Whether you are a family of skiers, snowboarders or just like to get out there into the blissful softness of the white stuff when it falls, then you may benefit from a few tips on taking photographs in the snow. With just a few adjustments, your shots can come out brighter and whiter than you ever thought possible, much like laundry day with a fancy new detergent. That’s a horrible analogy, but you get the point.
Resolving Brightness Issues When Shooting Kids’ Portraits
Have you ever noticed how abnormally bright snow is? Even on an overcast day all light is reflected off snow, creating a very bright scene. While these may sound all lovely and good, your camera will likely have issues with all the brightness and will attempt to compensate by darkening the image (either by increasing the shutter speed or using other automatic settings). The result is a darker photo overall, which means your subject (kids, spouse, dog, etc.) won’t be as visible.
Other options including using fill flash or a reflector to put more brightness on your subject. The Solution: There are a few ways to overcome brightness issues in the snow. One is to put your camera on a landscape setting and then check in the menu for a “snow” option. If you are shooting in a manual mode, you can always choose to overexpose the shot by adjusting exposure compensation. Another tip is to change your light metering mode to “spot” or “center-weighted” which will work harder to keep your subject correctly exposed.
Resolving Kids’ Snow Photography Color Issues
If you have ever poked a stick or other long object in the snow and then looked into the hole you created you probably know this; snow isn’t really white, it’s kind of blue! Snow has a blue cast or color temperature to it, but our eyes and brain tend to compensate for this, and so the snow looks white to us. Unfortunately, your camera doesn’t have quite the same ability, so it depends on white balance.
White balance, in essence, takes a look at the scene and tries to ascertain what settings are required to make white look white, grey look grey, etc. Using this information, it is able (most of the time) to take photos where the blacks, whites, and colors closely represent how the scene appears to the human eye.
However, like most computerized things, sometimes it needs help – like when you are shooting a snowy scene, particularly when it is sunny as the snow reflects the blue sky and your camera may not be able to compensate perfectly, which may not seem like a big deal (it’s just snow!) but may in turn make your kid’s faces look a bit pale and cold. In kids’ portrait photography, you generally want warm tones to reflect their vitality!
The Solution: Manually setting your white balance is pretty easy once you know how. Simply take a photo of something white or grey (hey look, there’s some snow!) and tell your camera to use this photo as the basis for white balance. Done! Ensure that if you do this you choose a clean, shadow-free patch of snow. Sometimes selecting the “snow” setting as described in the previous section will solve any white balance issues, or you might have a while balance setting for snow.
Resolving Sunny Day Kids’ Snow Photos and Dynamic Range
Again, the human eye can do some amazing things that your camera just can’t, unless you know a few tricks or are really great at editing. When you’re dealing with a wide range of dark shadows and bright highlights your camera is likely not going to be able to capture everything.
The solution: You’re taking photos of your kids, right? Then focus on whatever settings you need to get the correct exposure of them, don’t worry about the rest. That was easy!
The only time that dynamic range comes into play is if you are trying to photograph your kids in the snow along with something else that contrasts sharply in tone to them, like a bright snowman or snowy mountaintops in the background. In this case, you might want to play with exposure bracketing – taking 3 or more images with different levels of exposure. The pros here are that you don’t have to worry about changing the settings (your camera does it for you) and you can decide on the best shot when you get home, or even play around with high dynamic range photography – combining a series of photos together to get the full spectrum of brightness to shadow.
The best time to shoot kid’s portrait photos in the snow is anywhere from one hour before to one hour after sunset (known as the “Golden Hour”) OR the same time at sunrise (but seriously, no one with kids is ever going to do that). This will help to give the snow more texture as the angle of the sun creates shadows, instead of it being a blank white slate. This can come in particularly handy when photographing snow angels – which we all know kids love doing!
Have your subjects dress in clothing that contrasts significantly with the surrounding snow (i.e. no whites, light greys, or pastels) so they stand out and add some personality to the scene.
Don’t forget to have lots of fun out in the snow, and put your camera and in a sealed plastic bag for the first hour or so for when you come in from the cold to reduce the risk of condensation on the electronics or inside the lens glass. When you’re done – share your photos! There’s no point taking great photos of your kids if no one sees them, right?