The snow has arrived in Southern Ontario, whether or not we’re ready. And every year, we face the challenge of making photos outdoors during the winter months. Not only do our exposures go totally out of whack, but our fingers go frozen from exposure. I’m such a wimp, that if I can’t get my shot from the warmth of my vehicle, I don’t really need the photo. Regardless of my discomfort, there are times when it’s nice to know how to go about getting a decent shot. It’s a long winter and it’s a long time without photography if you don’t learn to cope with it.
Next month, on January 23, our own Phil Schmidt will give us some pointers on outdoor winter photography. For now, and to get you started, take a look at this blog from KEH Camera. And stay warm.
Shooting in snow and ice can be a little trickier then one might think. The two most common problems are exposure, and white balance. Keep the following tips in mind when shooting outdoors this winter.
* Get a good exposure, make the snow bright and white: If your scene is mainly snow, then your TTL (through the lens) meter will meter it as gray. To counteract this, you can overexpose (on manual mode- open up your aperture or slow your shutter speed), use exposure compensation (+ 1 or more stops), meter in a non-snowy area (a tone that would be approx. middle gray). To meter in this situation, it’s best to set your meter on spot.
You can also adjust your in-camera histogram so that you have correct levels. While yes, you can adjust these in your editing software program, it’s always better to get a good exposure in-camera so that you’re capturing to most data possible.
Another idea is to bracket, getting multiple shots of the same scene exposed slightly differently.
When brightening up your whites, make sure not to take it too far. Since you’ll still want detail in the whites, there’s a fine line between a good detailed white and whites that are blown out or clipped. In most snowy sunlit scenes, there will be some clipping, but expose so that the clipping happens in the appropriate areas.
* Adjust for color temperature and/or white balance. Some cameras allow you to adjust for color temperature, but for the majority of you, adjusting your white balance is your best bet. Shooting on a manual WB (and even using a tool such as an ExpoDisc) works well. If your images are too warm and need to cool the color off, you can set your WB to tungsten, which will add a blue cast.
* Pay attention to the sun/ light. Early morning and late afternoon are typically the best times of day to shoot outside. The sunlight is at it’s most interesting because the sun is at a low angle which is less harsh than mid-day sun. It creates better shadows, and allows for more room to use the light in different ways (front light, side light, back light). If you want “bright” photos, wait until the snow has stopped since the sun isn’t out when it’s actually snowing (it’s a gray sky).
Use a polarizing filter. This helps reduce reflections from the snow. Keep in mind that these filters reduce the amount of light coming in, so you may need to overexpose a little more.
* Consider your gear. Cool down/ warm up your equipment properly to avoid lens fogging and condensation.
Cold batteries loose power more quickly, so put them in a warmer spot, or bring extras.
If you are unsure how to use exposure compensation, change your metering preferences, use your histogram, change white balance, bracket, or any other camera related function, refer to your cameras owners manual or instruction book.