The shimmer of a fresh snowfall in Park City, Utah, or Breckenridge, Colorado, can trick your digital camera’s sensor, leaving photos washed out or too dark. Use these tricks from photographer Angela Tague to create stunning, high-light winter snapshots.
Dial it down. Gently darken a reflective snowy scene by using the exposure compensation dial to decrease the exposure in half- or whole-stop increments. Are shots too dark? Does snow look blue? Use the dial to brighten the exposure a few stops.
Shield yourself. Lens hoods, which come equipped with most new camera lenses, can protect against sunspots and too-bright images.
Set and match. Move beyond auto white balance to get more accurate colors and shadow details using the “flash,” “cloudy” or “shade” settings. Compare how the scene differs in each mode using your camera’s playback setting.
Think old school. Hand-held light meters, gray cards and other manual tools for film photography exposure are handy in the winter. Use them to get a second opinion on exposure settings before pushing the shutter button on high-contrast scenes.
Time it right. Plan to photograph scenic or landscape shots in shadowy or dim evening light to reveal more details and less contrast. Plus, a glowing sunset adds warm orange-red hues to an otherwise common winter scene.
Go raw. Adjust the exposure of your photo using editing software after the fact by shooting with raw image file settings. Raw images lack contrast (good for photographing bright snow) and require post-processing to look vibrant.
Protect Your Gear
You wouldn’t head outdoors in frigid conditions without an insulated coat and thick gloves. So, why not keep your camera cozy and ready to work?
- Wrap your camera in rain gear or an underwater camera housing to keep snowflakes and sleet from damaging your electronics.
- Use an insulated case to keep your camera slightly warm and functioning between shoots in low temperatures.
- Store extra rechargeable digital camera batteries in a pants or shirt pocket to maintain power thanks to your body warmth.
- Keep a microfiber cloth handy to wipe melting snowflakes from your lens—a scarf or sweater may leave fine scratches.
- Wear gloves with rubber-tipped fingers and palms to maneuver camera controls and improve your grip in cold weather.