Hi! I’m CONFIDENCE teacher Cathy Mores, with my favorite 8 photo tips for photographing kids in the snow this winter! It seems like we have all had our share of snow lately, haven’t we? For some of our kiddos, this winter is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Seeing their reactions to those first snowy footsteps and the feeling of sledding downhill are moments they’ll remember forever. Here are eight quick photo tips to make the most of those memories!
1. Look for ways to create contrast. This time of year can be so gray and dreary. Using a pop of color, or the contrast of shadows, can create depth and texture to your pictures. In the following image, my son’s red jacket stands out against the crisp white snow and peeks of fresh blue sky. If it’s just too gray and overcast, use trees or other elements of your surroundings to show the difference between the earth and the sky. This can help bring dimension and depth to your image, too.
2. Overexpose a little for the snow so it looks crisp and white. This is where photographing in manual can really work to your advantage (and if you don’t know how, learn from one of our CONFIDENCE teachers!) Photographing in AV or aperture-priority mode can make the snow appear too dark because the camera only “sees” the white from the snow. Using manual exposure, and overexposing by slowing down your shutter speed by just one stop or opening up your aperture a little bit more, will make the snow appear sparkly and bright. (Point and shoot users, consider the beach/snow shooting mode. This automatically compensates for the brightness of your surroundings.)
3. Don’t be afraid to wear rain boots in the snow. This comes with a little bit of caution — of course, if it’s ridiculously cold outside, make sure your children are properly dressed for the weather! Or, if they’re two years old and asserting their independence, let them wear the rain boots as they take those first steps outside and explore the world for themselves. It will make for a great memory and story when they’re older.
4. Slow your shutter speed to catch all the action. This one takes practice, but with some patience (and a willing subject) you can use your manual settings to literally show how fast they’re going down the hill! This is fun for any kind of forward-moving activity—think bike riding in the summer, or running on the sidewalk. Set your aperture really high so that your shutter speed can slow way down, and as your subject is moving, pan your camera as the subject is moving to get that cool motion blur.
(bonus tip: set your shooting mode to be in continuous shooting for even more stop-frame action!)
5. Use snow for reflected light in open shade. In our CONFIDENCE workshops we’re always talking about looking for open shade. The snow acts like a giant white reflector, instead of green grass or a neutral surface (like a parking lot or playground). This reflects that solid sheet of brightness back up onto our subject, which is like holding a piece of paper underneath your chin and taking a photograph. (try it, it’s fun!) With the reflected light from the snow, our subject is illuminated softly and evenly without harsh shadows and squinted eyes.
6. Use the Rule of Thirds to enhance your story. Among the basic rules of composition for success with your photography, one of the most widely-used is the rule of thirds. Using this principle, place the subject outside of the frame’s center, the viewer can roam with the subject, engage longer with the image, and tell more of the story. It’s created by drawing two horizontal and vertical lines into your frame, breaking up the composition into nine sections. (You may also be able to turn this grid on in most cameras or smartphones!) In the following image, you can see my son as he’s sledding out of the frame. Placing him on the right instead of in the center of the frame adds to the sense of adventure and movement.
7. Use the shadows to add texture and definition. Especially in the stark contrasts of winter, the shadows can define more about the image than the light does. Use the shadows, especially early in the mornings and late in the afternoons, to provide more impact for photographing kids in the snow.
8. Show them having fun! At our house, snow is all about snowballs, tunnel forts in the snow piles and snow angels. This is such a magical time of year, and your child’s experiences of the snow will be vastly different next year from where they are at right now. Take this opportunity to show the wonder and excitement of snow days, hot chocolate, and catching snowflakes on their tongues!
I hope these tips and ideas help inspire your adventures this winter! Our CONFIDENCE workshops have so many more ways to spark your creativity and empower you with your camera — I hope you’ll join me or another teacher near you this spring for a day of learning and friendship.