How to take portraits in the snow

photographing-and-editing-snow-640x426

by Carol Swaitkewich

I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada or Winterpeg as we are affectionately called. It snows. A lot. It’s also cold. Like REALLY cold. For 5 months of the year we are surrounded by white and ice. If I wanted to take pictures I needed to learn how to shoot in the cold and snow fast!

The 3 main problems I found shooting in the snow are flat lighting, exposure issues, (blown out or grey looking snow), white balance issues (blue snow). This image has all three issues:

How to take portraits in the snow photo

Now, because I work with kids and it is cold, I don’t take the time to custom white balance. It’s more important to get the shots and get them warm so I auto white balance knowing that Lightroom will fix that with just a click. Clicking on the snow with my eyedropper tool in LR warms it right up.

Exposure +.65 , recovery +3 ,  temp +414

How to take portraits in the snow photo

If snow is in more than 50% of my frame I expose for the snow at +2 and it usually gives me a pretty decent sooc image. The Zone system was a game changer for me in how I understood and use exposure.

Because of snow’s reflective properties it can be difficult to get nice shadows on your subjects. Often I embrace it but to get some depth and drama into some images I use my environment to block some light and create shadows. For instance, putting my subject beside trees or buildings can do that. In this image I used a tree to get some shadows (SOOC image just a crop and size & sharpen for web done).

How to take portraits in the snow photo

If the subject fills most of my frame then I expose based on skin tone and I don’t worry about a bit of blown out snow behind them. Sarah Wilkerson‘s Flawless Skin Seminar was one of the most comprehensive learning resources on this subject  I have found and am still soaking up the knowledge. The following image is SOOC with just a crop and size and sharpen for web done.

How to take portraits in the snow photo

Being prepared will help make your shoot successful. Consider a few of these items for your next snow session:

  • Recommend to your clients to dress in thin warm layers…and don’t forget to dress warm yourself!
  • These fingerless gloves.
  • If it’s snowing while you are shooting you may want to get a rain guard.
  • Extra batteries. The charge runs out much sooner in the cold.
  • Hand warmers, for you and your clients!
  • Let your camera acclimate itself before using indoors and out. When you take it out don’t start using it until it’s cooled off a bit.
  • Shut it off before you bring it back indoors and let it warm up before use. Condensation could occur and damage your equipment or images.

Now, if you have some snow, go out and take some photos!

How to take portraits in the snow photoCarol Swaitkewich, Winnipeg
CMpro
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Carol lives just outside of Winnipeg, MB, Canada with her husband of 14 years and their 3 gorgeous girls – 4 if you count their free spirited (read:crazy) dog Ruby. With a love of babies and photography that goes back decades – her mom used to call her Anne Geddes as a teenager – it is fitting that her favourite subjects are newborns. A lover of coffee and earl grey tea lattes, chocolate and wine…well anything unhealthy actually…she often indulges while her nose is stuck in the latest fiction top seller. Carol’s simple equipment line up includes her Canon 5d mark II, the nifty fifty and the 24-70mmL.

 Read all photography tutorials by Carol Swaitkewich.

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