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How to take photos of the snow which are actually good

Make the most of the cold weather

How to take photos of the snow which are actually good
Tom Victor
28 February 2018

As you might have noticed, we’ve had a bit of snow in the UK this week.

I know, weird that no one’s really talking about it, right?

While we know being cold is bad, and being colder is even worse, one thing is even worse than both of those.

That’s right, we’re talking about bad photos of snow.


You’ve been on Instagram this morning to see wall-to-wall snow, blindingly white to the point you can’t really tell what you’re meant to be looking at. And yes, some of those photos are ones you’ve taken yourself.

Either that, or you’ve managed so somehow miss all the snow on the ground and capture what might be snowfall but could just be dandruff. Either way, it’s not good.

But how do you take a good snow photo, save for ensuring there’s a dog frolicking in the stuff (obviously all dog photos are good photos)?

Well, it’s a question that has plagued us for years, and instead of sitting there putting up with mediocrity, you can find a way to do better.


Chances are, unless you’re really prepared, you’ll only be armed with your phone – especially if there’s heavy snowfall in the middle of your working day, as we’ve seen this week.

That means some of the preparations you might make for a professional camera won’t necessarily apply, but there are still some handy tweaks you can make.

One of the main ones, which is certainly doable on iPhone cameras, is to tweak the exposure manually. While this might leave you with slightly off-looking photos in normal circumstances, here it can actually help make the snow look whiter.

Often, the colour you associate with snow doesn’t actually come out in real life, and certainly not on camera, so in effect you’re changing the set-up to make it look more ‘real’.

As explained by Jill Emmer of iPhone Photography School: ‘The problem with snowy scenes is that the large areas of white can trick the iPhone’s camera into under-exposing the photo. Basically, the camera looks at the scene, sees all the white, and thinks it’s too bright. So it reduces the exposure which effectively makes the snow look grey.’

Quite good.

While we’re on the subject of brightness, it can be just as important to ensure you don’t wait for sunny skies.

We’re basically asking you to ignore everything you’ve been told about avoiding overcast weather when nipping out to take some photos – the combination of sun and snow can, you guessed it, make things too bright.

“Direct sunlight rarely makes for a great picture, but the snow has a poor tendency to amplify that overexposure and make for a painfully bright photograph. Instead, aim to shoot snowy scenes when it’s slightly overcast or the sun is otherwise hidden behind trees, houses, or mountains,” explains iMore’s Serenity Caldwell.


We can’t always get a perfect backdrop, and we don’t always have time to wait. If you’re rushed into getting whatever you can on your lunch-break then the black-and-white filter is your friend.

Perhaps light from elsewhere will give you the brightness you want, but without the colour you expect from snow, but you can remove orange or yellow tints by going black-and-white.

If all else fails, though, maybe you want to use the snow as a backdrop, not the main event.

Yes, animal photos might be the pinnacle of this, but even the most mundane objects can gain an intensity when flanked by heaps of snow, in an American Beauty carrier-bag-in-the-wind sort of way.

As Dena White writes for Digital Photography School: “Autofocus can have a hard time locking on, when everything is white. It helps to focus on something dark, like the bark that’s just below a lump of snow on a tree branch. Your camera’s autofocus system needs contrast to focus on, so a plain white mound of snow may cause issues”.


Oh, and one more tip, which pretty much everyone will tell you: don’t delete any photos until you’re back home in the warm.

You might think it doesn’t look up to scratch but head home, play around with it and who knows, it might look a whole lot better than you thought.

There you go, now get out there and take yourself some better photos right now, before all the snow melts.

(Images: Genessa Panainte/Unsplash/iStock)