3.2 results in a shallower depth of field. Anything that is not within the depth of field will blur beautifully and create bokeh.
On overcast days and snow highlighted by the sun, snow should appear as true to white as possible. The colour of snow can indeed be dependent on the colour of the light in a scene, but unless there is an obvious colour cast, I aim for my snow to be white in camera. This means snow should have little blue or yellow cast. I manually set my white balance using Kelvin. When I’m photographing in snow, during the day, I most often have my white balance set around 5880 Kelvin. You can certainly use your preferred method for setting white balance; however, I find this temperature fairs well with snow, and little post-processing tweaking is needed. Regardless of what white balance settings you choose, the goal is to neutralize cast on the snow unless, of course, you are photographing in strong coloured light like at sunset or sunrise.
Another tricky matter, when shooting during the winter months, is focus. I enjoy capturing images with tossing snow or images captured during a snowfall. Those fluffy flakes are super pretty and add fun atmosphere into images. Sometimes though, your camera is going to struggle with all that flying snow and front or back focus. In situations with falling snow, I recommend composing, setting focus on your subject, locking focus and then capturing your scene without refocusing. As long as you and your subject do not move out of the plane of focus, this approach will result in your subject being in focus most of the time.
Next time you head outdoors during the winter months, remember these four technical photography points. They will help you capture the magic in winter in a beautiful way!
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