So the climate is changing and our weather is becoming not only more unpredictable but also more extreme. Some of the huge drifts of snow and freezing wonderlands are coaxing out photographers to record the beautiful country side in all its winter glory but as many of you will find it’s not without its problems.
We are going to take a look at some of the problems that can get in your way of producing the images that you want and tips in achieving wonderful images.
First off lets look at exposure for landscape pictures and then look at lighting for portraits in snowy conditions.
Your digital camera will like to do all the work and many of us use the auto light balance option on our cameras. In normal condition this works a treat and is certainly what my camera a Canon 5D is set to most of the year, but snow is sneaky and confuses your auto settings, so we need to compensate for this.
You are not automatically going to know what to set your white balance to so take a number of shots adjusting your white balance and choose the setting where the snow is less Grey or blue and closer to white.
The purpose of white balance is to equalize colors based on the lighting conditions. Snow is very reflective and will cause your DSLR camera sensors to misread the white balance. This will usually cause snow to look Grey or Blue.
When this happens and there is not enough ambient light to correctly light the scene it is often helpful to overexpose by +0.3 to +1.0 EV for a better exposure value achieving a truer whiteness but taking care not to overexpose too much and lose any detail. How much of an increase you will need depends on a number of factors as all cameras have slightly different settings and what the light around you is doing. So have a play around.
When lighting a subject such as a portrait you need to get as much of the subject in the frame as possible this will allow the camera to take a better and more accurate reading and avoid the subject being too back lit which will cause a silhouette effect. The best way would be to take a meter reading from just in front of your subject, then light and set meters accordingly but for amateur purposes the former is better especially if you are relying on the camera to do the lions share of the metering.
Flash is often avoided by photographers when photographing snow but it can be beneficial in picking up detail that would otherwise be missed. It can add sparkle to a winter scene and if you have subjects in the frame and are happy to lose some background detail it may make all the difference. Using your Fill flash option can help fill in the shadows and the back lit subjects in the foreground.
Of course much of this may be altered in post production using for example Photoshop but it would be wise to have the correct information there in the first instance. Once detail is lost from over exposure it is gone forever and the same can be said for too much shadow. Putting up the exposure post production may leave you with a grainy image.
If the detail is all there in a picture but you would like more light on the subjects as they have been back lit a little too much then you can increase the exposure if you are happy to lose some of the background detail.
For static landscape scenes when the light is going using a slower shutter speed will give you a nice effect, however this should only be used in conjunction with a tripod or perhaps using a wall otherwise to much camera shake will occur.
Other things to think about…
- Take out lots of batteries as they are used up much faster in freezing conditions. It can be useful to have them in a pocket close to your body heat.
- Use camera cards better suited to extreme conditions for example Scan Disc extreme.
- Don’t allow your lens cap to get wet and then place it back on your lens causing spots and condensation.
- Sounds obvious but keep your camera and lens dry. Problems may occur when moving in and out of freezing conditions so allow your camera to warm up slowly. Even better if you need to start shooting again indoors then make sure you have a camera inside. Otherwise you may be stuck with a foggy lens while your camera warms up!
- And the most important… Wear thick socks and gloves. I wear fingerless ones with grips on the palms.
About the Author:
This article has been written by a professional Wedding Photographer in Gloucestershire, who recently had a lot of fun at a snow covered wedding and decided to share some experience that will hopefully help you to capture some beautiful images before it all melts. Happy shooting!
For Further Training, PictureCorrect Suggests:
For difficult lighting conditions during winter, it is important to really understand how each camera setting works. Check out Photo Nuts and Bolts – Know Your Camera and Take Better Photos by Neil Creek; a very popular instructional eBook for any photographer who feels that they would like to know more about how their camera works, and how to become more confident at using it to take better photos. If you’re not satisfied that it is helping your photography within 30 days just let them know and they will refund your money in full.
It can be found here: Photo Nuts and Bolts eBook
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