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Snow Photography

"Tips to help make sure snow stays white and bright."

Although tempted to do some snow photography, I have just come indoors for some warmth having cleared snow from my house to the road. Sometimes the need to get to the village shops has to take priority.

Snow Photography

According to the weather forecast, the weather is unlikely to change by tomorrow so I shall be out with my camera at first light. Meanwhile, I shall brush up on the notes I took when the opportunity for snow photography occurred last January and I was able to put together a slideshow for my neighbours in our village -

Top Snow Photography Tips

When viewing a bright scene like snow, a camera tends to underexpose the image. Snow turns out looking dull or grey in the photograph.

Use your exposure compensation to increase exposure. Start by increasing it by +1 stop and assess the result. This is best done with your Highlight Warning set to warn you of blown out highlights, which are shown as a flashing light (colour on some cameras) on your camera's LCD when you review your photos.

Fine tune this adjustment by increments of 0.3 -
 - reduce it if more than a few spots of flashing colour appear
 - increase it if the snow looks too dull.

All subjects, especially light ones like snow, pick up a colour cast from the surrounding light. Photos of snow taken in daylight under a blue sky often have a blue tinge which an auto white balance setting is unlikely to correct.

You can use your White Balance setting to remove this colour cast - a quick way is to increase the Custom White Balance setting to about 8,000 degrees Kelvin, take a shot then review the photo on the LCD screen. Still too blue - INCREASE the setting; too red - DECREASE the setting.

A more accurate method, although a bit of a fiddle first time around, is to use the One Touch White Balance function. The way to do this differs from camera to camera and is explained in the manual.

On my Olympus Cameras, I set the Function Button for One Touch White Balance, point the camera to fill the frame with a patch of snow I want to photograph, hold down the function button and press the shutter release and then use this as the basis for my white balance.

Snow photographs tend to look more stunning with blue sky as a background. Try using a polarizing filter to emphasise the colour.

When photographing wildlife, especially birds, a higher shutter speed will be needed. Do not be afraid to increase the ISO setting to 800 and beyond. There are rarely many dark areas in snow photography so digital noise is not likely to be a problem.

Remove the camera from its case and take off the lens cap as soon as possible and well before taking the first shot. If the camera has been kept indoors in the warm, it will take a while for the condensation to evaporate from the lens.

Take spare batteries in a warm pocket - cold batteries drain surprisingly quickly.

Of course your digital camera might have a "Snow" setting to start you off but, as with all such settings, it will not allow you to make any fine adjustments. The only way to make full use of the capabilities of your camera is to set it to manual, aperture or shutter priority and make adjustments as you progress.

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