Guest blog from photographer Krijn van der Giessen

I met Krijn 2 years ago when he was visiting Jokkmokk. Krijn lived in Dubai at that time. He was planning to organize photo tours to Swedish Lapland so he was exploring the area around Jokkmokk. I envied him for his beautiful photos. The snow perfectly white as it should be and not blue like mine often turn out to be.
So i asked Krijn if he would like to write a guest blog about how to make winter photos with snow. And here it is!
I hope you can use these tips when you are visiting Jokkmokk during winter time. Wish you lots of fun by practising his tips!

Krijn, fotograaf met flinke lens op camera

Winter photography tips

Are you visiting the north of Sweden soon? Don’t forget your camera! With these photography tips your snowy photo’s will turn out even better than you could imagine!

Winter photography however can be a bit tricky. What are the most important things to remember when photographing winter landscapes? This tutorial gives you a number of tips to give your photography in wintertime just that little bit extra.

Photographing landscapes covered in snow

Do your snow photos turn blue? Or do you suffer from grey snow in your photos when the snow was actually white? There are 2 easy tricks that will help you avoid this.

1) White balance in the snow

Especially if it is cloudy, or if you photograph in a forest full of shadows, you will suffer from a blue glow over the snow.

This is because the light during cloudy weather, or in the shade, is actually blue in colour. We as humans don’t see this, because our brains know how to convert this blue glow to the white colour we want to see. However, your camera shows everything like reality: blue!

White church in white snow

By adjusting your white balance and not leaving it on Automatic White Balance, your photos will become beautifully bright white again! So set your white balance to cloudy or shadow (or to ‘daylight’ when the sun shines), and you’ll see the blue glow disappear like snow in the sun!In your white balance menu look for the ‘cloud’ icon, or the icon of the house. You can find the white balance under the ‘WB’ button on your camera, or in the menu.

Voorbeeld van camera AWB
On the left the Automatic White Balance, in the middle the shadow WB and on the right the WB for a cloudy day.

Ps. If you shoot in Raw, you can also adjust the white balance manually in Lightroom or Photoshop. You will change the colour of your photo with the white balance slider, not with the saturation or vividness sliders. Make your photo warmer (more yellow) with the white balance slider and the snow turns white again!

2) Exposure compensation for snow photography

Because your camera sees the white snow as a lot of bright light, it will automatically try to make the picture darker to get an average exposed picture. This results in grey snow. You can easily prevent this by overexposing / turning up your exposure compensation by about 1 stop (+1). This will give you a lighter photo and the snow on your photo will become bright white again!

Sneeuwlandschap met boom2
Under exposed – this is an automatically (underexposed) photo
Sneeuwlandschap, met boom
Correctly exposed – This photo is with +1 compensation. The snow is white again!

When you take a photo, always check the histogram. A photo taken in a snowy landscape should show a peak on the right side of the histogram and show less information in the middle and the left. If you see most of the peaks in the centre of your histogram, you will know that your photo is underexposed, your snow will turn grey and you need to compensate the exposure.

Histogram voor camera
The snow on the left hand side will turn grey. The photo on the right (+1 compensation) will turn white.

However, be aware. You do want to make sure that you do not see any peaks on the far right side of your histogram. A peak on the far right means that there is no more information in the white areas, and all details in those parts will be lost. You will see this in your photo as a pure white spot. If this happens, turn your exposure slightly back until your histogram just doesn’t touch the far right.

Large areas of snow have been clipped: all the details have been lost. You have overexposed your photo too much. Turn your compensation back a little, so the peaks don’t touch the far right of the histogram.

Plan your photo: shoot at the correct time of the day

Go out early, so the fallen snow is still fresh, and no footprints of other nature lovers are visible. But also think carefully about your own footprints. It would be a shame if your own footsteps walk through that fresh pack of snow you just want to photograph. So, before you set off, think carefully about what you want to photograph. As soon as you reach the perfect photo spot, stand still for a moment and look around you to plan your photo. Determine your composition and take a good look at where the light is coming from. This will prevent your footprints from being visible in your beautiful snowy landscape.

Photographing in the middle of the day is always difficult because the sun can be quite bright. However, clear blue skies do form a nice contrast with the white snow. With sunrise and sunset you often get the most beautiful colours. Because snow easily reflects these colours, the most beautiful landscapes are created. So make use of this. Here too you can play with your white balance. If you set it to cloudy or shady, the sunset will turn even more beautiful!

Search for details

There is no better time of the year to photograph details than winter. And it doesn’t always have to be snow. Think of ice flowers on windows, frozen twigs, trees full of frost or a close-up of frozen cobwebs! Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll come home with the most beautiful photos. Do you have a macrolens? Use it! You will be surprised about the level of details of snowflakes!

Use your lens hood – even in the snow!

Are you outside when it’s snowing? Use your lens hood. This ensures that your lens is just a little less likely to be hit by the whirling snowflakes. It saves a lot of polishing and blurry spots in your photo ; )

My battery is flat. Again?!

Because of the low temperatures your battery will be empty much quicker than normal. The best tip is to carry a second battery in a warm place (as close to your body as possible).

This way this battery will keep most of its charge. As soon as the battery in your camera gives up, replace it with your spare battery in your pocket. Then put the empty battery close to your body so that it can warm up again. This will recharge the ’empty’ battery and you can use it when the battery in your camera runs out! Keep on rotating the batteries and you should be good to go for quite some time.

Good luck taking your winter pictures. As always: do you share your photos on my Facebook page? I am looking forward to your results!

Note from Olga;
If you wish to book workshops or photo tours you are welcome to look at this website
And off course we are also very curious how you succeed in making good white snowy photos. You are very welcome to share them at our Facebook as well.