5 Tips for Snow Portraits
Featuring bridal shots of the Trans-Pecos MAMA
Taking portraits in the snow can be tricky if you're not careful. While the light the snow produces is so useful, it's not always good if you don't know what to do with it. It is a great tool for enhancing your photos but it can ruin a shot if you don't have the right settings. The last thing you want is to blow out the sky and not know where the snow meets the sky. To prevent that, here are some universal photography tips to help you 'nail' those portrait shots.
Tip No. 1 | Take your camera off of auto
This one sounds simple for those of us that always shoot in Manual but for those that are used to that safety nest of Auto - it's not always easy to do.
So with that being said, yes, take your camera off of auto mode and switch it to manual to have more control over the images that you are producing. Trust me, once you get over that 'speed bump' in your way, you will feel so much more confident as a photographer. You can do it!
TIP NO. 2 | SET YOUR ISO LOW
I LIKE TO KEEP MY ISO BETWEEN 100 - 400.
Selecting your ISO in the snow, the lower the better in my opinion. However, still stay aware of your lighting. Shade and time of day can have a big impact on determining your ISO settings. But the higher your ISO, the brighter the photo will be and if you continue to push it higher and higher you will start to noise in your photos. Keeping your ISO lower will help avoid blowing out your highlights in the photo. Highlights help give detail to an image - read more on that here. It's important in the snow because you don't want to loose your detail in the snow and horizon. Highlights and shadows are especially important for shooting portraits with wedding dresses that have lot's of detail - like lace for example.
TIP NO. 3 | USE A LOW F-STOP
I TYPICALLY ALWAYS USE A LOW F-STOP FOR PREFERENCE. IT ADDS A NARROW DEPTH OF FIELD TO YOUR PHOTO MAKING YOUR SUBJECT STAND OUT MORE.
I typically use a low f-stop because I love the narrow depth of field that it gives to a photo. It helps focus in on your subject and in my humble opinion, paints a better story. However, with that said, it is important to consider how many subjects that you have and the distance you are from them. As well as the distance they are from other elements in the photo. Adding a narrow depth of field makes a photo like a 'ring shot' for a bride much more 'wowing'. It's also really great for wedding reception details. For example: the set tables, the cake and even the sign in book.
When you are using a lower f-stop, it is important to keep in mind that you are also letting in more light to your photo. You will have to make up for that in my next tip.
TIP NO. 4 | USE A HIGHER SHUTTER SPEED
I TYPICALLY SHOOT BETWEEN 160 - 2000. YES, THIS IS A VERY WIDE RANGE BUT THAT DEPENDS ON THE SURROUNDING LIGHT.
In the snow, your lighting will bee brighter because you basically have a natural reflector of light. In layman's terms, the light from the sun is beaming down to the snow and then bouncing back up to your subject thus lighting it up naturally. If you are shooting in the middle of the day and the sun is out, you will want to bump that shutter speed up. Add in a moving subject and you will want to bump it up a little higher. This is always important to keep in mind for couples sessions, bridal parties and candid elopement photos with lots of movement.
Also, it's ok if your photos appear a little darker on your screen. That is assuming you shoot RAW and use post processing tools, like Adobe Lightroom. If you are shooting JPEG or do post process. It is best to get your white balance and lighting correct in-camera.
TIP NO. 5 | WHITE BALANCE IS YOUR FRIEND... OR MAYBE NOT?
HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN A PICTURE OF THE SNOW AND IT LOOKS PALE AND BLUE? WELL, THE WHITE BALANCE MAY BE OFF.
I think we can all agree, the sky is blue and that the snow is receiving light from above. Therefore, it makes sense that the snow could appear blue as the light beaming down on-to the snow is blue. This is especially noticeable in the shade. It's important to consider if it is sunny or cloudy as well as if you are in the sun or in the shade. Adjusting your white balance can change the whole photo. So if you are seeing blue in your snow, try adjusting the white balance accordingly. This is even super important at a wedding reception if there is a lot of artificial lighting or if you are using a flash. Here is a good read that explains white balance this more in depth, read here.
So whether or not it's an elopement in the snow or a West Texas Wedding in February during a historic snow storm, these tips are useful. Heck, even if there is no snow these are all good universal tips for photographers.
Thanks for reading along!