Snow Days: Dust off Your Camera and Catch a Few Flakes


Although the temptation to crank up the heat, light the fire, mix up a nice warm mug of hot cocoa and hide under a quilt may be overwhelming, snow days provide a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child and experiment with your camera.

Let’s face it, the odds are you have dozens of snaps of your little angelfish swanning around in the surf, soaking up the sun and sand. Snow angels are awesome, too, and winter offers some pretty great challenges for both amatuer and and professional phototgrahers.

Top Tips for Winter Photography

Here are a few tips for helping you climb snow mountains and capture meltingly adorable moments.

Bright White, Bright Light

Snow can be a tricky subject, fooling your camera into thinking that it’s brighter out there in the world than it really is. For most hobbyist photographers, a modern digital SLR camera probably understands the scene better than you do; however, if your images read as gray rather than brilliant white, it’s time to tell your SLR a thing or two.

It’s totally counterintuitive and confusing to most photographers, amatuer and professional alike, but your camera thinks that great white world is super bright. Too bright, if fact, so it’s trying to tone things down a bit by kicking down the aperture, letting in less light. That’s not good for snow. So adjust your f-stop one- to two-stops to let in more light. Boom! Bright white!

Think Fast

To catch those gorgeous flakes as they’re falling, use a fast shutter speed. Again, you may be smarter than your SLR on a snowy day. Your camera will automatically capture motion, if it’s fast enough; however gently falling snow may pull the wool over your camera’s eye. If your flakes are blurs, increase your shutter speed to 250th or 500th of a second, depending on the size and speed of your snowfall.

It’s All About Contrast

While a white winterland is a gorgeous place, rarely is the world entirely enshrouded. Look for contrast and capitalize on juxtapositions. Keep your eyes peeled for trees standing strong into the sun, for brave daffodil shoots stretching to the sky and for black tire swings coated in fluffy white. Once you’ve found your strong shadow or your surprising splash of contrast, focus on that image and play around with your exposure. The contrast is striking.

It also bears noting that when holding a camera on a snowy day, contrast isn’t exclusively about color. It’s about finding those feeling signs of spring. Signs of hope!

Black and White and Bright

Winter is full of color, you just have to look for it.  Or generate it! Get those brightly clad kids of yours outside. Start romping in the drifts, making tracks in the virgin snow, building snowmen with bright orange carrot noses and rocketing down hills on neon-colored sleds. Keep your finger on the shutter while you play.

The Early Bird Gets the Photo

Keep in mind, the best winter light is morning light. If your kids are lucky enough to be enjoying a snow day, then they’re up with the dawn and you may as well take advantage of it. Get out there and chase those rays! Experiment with angles and figure out where the sun works best on your subjects. Traditionally, shooting with the sun to your back is best, but in the winter months, give sidelight a chance.

Believe it or not, cold is good. Cold air is clear, blue air. When it’s good and sub-freezing teeny tiny ice crystals fill the air, causing light to diffract and generate brilliantly hued pictures. Get out there and catch a sunrise or a sunset, the results may well be stunning.

Comfort is King

Be careful out there, though. Warm coats, silly hats, wool socks, and easy-on-easy off gloves or mittens are a must!