It’s still winter! Actually we’re in the middle of it and in many places it’s a fantastic moment for taking outdoor pictures. The reason is simple: snow!
In this post I’ll present you some of my findings about taking outdoor pictures when (almost) everything is white.
As you probably know, unlike studio photography where the setup (light, background and everything else) is easy to control in nature the photographer depends on the external conditions entirely. Yes, one has to pay attention to a lot of details each of which has a crucial impact on the quality of photos: light (which changes a thousand times per day, week, month and season), weather, specifics of the area (mountain, field, hill, city) etc. No environment setup is possible. However there is a notable exception, namely snow. It is as if God thinks about photographers and with His giant hands arranges the landscape so we can take the “perfect” shots!
Why do I find snow ideal for photography? Well there are multiple reasons.
First is the contrast. Yes, there can be a high contrast between subject and background especially for darker colour subjects. First of the below pictures is a good example. The subject is clearly visible, it pops in front of our eyes. For this reason I find snow appropriate for lots of photography types like: landscape, portrait, wildlife and others. Even when the contrast is not so high there is still beauty. An example would be a charming mountain landscape where everything is covered by snow, and a few houses and trees surrounded by fog can be spotted far away. I’ve taken this sort of beautiful pictures some weeks ago in my last trip through mountain villages.
Second, snow has a unique “talent” to hide all unwanted stuff that draws the attention of the viewer from the subject. Yes, snow is an ideal background (and foreground too!). It’s neutral, it has a fine texture and it fills the photos pleasantly. And the fact that it hides all “junk” makes editing the photo way easier.
There are also some things to pay attention too when shooting in the snow. One of them is the white balance. An incorrect WB is visible and clear as mud! For this reason I would recommend shooting RAW whenever possible. This will enable a more efficient correction of the white at post processing. And it’s not always easy to correct, trust me! Sometimes one might need to probe several points with the WB pencil in Lightroom before the right color temperature is chosen. In other situations an automatic correction would be preferred in the editing tool and then the temperature might be adjusted in small increments until the expected result is obtained. In all below pictures I shot RAW and then corrected EACH shot in Lightroom CC. As for camera settings I chose the cloudy balance but this didn’t save me from correction. However in my opinion the settings should be done as correctly as possible even when shooting RAW. Another option might be using auto white balance or a manual preset (use a white paper for example to set white balance).
Another part to pay attention to is the exposure. Because the snow is so bright it can easily trick the exposure system of the camera. And trust me, it happens to all classes of cameras. Even to my new D500 which (at least on paper) has one of the finest exposure computing systems. So the best thing to do in my opinion would be to apply a compensation, at least in daytime. My setup with aperture priority (A/Av) was +1EV during the day while in the evening I reduced it to 0.3-0.7EV and even brought it to 0. Manual mode can also be used if light conditions stay the same.
The third sticking point is the AF system. Yes, snow might trick the AF of the camera as well due to the huge amount of white and the weather conditions. Always pay attention to contrast areas and choose the ones with the best contrast possible that fulfil your needs. Try to have the spot fully on the subject and when possible close the aperture to at least f8!
To conclude this post, don’t fear the cold weather, take your cameras and go out in the snow and shoot as much as possible! Try different angles and subjects, probe various settings. Even when it’s heavily snowing it’s a good time to capture these beautiful moments in nature! So don’t hesitate, go out and take pictures! Or at least go for a good walk. You won’t regret it!
As in previous posts I’ll now let the pictures talk. Take care. Good light and good … snow!
PS. Check these posts too:
Nikon D500. How I came to buy it and first thoughts
An Unforgetable Trip (continued)
Photo Selection and Other Findings on Editing