We had a beautiful snow this week, and I took tons of pictures. I’m sure many others did as well.
I didn’t see the forecast in time to write about it, so I’ll give some pointers about how to photograph snow next time.
• Snow is white, but your camera doesn’t know that. Its meter will try to find the correct exposure for the whole scene and ends up making snow kind of grey. Solution? Use exposure compensation ... that little +/- on your camera ... to tell it to make things brighter. It’s a delicate balance, but you can finesse it with a little practice to find just the right balance between grey snow and completely washed-out snow.
• Speaking of grey snow, most cameras tend to make snow kind of bluish. Solution? Set your white balance to cloudy or even shady. One reason snow tends to turn blue in pictures is that it is often illuminated by blue sky, which brings us to ...
• Snow is beautiful any time, but it takes on added spark when the sun comes out. For years I snow skied in New Mexico, where it is sunny most of the time, and the slopes were absolutely gorgeous, gleaming in the high country sunshine. This, too, requires some finesse, mainly because if the sun is in your frame, your camera tends to make the image too dark. Exposure compensation to the rescue.
• Sunshine in blue sky has long been a powerful tool in my toolbox. There’s a little trick that can make it easier to get the sun in a frame without overpowering the image with it: Duck behind a tree branch between you and the sun, compose your image and set your exposure, then move slightly to get the sun to peek out from behind the branch.
• The sun will look prettier if you can create “sunstars,” spikes of light coming from bright points of light like the sun. Some lenses make great sunstars, while others don’t make sunstars at all. Smartphone cameras usually don’t. One trick to get good sunstars is to use very small apertures. The formula for sunstars is: If your lens has an even number of aperture blades, it will make that many sunstar spikes, while if your lens has an odd number of aperture blades, it will make twice as many sunstar spikes. A six-bladed aperture, for example, makes six-pointed sunstars, while a seven-bladed aperture makes 14-point sunstars.
• Snow is brighter than you realize, even when it’s cloudy. I made the mistake of walking our wolfhound Wednesday without sunglasses, because it was cloudy. When I came inside, all I could see was purple haze, literally. I was temporarily, partially snow blind. It cleared in a few minutes, but I was aggravated with myself for not remembering to wear sunglasses, which I have done for decades in the snow.
Stay warm, have fun and make great snow pictures.