Photographing snow

Learn how photographing snow works. We provide you with all camera settings which you need as a landscape photographer.

Camera settings for snow landscapes

A beautiful snowy landscape is every landscape photographer’s dream! But you need to be careful with your camera settings in snowy conditions to ensure that you take home correctly exposed RAW files. Read here what you have to pay attention to in order to be able to photograph snow.

You can photograph snow with this camera setting:
  • A/Av mode (aperture priority)
  • Aperture f/8
  • ISO100 (lowest native ISO)
  • Exposure compensation -1.0 f-stops
  • Tripod for exposure times > 1/60s
  • Remote shutter release or self-timer 2s

 

If you want to know more, read on in the article. 

photographing snow as landscape photographer

How bright is snow?

Snow has the distinction of reflecting significantly more sunlight than pretty much any other surface you can find in nature as a photographer. Usually, in landscape photography, pretty much all foreground objects are always darker than the sky and the light coming from it. However, this is not the case with snow. Snow is brighter than the blue of the sky because it reflects more sunlight. It is therefore possible that the sky is no longer the brightest area in the photo, but the foreground.

photographing snow made easy

Watch out with grey graduated filters!

Landscape photographers tend to always shoot with a graduated grey filter, as this is also correct in most lighting situations: Namely, when the sky is brighter than the foreground. With the camera settings for the snow, you often have to leave out the filter, because otherwise you even intensify the problem with it! The sky, which is already darker than the snow, is darkened further and the snow tends to be overexposed.

photographing snow with a graduated neutral density filter

Manual mode and histogram for photographing snow

You can also no longer rely on the camera’s exposure metering. For this reason, it is best to use the histogram and the manual mode. Set your aperture to give you the depth of field you need for your composition. Use your ISO sensitivity at the lowest setting when you are on a tripod and your subject is not moving, which tends to be the case in frozen snow landscapes.

With the exposure time you now influence your histogram. No overexposed area should be visible in the histogram. An area is always overexposed when a peak hits the right side of the histogram. If this is the case, reduce your exposure time until the peak no longer touches the right edge of the histogram.

If the photo is too dark and you still have a lot of space to the right, then set a longer exposure time until the histogram almost touches the right edge. This way you will always find the right camera settings for photographing snow.

use the histogram for snow photos

Beware of individual snowfields!

In the transitional seasons, you will often find individual patches of snow in the landscape. These can quickly and unnoticeably overexpose in the photo and leave you with an unnecessary area of white pixels. Therefore, try to check your image composition carefully to find possible overexposed pixels there. In the example shown, the snow area is completely overexposed without you noticing, but you can also photograph snow unintentionally.

overexposed snow

Schneefüße für dein Stativ

If the snow cover on your subject is too thick, your tripod will not stand properly in the snow. For this reason, you should get special feet for the snow for your tripod. Here is an example from Gitzo.

If these don’t fit on your tripod, then three plastic cups will help you in a very primitive way. You can simply attach them to the feet of your tripod. If you have spikes, you can simply pierce the plastic bottom of the cups with the spikes and thus get your own snow feet for the tripod. Just make sure you take all the plastic cups home with you!

snow foot for your tripod