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Photographing Snowy Landscapes

Figure Out How to Shoot Photos While Snow Is on the Ground


One of the most common problems in shooting a snow-covered landscape is making the exposure of the camera work properly. The white snow often ends up looking gray, and any details in the objects in the snow end up getting washed out. This ends up making shooting in snow one of the toughest environments in which to use your camera.

However, there are plenty of ways that you can fix these issues and make your snow photos look as good as those images you shot at the beach during the summer. Use these tips to achieve greater results with your snow landscape photos.

  • The problem with gray snow usually occurs when the camera underexposes the photo. Try manually adjusting the exposure to fix this problem. Using the menus, you should be able to set the exposure compensation to +1 or +2 to fix the problem.

  • You also have the option of using a “gray exposure card” to help the camera set the proper exposure. Put the camera in aperture priority mode. Stand near the subject, hold the gray card just far enough from the front of the lens so that it occupies the entire frame, and shoot a photo of the gray card. Write down the camera’s automatic exposure settings that occurred when photographing the gray card. Then, when you shoot the photo of the snowy scene, manually set the camera’s exposure to match the settings for the gray card, which you should be able to find at a camera store.

  • If you have a point and shoot camera where you cannot manually set the exposure, try using a “snow” or “winter” scene mode to help the camera select the proper exposure. However, many newer point and shoot cameras will allow you to set the exposure through the various menus.

  • The snowy conditions can work to your advantage at times, too. For example, if you’re shooting birds in flight or the underside of a tree, use the reflection of light from the snow to highlight the detail in the underside of the birds’ wings or the branches. Without the reflection of light off the snow, the detail can be lost.

  • When shooting a snowy landscape photo, colors can really stand out against the stark, white background. Look for brightly colored berries on a bush covered in snow, a cardinal or blue jay sitting in the snow, or perhaps a jack-o-lantern peeking through the blanket of snow in an autumn snowstorm. You'll be surprised at the number of colors that you'll see in a snowy landscape once you take the time to really look for them.

  • One benefit of shooting in snow with bright sunshine and reflected light is that you can shoot at a very high shutter speed. Capturing sharp action shots of skiers or snowboarders is pretty easy in conditions with a snowy landscape, as long as you have the proper exposure.

  • Finally, it's important you keep your camera safe when shooting in snowy landscapes. Unless you have a waterproof, tough camera, shooting in cold, snowy weather can cause a lot of problems for your camera. When shooting in low temperatures, you may find that the camera responds sluggishly, the battery drains quickly, or the LCD becomes inoperable. Keep the camera close to your body when it isn't in use, allowing the device to stay as warm as possible. Additionally, you don't want to drop the camera into snow, as the warmer camera is sure to cause a bit of the snow to melt, resulting in a wet camera. Just be really careful, and you should have no problems with your snow landscape photos.
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