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Other Photography Tips and Tricks Urban Photography

Photography Tips and Tricks #7 : Use a Flash for Snow Photography

For more quick photography tips and tricks like this one, click here. Photography in the wintertime is, and always is, a tricky challenge. Not only do you have to brave the cold weather (with your fogged lenses too), deal with shorter batteries (since they don’t last as long in the cold), but falling snow is […]

Snow with flash
Snow with flash

For more quick photography tips and tricks like this one, click here.

Photography in the wintertime is, and always is, a tricky challenge. Not only do you have to brave the cold weather (with your fogged lenses too), deal with shorter batteries (since they don’t last as long in the cold), but falling snow is also a major part of the equation. Yes, snow can ruin your camera and equipment, but it can also yield beautiful images. That is, with this ONE simple trick. Use a flash for snow photography.

The thing with, while you may be able to clearly distinguish falling snow with your naked eye, your camera may not do so. For a multitude of reasons, snowflakes, if they are even visible, generally do not “pop” in the image; they are merely dim dots around a scene. However, since snow has excellent reflectance (or albedo), the easiest way of making it pop in a scene is by shining a light on it; whether be a street lamp, a strobe or, you guessed it, a flash. The following scenes, taken in similar conditions, show the enormous differences between using a flash and not using one in snow photography. As for the technique itself, it is really up to you to experiment : angle it at 0 degrees for a full-blown scene, 45 degrees for the top frame only, or you could even free-hold the flash with a radio shutter/sync cable to get creative!

Snow with flash
Snow with flash
Partial flash
Partial flash @45 degrees
No flash
No flash … okay it did fire but at like 90 degrees, so the point is still valid.

Two caveats though :

1) White balance problems : Since flash usually has a different white balance point as street lamps or other surrounding lighting, snow photography using a flash can make photos that end up with two different color tints: the snow is too bluish and the background is too reddish. Either embrace it, convert it to B&W, or deal with it by putting a warm gel/filter in front of the flash.

2) Blurred snowflakes : In snow photography, some like it, some don’t. The two pictures above were shot at relatively open apertures, therefore explaining the blurred snowflakes. If you like fine snowflakes instead of big, blurred ones, your only option is to stop down the lens.

And that’s it for a quick tip on snow photography!


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