As winter residents in the MidWest, we all know that snow comes in many different forms from light and fluffy to heavy and wet. In addition to this, the snow can be varying colors from pure white to more gray. As in any other photography, it is always good to understand what you are dealing with that you need to compose and meter for to understand exactly what camera adjustments need to be made. Understanding your subject and taking a couple shots to review before actually taking ‘final’ shots well eliminate taking too many photos in order to get the right exposure as well as decrease the amount of post processing time that might be required to get that picture just ‘perfect’.
Freshly fallen snow that is pure white will provide absolutely no detail to your photography. Use spot metering if your initial shots come up with no detail and open up your aperture one to two stops. If the snow has some detail in your initial shot, then it is textured snow which will be a stop to stop and a half lighter than pure white snow, therefore, your aperture can be set a bit smaller or speed up your shutter speed.
Snow found in shadows on a sunny day can vary up to a stop while snow on overcast days will require opening up about two and a half stops. Snow in shade is bluish while snow under an overcast sky can be grayish. Snow at sunrise or sunset will be warmer. Moonlit snow landscapes will cast a bluish hue.
When a particular landscape shot or portrait session is pre-planned, checking out the area of the shot at different times throughout the day as well on sunny days versus gray days will help prepare you for the settings you will need to use depending on how the weather actually is on the day you do the session. Lighting changes throughout the day and from season to season so something that might have worked for you in the summer may not work for you during the winter. In addition, the colors provided will change from a cool sunrise to neutral in the midday and warmer near sunset.
Remember to adjust your ISO if needed for proper exposure or just to get some different moods. The general rule of thumb on ISO settings normally work with sunny days set at 100 to 200, cloudy days at 200 to 400 and predawn or dusk hours at 400 to 800. Some of the newer cameras will take good photos at some of the higher ISO settings also. Just remember that a higher ISO presents more noise or grain in the photos although sometimes this can add a nice effect. Shoot in raw when possible so some if this can be adjusted, if need be, in post processing.
As with everything else, different lighting will provide you with a variety of photography opportunities regardless of what your subject is.
Select the subscribe option at the top of this article to receive notification of more photography articles written by Trisha Comardo. Trisha also writes for Milwaukee Hiking Examiner and Milwaukee Nature Examiner.