6 Snow Day Photo Tips for Better Winter Portraits

With all the snow coming our way, I thought it appropriate to look up some relevant photo tips you can use this winter when taking portraits in the snow. The following are 6 tips from various sources compiled here for your enjoyment and education:

1. EXPOSE PROPERLY

Check out this video from Photographer Tony Northrup on Exposure Compensation.

2. WHERE TO SHOOT

Ask yourself: Is my background distracting? Sometimes it’s better to go with a blank white snowbank than a building or something with sharply defined lines.

Does my background add value to the shot? Does it emphasize a theme you’ve got going? Do the colors work with the clothing your subject is wearing?

Those are a few things to think about. The nature of portraits is to show your subject up close and personal, so you won’t want too much of the background showing. Otherwise it becomes the main emphasis. Go with something that lightly compliments your subject, and enjoy the amazingly soft light you get to work with.

3. ADD LOTS OF COLOR

With such a simple background (mostly white) focus on using vibrant colors in clothing and props.  When shooting with lush foliage you don’t want the client’s clothing to overwhelm the scenery or the portrait can be too busy.  Think just the opposite when photographing people outside in the snow.  The white canvas can be a great backdrop for some beautiful winter coats, hats and boots.  Hats are a great way to frame faces and showcase eyes as well, especially in children.

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4. COMPOSITION IS KEY

Place yourself among 20 other photographers in the same location, and the only chance you have of standing out is going for bold composition. […] in every kind of photography, composition is key. Even when faced with the most beautiful landscape or model in front of you, there’s always the risk of doing what has been done, even by you, a dozen of times before. Be daring, search for new, less obvious ways of placing your subject within the frame. Don’t be afraid to experiment – making wrong choices can sometimes be better than making obvious ones, because wrong choices push you into making right ones.

Consider placing your subject at the extreme edges of the frame. Zoom out and include lots of surroundings while doing portraits to combine the genre with landscape photography. If you’ve heard people say shooting into the sun is a bad idea, rubbish, it is a great idea. If you heard them say shooting into the sun requires fill-in from your pop-up flash, rubbish, more often than not it doesn’t. For the tenth time, experiment and have fun. Do crazy, unpredictable things. You’ll see – when they work, they work brilliantly.

5. USE THE FLASH

There are lots of benefits to using your camera’s flash outdoors during the day. This is especially true when you’re in the middle of photographing a scene during snowfall and want to add a little extra sparkle to your shots.

When you use your flash the light will catch some of the falling snowflakes closest to your camera and give your shot some twinkle. If your main subject is far enough away, it won’t be affected by the flash and will provide a nice contrast to the flash-induced glitz in the foreground.

Bonus! Using the flash during snowfall at night makes for some seriously pretty shots as well! Zoom out, point your camera toward the sky, and shoot!

6. KEEP YOUR CAMERA COLD

Keep my camera in the freezer like a bottle of cheap vodka? Not exactly. Ever notice how your glasses instantly fog when coming into warmth after being out in the cold? The same can easily happen to your camera, fogging the mirror, causing harmful condensation inside the lens, and maybe even shorting out electronic components (provided you’re part of the 21st century and using a digital camera). Do not place your camera under your coat in hopes of warming it up or keeping your batteries from draining too quickly (discussed below). The warmth of your body heat and the moisture from sweat can be potentially harmful. Plus, there is nothing worse than whipping out your camera for that once-in-a-lifetime shot only to have it fog up as soon as it’s re-exposed to the cold.

Bonus tip: BE AWARE OF YOUR FOOTPRINTS

As you’re walking through the snow, keep in mind your intended shot. Be careful that you do not walk through an area that you hope to include in a future shot…unless footprints are the intended purpose.

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