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Snow Photography Tips to Capture the Beauty of Winter

Mom and daughter using snow photography tips to capture memories | Motif

Reading Time: 6 minutes read

The soft beauty of snow drifting through the air. The glamor of sparkling icicles. The glee of a toddler wrapped in bunting, attempting her first snow angel. As much as we love bright autumn leaves or a blooming April peony, when it comes to photogenic seasons, nothing holds a candle to winter.

Do you want to capture this most wonderful time of the year? Bundle up, down a quick mug of hot cocoa, and then grab your camera…before it melts away! Follow these photography tips to freeze-frame the beauty of your winter wonderland.

Take Advantage of Exposure Compensation

Blue tree shadows in the snow showing how light color affects images | Motif

Snow can seem blue, gray or even pink in photographs, but is usually pure white to the naked eye. Why? Our eyes always see snow as white because they’re more efficient at correctly realizing the reflections of sunlight. Cameras, meanwhile, cast snow in a pastel rainbow of colors, resulting in spectacular photo opportunities.

Because light rays are red and blue, how much or how little the object or area reflects of each will affect the color quality of your image. If you’re seeing a blue hue in a photograph, it’s because the snow is actively absorbing more red light, and reflecting back more blue light rays.

You can take advantage of exposure compensation to hone in on a mood.  Blue-infused images are considered “cold” and underexposed and have a more crisp feel, whereas the inverse is considered “warm” and overexposed to light, resulting in more rich, earthy imagery.

Strike the White Balance 

If the moody blues aren’t for you, you can capture the more natural white look of snow by adjusting the white balance. This method of exposure compensation warms or cools down the color temperature of the image. Properly calibrating your camera will yield a photograph that more closely resembles what our eyes see naturally. 

One thing you want to avoid is flash photography, although it might be tempting to use your flash to compensate for reduced light exposure. Unfortunately, this additional burst of light will likely reflect off the snow crystals and create blindingly bright sections in the image. A lens hood can also help with any of this flaring that occurs naturally. You generally don’t need to worry about overexposure when capturing snowy terrain, however. If your photos are coming out off-color, you’ll want to actively overexpose the camera lens slightly to compensate for the lack of natural light. 

A tool you do want to take advantage of is your histogram, which will indicate the level of light exposure in your shot. A graph emphasized to the right indicates overexposure; a reading too far to the left reveals underexposure. You can use this information to help dial in your light balance more accurately. 

Sky’s The Limit

Use these snow photography tips to capture snow against a colorful sky | Motif

There’s nothing like a colorful sky to illuminate the stark whiteness of snow. Try to grab some photos during the golden hour to photograph a snowy day in all of its glory. 

A bright sunny day is also a great day to shoot the snow; the strong contrast of the blue sky gives the ground the appearance of added illumination. When you’re out on the ski slopes with friends, or out capturing the kids sledding down their favorite hill, be sure to snap the horizon in the background to bring the subject come to life.

Make Use of Scenery and Color Where You Can Find It

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan contrast against snowy background | Motif

Snow is best captured when framed against the beauty of nature. White flakes falling on the neighborhood pine trees or against the nearby lake can create a beautiful and striking color balance. 

You can also experiment with photographing snow in motion by adjusting your shutter speed. When photographing falling snow on the standard setting, you’ll likely receive a blurry image. By speeding things up, you’ll be able to create artistic visuals that freeze that micro-moment in time.

Melting Snow Can Also Create Beautiful Pictures

It’s joyous to capture the winter season at its peak, but photographing the melting landscape can also freeze the moments of season’s end. As another wonderful year comes full circle, these moments frozen in time can encapsulate the coming change.

As the snow melts, you’ll likely get exposure from new colors such as green grass or the warm sunlight above. Melting snow against a warm sun captures the spirit of life, the oncoming spring, and another year’s worth of memories.

Serious About Snow Photography? Shoot in the RAW

Shooting in RAW format, a technique available for some modern cameras, allows for the greatest amount of photo editing. If you’re content with your shot placement, but actively struggle to achieve optimal white balance, you can still save the photo for later processing if you shoot in the RAW. 

A quick note of caution: RAW photo file sizes are significantly larger than the typical JPEG. If you’re planning to chase a full photo session, you may want to invest in an additional memory card to swap out on the go. Memory cards are compact and easy to carry. You’ll have more opportunities to use these snow photography tips and explore your options.

Make Sure Your Camera Stays Safe

Your camera doesn’t enjoy the icy weather as much as you do. Follow these tips to make sure your camera stays safe during your photo shoot.

Keep Your Batteries Warm

In low temperatures, camera battery life can be halved almost immediately. Not only does the chilly weather affect your batteries, but it can also create excess levels of moisture that risk harm to internal components. The moisture comes from condensation created by changes in temperature when bringing it out of its warm housing into the open air.  Treat your camera the same as yourself – keep it as warm as possible. 

Invest in a Camera Bag 

Unfortunately, the arctic temperature is not the only part of winter that poses a threat to your camera. Walking through snow and ice presents the risk of falling or dropping your valuable camera. If you’re selective with our outdoor photography tips, be sure to follow this one. A waterproof bag not only offers padding to prevent damage from impact, but actively combats moisture and condensation while inside.

For an added layer of protection, place your camera and lenses in a zip bag. This will protect your device by giving the condensation a surface to form on that’s not the camera.

Your Favorite Moments, Frozen in Time

Mom and daughter using snow photography tips to capture memories | Motif

These snow photography tips are the building blocks to creating cherished memories. Keep in mind that photography is a combination of opportunity and skill. As you gain experience, your photo quality will grow, and so will you. 

Try preserving your memories and progress by creating a photo book with the Motif Photos app on iOS or macOS that illustrates your progress. Motif’s editing software is intuitive and easy to use. You can sharpen blurry images, adjust brightness, and polish and rotate to your heart’s content. 

Don’t be afraid of the snowy weather. Wondrous moments are waiting along the wintery horizon. Get outside and start capturing the beauty that hides where you’d least expect it.

Bring your photo memories to life with Motif.

Experience the joy of creating personalized photo projects with Motif. Our photo book app seamlessly works with Apple Photos in macOS and iOS, doing the heavy-lifting while leaving the creative freedom to you.