Snow portraits can be difficult to shoot because of unpredictable weather and difficult light but if you play your cards right, you can nail a perfect winter portrait with ease! 

As winter photographers ourselves, we've learned a few things over the years when it comes to capturing great winter photos. If you're looking for more practical tips for shooting portraits, check out this article. Here are our top tips for getting creative winter portraits. 

1. Create your own snowfall

If you’ve been eyeing up some conditions for winter portraits, you’ve probably bookmarked that falling snow would be a must-have factor for stunning winter portraits but unfortunately, we don’t get to have control over the weather and often our portrait shoots fall on days when the snow just isn’t interested in falling. 

You can still create the magical look of falling snow artificially though! One good way to create the illusion of falling snow is to just gently toss a loose snowball towards your subject. Not only will it likely bring about some genuine smiles and facial expressions, but the resulting image will look just like you were caught in a snowstorm. 

woman with camera in the snow

 

A quick tips to make the snowfall realistic: keep the snow loose in your hand before tossing it up. If you compact the snow too much, it won’t break off into nice flakes for your image. If you’re wanting to freeze the falling snow (instead of creating streaky snow), make sure your shutter speed is set to at a minimum 1/250 of a second. This shutter speed will help you get nice round snowflakes. 

You can also add some snow overlays in Photoshop to help enhance your snowy image even more. If you’re going to do this though, remember that your initial shot should already have some snow in the background and preferably some falling snow already. The overlays won’t look genuine unless the background matches the overlay.

2. Use burst mode to get the best shot

Falling snow can be a blessing but it can also be frustrating. A few errant giant snowflakes the eyes or lips can be awkward to edit out later. A good way to get around this is to use burst mode which will help you take a handful of pictures quickly so you can get the same facial expressions with different patterns of snowfall. 

woman with a camera in the snow

3. Create some backlight with an extra flash 

A snowstorm (and rainstorm for that matter!) can be beautiful enhanced with a bit of backlight. If you are lucky enough to have some soft sunlight as your backlight, you’re winning, but often we don’t get that lucky.

Don’t stress, you can easily use artificial light as a substitute which will create equally captivating images. Artificial light can be either something naturally occurring your frame (like a street light, or headlights of a car) or can be provided by you with an extra flash strategically placed.

Carl illustrates the use of a secondary flash well during a recent shoot for winter sports photography. Check it out!

4. Look for contrasts in the colour scheme

People have a tendency to wear black in the winter but if you’re shooting winter portraits, encourage your subjects to take on a bolder colour palette. Bright, bold colours contrast nicely with clean white snow and will help make your subjects pop. Deep reds, golden yellows, bright blues are all great options for your subjects. 

If the light is too harsh (as it often is during the daytime in winter), don’t be afraid to shoot in black and white. The contrasts from your subject and the snow will be enhanced by a monochrome look. If you do end up shooting in black and white, avoid shooting with an all-white background. Frame the photo so you have some trees or buildings blurred in the background to help give perspective and showcase the depth of field. 

5. Practice Winter Photography Before Your Models Arrive

Shooting in the winter offers all kinds of new and exciting challenges. The bright snow often throws off your camera’s metering resulting in an under or overexposed image that you won’t notice until you’re back in the studio.

To avoid having a wonky exposures, learn how to read your histogram and shoot to the right! Not sure what that means? Here’s our quick and handy guide to help you nail the histogram.

You’ll also want to be sure you’ve had time to play with the white balancewhich can be tricky with the snow. You’ll want to find something that walks a fine line between yellow snow and blue snow. If you’re in doubt, opt for the cool blue tones which will help enhance the moody vibes associated with winter. 

photographer shooting snowboarders on the mountain 

 


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