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Snow Photography Tips for Beginners

The cooler weather is coming...we think. Take advantage of the beautiful snow this winter with these tips! 

Snow Photography Tips

*note, these tips are for those with a DSLR camera

1. Shoot in manual mode (M on camera)

I know, I know, manual mode can be very scary especially for beginners! You can do this, I promise. When you're shooting in snow, almost everything is white which can cause light to bounce off of the bright covering, confusing your camera or causing inconsistent images that you're not happy with. If you've never used manual mode before, start with manually set white balance, snap a few photos until you're on the white balance that you like, and then pick an aperture (sometimes called F-Stop). Pick one of the lowest apertures you can with your lens (the farm lens is f/2.8 but where I am shooting horses I keep it around f/3.5, personal preference) - start there and begin moving around your ISO and Shutter Speed and snap pictures until you make a picture you like. When shooting in snow, the ISO is going to be very important to get right so you don't "blow out" every photo and they all look bright white. The photo below was shot on a Nikon D5 with a 50-200mm lens at f/4.0 ISO 250 with the shutter at 1/400. This photo is unaltered other than cropped to 8.5x10 shape to fit this blog post!

Nikon D5

2. Focus on something dark

When shooting in snow, your auto focus may struggle to find something to land on (extra tip: same goes for sunrise / sunset photos!). Try to balance your focus point where the light meets the dark or something that shows deep contrast. Below is a photo from the farm with the focus point circled.  

Snow Photography Tips

3. Keep your battery warm

Your camera will shut down and freeze up just like your phone does and the battery will die quickly. The best thing you can do is find a way to keep your battery and camera warm and as dry as possible. When working the sales (Keeneland November & January, Fasig-Tipton November & February) I've had issues with my camera becoming more frozen than my fingers and I spend an hour standing in a tack room waiting for it to heat up. For one, always have an extra battery on hand. Secondly, bring a lens wipe incase snowflakes fall on your lens and melt. Thirdly, bring hand warmers not only for your fingertips (it's hard to take a photo when your fingers are numb!) but so you can tuck your camera in your coat with the warmers on it if it tries to freeze up. I'm sure there are better ways to handle this but coming from someone trekking through the farm for hours at a time or walking 10 miles a day at the sales grounds, it's essential to find light weight ways to keep everything in working order. 

4. Always shoot in RAW

If you aren't perfect with your camera settings (I am definitely not), shooting in RAW will save your pictures. When you're trying to capture background details or sky colors while shooting in the snow it can get tricky. The snow wants to blow out your photos and create lighting issues in your pictures. When you shoot in RAW, you can go back after photographing and manipulate the photos to draw out the true colors you saw with your eyes but maybe didn't perfectly nail with your settings. The biggest / best reason I shoot in RAW for farm / sales work is to edit the exposure. NOTE: Shooting in RAW = HUGE files. Make sure you have large enough and multiple memory cards. Below is a photo that wasn't shot in the snow but it was shot in RAW which allowed me to pull up the colors in the sky and make for a beautiful moment.

photography tips


Happy shooting!

- Autry, Spendthrift Farm Photographer 


P.S. Spendthrift offers Sunrise and Sunset photography tours! Book yours here:

1 comment

  • Charles Toler

    Very cool tips! Looking forward to our first real snow! I would also add try shooting in burst. Helps get just the right picture!

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