Smartphone photography aficionado, Jo Bradford, shares her top tips for mastering winter photography—from what to look out for when shooting mist and snow, to advice on correcting common problems and adding quality of light and composition.
Living on Dartmoor I am used to shooting in inclement weather. Wind, rain and mist are all the norm up here, and I’ve come to learn that moody days are when the light is at its best. Low-key landscapes, where most of the tones in the picture are at the darker end of the scale, are in abundance in bad weather, giving plenty of photo opportunities of dramatic clouds, shafts of light, rainbows and storm fronts passing across the landscape.
I couldn’t write this article without thinking about snow. I think when most people picture winter photographs they picture snow and capturing a good photo of a snowy landscape is perhaps more reliant on the edit than any other type of photography.
I love the challenge of looking at a snowy scene and knowing what picture I need to take to give myself the best chance in the edit. I also love the way that snow changes a familiar landscape into a blank canvas and the way that the colours pop against the white—the black of a bird or russet browns of grasses and reeds in the winter.
“I love the way that snow changes a familiar landscape into a blank canvas and the way that the colours pop against the white—the black of a bird or russet browns of grasses and reeds in the winter.”
Some of the key things to think about when taking snowy photographs are:
Look for leading lines and pops of colour to add contrast and break up the monotony.
Shooting in the snow is tricky when the sun is out because it will be hard to avoid over-exposing with so much white and brightness in the scene. To counteract this wait for the sun to be diffused by cloud or move so that it is partially or fully blocked by trees.
Snow and mist are great for minimalist photos with a negative space aesthetic. Less is more so rather than including lots of information in your picture, try to pare it down to include just the essential elements. Make use of a tight crop to reduce clutter.
Try using a macro lens to see if you can capture individual snowflakes and close-ups of icicles.
When it comes to the edit, you need to think about white balancing. Blue colour casts (a kind of blue filter effect caused by your camera underexposing and seeing the snow as mid-tone) are a common problem in snow photos, but they are easily fixed! To help you in the edit, take photos where you have exposed for the different parts of the scene so that you have the best chance of having the perfect shot in your bag. Use editing to reduce blueness.
You can also use the editing process to ‘clean up’ snow; remove footprints and dirty patches.
Enhancing snowy landscapes
In the following two sets of before and after photos you can see how I have edited two different types of snow picture using Affinity Photo.
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