Now that we got our first snow yesterday, I wanted to share some tips and tricks about how to get the best possible photos. If you live in a place like I do, it snows for like 5 seconds then melts hours later, so there’s one chance to take the pics. Some seasons we get like two or less snow days, so I get really hyped whenever there’s a call for snow because it might be the only snow day we get for the year. Here’s a list of everything you need to prepare for your snow day adventures.
Ignore the black lines on some of the photos. I was too lazy to go back into my archives so I just screenshotted them off my Instagram.
This is just a quick guide since all cameras and equipment perform differently in a number of various weather situations.
Light falling snow is probably the absolute best time to take photos because you’ll get that lovely white bokeh. The snow – just like taking pics in the rain – can screw with the autofocus because of the flakes moving in front of the lens. If the snowflakes are small, it won’t make much of a difference, but the bigger ones definitely mess it up. So be aware of that and maybe switch to less focal points if your autofocus is missing the mark. For the shutter speed, you’ll probably want something quick like 1/1250 if it’s bright and an aperture of f5 or 6 otherwise your whites are going to be overexposed.
A big snow storm with thick snow coming down is going to be less desirable for photoshoots (especially because your equipment will get soaked). The autofocus is really going to have trouble shooting through that snow, so either shoot manual or use center focus that way your camera knows what it’s aiming for. If you have too many focal points active all over the screen, it’s gonna be really dicey what your camera locks on to. If it’s heavy snowfall – it’s usually in my experience a darker day with a ton of overcast – you’ll want a bit higher like f4 – but I wouldn’t go higher than that (maybe f3.5 if you’re feeling courageous) because the higher you go, the shallower depth of field and the less likely you’ll have your entire subject in focus – especially with the snow throwing it off. The shutter speed, I’d keep at 1/1000 or maybe even a bit slower than that depending on how dark the day actually is.
Just Snow on the Ground
If there’s no falling snow, but snow on the ground and it’s a sunny day which it usually is after it snows (at least where I live), keep your aperture high around f5-6. The snow on the ground acts as a natural bounce board and reflects the sun back on your subject, so you really won’t need your aperture open that much because of how bright it will be. Use a quick shutter speed like 1/1000-1/1250.
As your shooting – whether it be a hardcore snow storm or not snowing at all – always, always look and see how your photos are turning out. The settings here are just a starting point when you go to shoot, so you’ll probably need to adjust them a little more depending on the weather and your equipment.
Snow Cheat Codes
If there’s no falling snow, you won’t have that iconic white bokeh – and that’s ok. You can very easily just add a falling snow filter to the photo to give the illusion that it’s snowing. Some of these filters can look pretty realistic too if you find a good one to match the photo. But even if they don’t look realistic, they still make it look pretty. I absolutely love snow filters whether they look real or not.
If you want cute snow noses, take some carrots or treats and bury them in the snow then make your horse get them. They’ll use their lips to move the snow and then they’ll get snow on their little furry faces. It’s so cute.
If there’s no snow on the ground, or it’s melting really fast and looks gross, shoot low angles and just use the sky as a backdrop then add a falling snow filter or cooling filter to give it the snow day vibe. This is also a useful trick if you have no good backdrops even without a snow day. Low angles save lives.
To capture the ultimate snow day pic, pay attention to what’s in the background. If you’re shooting against the barn or a wall, you’re missing some serious snowy scenery. Find some trees, bushes, hills or empty field covered in snow – anything pretty and snowy works. Just make sure it’s not a parking lot, the manure pile, some random people tacking up in the background…
If you wanted holiday photos, snow days are a good opportunity to get them. Break out the reindeer antlers, santa hats, scarves, wreaths or whatever else you have lying around that you can throw on your horse and take some cute pics. Also if you use a halter, make sure it’s either a nice leather one or a festive one. Old, dirty, beat up halters don’t make good photos. Same goes with blankets. If it’s a gross blanket or a really used one, take it off for pics. It looks way better. If you do use a blanket, catch its good side, clean it up a bit or use a new one. Eve has a lightly used heavyweight we always use for snow pics because it stays clean with its limited use.
This is kind of common sense, but if it’s snowing really bad, you don’t want to soak your equipment so bring a towel to dry it off afterwards or place a plastic bag over it while you shoot. And remember to (obviously) wear a jacket, boots, warm socks and gloves because if your hands and body are numb, it won’t be a long shoot!
Snow days are some of my favorite shooting days and they’re few and far in between, so when they happen make them count! Just be sure you go prepared to really make the most of it.