Snow is one of the most magical natural phenomena. When the world is blanketed in white, it’s breathtaking to behold – and a beautiful backdrop for photos. If you’re thinking of hosting a snow photoshoot this winter, you may be wondering where to start. That’s where we come in.
We’ve got everything you need to know about taking the best photos in snow, including a handful of snow photoshoot ideas, as well as the best snow camera settings for producing truly extraordinary photos.
The Best Snow Photoshoot Ideas
In this section, we share snow photography ideas to get your creative juices flowing!
1. Find a Snowy Street Scene
Snow has the ability to turn a bustling street into a still and serene scene. Head out when the snow starts, and look for interesting street lights, beautiful buildings, and bare tree branches. For extra-magical results, take your photos at night!
Pro Tip: Make sure to protect your camera from falling snow with some sort of rain cover. And when you come back inside after a shoot in the cold, keep your camera in the camera bag for a few hours; that way, you can prevent condensation from forming on the lens elements.
We love the surreal look and feel of this dreamy photo featuring a deserted neighborhood, falling snow, and the illuminated marquee beckoning from afar.
2. Photograph an Adventure with Your Pet
Here’s one for adventurous subjects – and photographers! Strap on your snowshoes or cross country skis and take to your favorite terrain. Bring your dog, too, and photograph it as it runs across snowy fields, forest floors, and mountainous scenes.
While the mountain backdrop of this photo makes an especially impactful scene, the same vibe can be achieved in any outdoor setting, such as a park or trail.
3. Find a Light in the Dark
Even the simplest things are transformed into objects of wonder when covered in snow – including a beautiful lantern or streetlight.
The best part? You can pull this off in your own backyard. Alternatively, you can head down into the nearest city and find all sorts of snowy lights.
Exposing for light up-close can be difficult, so make sure you check your LCD regularly (and for the best results, don’t forget to view your histogram).
4. Find Spots of Nature Among the White
While a significant snowfall can bring the human world to a grinding halt, the natural world is undeterred, so head out into the nearest forest or nature preserve. We love the bright red color of this cardinal perched on a branch while the snow falls around it.
Can’t find any birds to shoot? Consider these variations on the theme:
These snow-coated berries achieve the same interplay between bright red and soft snow.
But even a simple, single tree can become an interesting subject against a sea of snow:
5. Round Up the Kids
Snow is instant happiness for kids. From school snow days to sledding excursions, snow encapsulates the wonder of childhood – so it’s full of picture-perfect moments. So send the kids outside, then photograph them as they do what kids do: have fun!
The cheerful yellow coat pops against the backdrop of white, while this photo also manages to capture the personality of the child – without even revealing their face.
Gently falling snow is a dynamic background for portraits of the young and young at heart alike.
Not up for bundling them up and heading out into the storm? Capture the wonder from inside, instead:
6. Do a Four-Legged Photoshoot
Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy frolicking in the snow. Pets also make stunning subjects for portraits and action shots.
There are many opportunities to play with backgrounds, colors, and other variables that will create visually arresting photos. Make sure to use a fast shutter speed to prevent blur, and be sure to turn on your Animal Eye AF (if you have it); that way, you can nail focus, even as your furry friend runs through the scene.
The Best Camera Settings for Snow Portraits
Now that you’ve got some snow photoshoot ideas, you’re probably wondering: How do I shoot the best photos in the snow? What are the camera settings that I need for outstanding results?
In this section, I share my top camera settings for gorgeous snow photography, starting with:
1. Don’t Forget About White Balance
While snow appears white to the human eye, it’s blue on camera. Blue-tinged snowy images can look moody and magical, but that may not be your desired aesthetic. So to make sure your snow scenes actually look white, adjust your white balance appropriately.
You have a few options here. You can bring a gray card out with you, then use it to create a custom white balance; this is useful for product and portrait photoshoots, but won’t work so well when capturing landscapes under fast-changing lighting conditions.
Alternatively, you can scroll through your camera’s white balance presets until you find something you like.
Pro Tip: If you shoot in RAW, you can change the white balance after you’ve taken the photo using a post-processing program like Lightroom. This is highly effective, and it’ll prevent you from stressing about white balance when you’re out in the field!
2. Dial in Deliberate Overexposure
Your camera meter thinks that all scenes should be gray…
…which means that white snow will be rendered far too dark, unless you take steps to compensate.
When faced with a snow scene, switch your camera over to Manual mode, then carefully lower your shutter speed, widen your aperture, or increase your ISO until you’ve “overexposed” the image by +1 or +2 stops (the exposure bar in your viewfinder will reflect this).
Alternatively, you can use Aperture Priority mode, then dial in a stop or two of positive exposure compensation.
Note: Depending on the light, you’ll need to overexpose your images by different amounts – so make sure you take a few test shots before beginning your photoshoot in earnest (and recheck your LCD every time the light changes significantly).
3. Blur Your Background
Taking a snow portrait and want your subject to stand out? The best portraiture tends to feature beautiful blurred backgrounds, which highlight the subject, minimize the background, and give an all-around cool effect.
But how can you make this happen?
First, choose a lens with a longer focal length (at least 50mm, and 85mm, 135mm, and even 200mm if you have it).
Then dial in your lens’s widest aperture value. (The smaller the f-stop number, the wider the aperture – so you should be working with a value of f/5.6, f/4, f/2.8, or even f/1.4).
Finally, focus carefully on your subject. You’ll need to lock focus on the eyes; otherwise, you’ll end up blurring out your subject’s face on accident!
4. Shoot in RAW
Remember how I said that RAW files allow you to adjust the white balance after the fact?
That’s not all.
RAW files are incredibly versatile, packing lots of image information you can use to recover highlights, bring back shadows, and create all-around gorgeous results with clever processing.
Shooting in the snow is particularly challenging, thanks to all the meter-fooling white, so I highly recommend you work in RAW. That way, even if you accidentally underexpose or overexpose your images, you can make significant changes in a program like Lightroom.
(Plus, you can have plenty of fun making unique edits to your photos; try adding a bit of color grading for a magical effect!)
5. Use a Fast Shutter Speed to Freeze the Snow
Many of the example photos I’ve featured above capture the beauty of falling flakes, but to freeze snow as it drops, you’ll need to use special camera settings.
For one, you’ll want to use a fast shutter speed, which will catch the snow in action and prevent blur. What shutter speed is fast enough? I’d recommend shooting at 1/500s, though you might be able to go slower, depending on the speed of the falling snow.
Note that snowy days tend to be pretty dark, so you’ll generally need to increase the ISO for a nice exposure. Don’t be afraid to shoot at ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600, and beyond (though pay careful attention to your own camera’s noise capabilities, and don’t push things farther than your camera can handle).
On the flip side, if you don’t want to freeze the snow, you can always create beautiful blurred streaks with a tripod and a slower (1/30s to 1/100s) shutter speed.
Snow Photoshoot Ideas and Camera Settings: Conclusion
Winter means a whole new world of opportunities for photographers, so commit these tips to memory – and when the snow begins to fall, head outside!
And be sure to take plenty of photos. After all, spring will be here before you know it. Don’t miss out on a slew of amazing images!