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Shooting Winter Wonderland: How to Take Great Snow Images

Shoot what you love. The Amazing Images Will Follow. That’s my motto.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Above, you can see a shot of my daughters, Zoe and Tenley, on their first day of snow ever. Zoe wanted to hold the snow in her hands and blow it, Tenley agreed, and just as Zoe was blowing, Tenley reached up and whitewashed her face with the snow. I think that the resulting image is my favorite I’ve taken in a long time.

The relationship, the expressions…this shot wasn’t what I started out wanting, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s like exercise. I want to be a runner. I try to be a runner. The other day I was running on the treadmill. I’m an ok runner, pretty slow, but I can make it through five miles easily, if someone is standing there talking to me. If not, I last ten minutes. Because I hate it.

To me, running is like chewing up a glass pane window and following it down with a chaser of cat hair balls. Power yoga, on the other hand, I would do three times a day if I had that kind of time. I just love it, and I make time for it every single day no matter what. . Same with photography. I am a lover of beauty. All beauty. So When I woke up this morning, I was so excited to see beautiful, white snow blanketing the town, flocking the trees, and floating down. How could I lose in my effort to make amazing snow pictures? So I ran out to shoot. But I quickly remembered that I hate shooting pictures of landscapes. I tried.

I shot huge vistas of boring white globs. So I moved to photojournalism. I shot kids getting off the bus, but as I didn’t have a model release form for any of them, I had to shoot them so they would be unrecognizable, so I had a bunch of freezing hunchbacks walking away from me. I shot some city workers…too much “crack” to print those. I moved on to action as I shot the giant truck snowblower, blowing dirty sand onto the perfect white snow. What the heck? I have seen thousands of beautiful snowy landscapes out there, but I’m here to tell you, none of them are mine, so I decided to go with what I know and this is what I found:

Light is Light, no matter what you’re shooting

One of the toughest things about shooting winter scenes, especially when it’s snowing, is that everything is so grey. Since I was such an eager beaver this morning and set out at like zero o’clock, I caught the first light in the blue picture, above. To get this idea, get out your tripod and take a long exposure, this one was at 8seconds as 6:45 in the morning (sunrise was at 7:49 this morning).

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Your morning light color might be different depending on where you live…North Dakota is a fantastic deep purple, California is a tobacco orange, Fiji is shell pink, and Santa Fe is the strangest, purest white light I’ve ever encountered, so roll with that. The shot of the heavily flocked trees is a little bit interesting because of the pink morning light from a little surprise break in the clouds just as I was packing up, around 8:15. I thought that the bend of the trees was going to be so cool, but that part of the shot was a total fail…the trees don’t look weighted down with snow, they just look crooked…what was so cool to me was undetectable to my eye when I looked in my camera, so the pink tint of the snow was a fun surprise when I saw the image. Remember that your camera wants to meter off of 18% grey, so experiment with opening your camera up a stop to two stops to avoid grey snow.

Pop out the Color

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Big thanks to the fabulous Stephanie who stood for me and just let the snow pelt her while I was under shelter in my nice warm car. I love the way that her red coat and the red barn complement the snow. To get the look of the movement of the snow actually falling, have your model take a deep breath and not move, (you too), and shoot at 1/8th of a second.

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

The pink was still alive for this shot, and what I love about it is the pop of color amid the bleakness of the winter scene. To this Phoenix Girl, color in snow symbolizes hope for warmer weather and allows me to still see the beauty of the snow. I didn’t use a long exposure for this shot, so the snow looks more static, even though it was coming down in bucketloads.

Emotion is Always Good

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

We get Lake Effect snow, which means that the flakes can be enormous at times.I thought it would be really cool to get the chairs in my snowy back yard, all set up for a cookout, but by themselves they just looked all bleak and sad, so my husband came out and got goofy with the snow and it just transformed the shot into something happy and fun!

When all else fails, drop them in

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

Photo by Barbara Stitzer

There are a bunch of Evergreen trees down the street from my house, and I shot them thinking, Ok, this is true perfect winter, but when I got home and looked at it, it so totally wasn’t my thing. I mean, it’s pretty, but just kind of bleak and depressing. So I shot the lovely Emily, Zoe and Kelly inside on a green screen. I decided to let my imagination out and had them hold rose petals while my little Tenley, her friend, Andrew, and his mom, Julie, threw thousands and thousands of rose petals over them to create this scene. Then I dropped the background in and, voila! A fabulous snow shot that’s still my style, the way I like to create!

Send me shots of what you love, no matter if you failed on them or took the shot of your lifetime, and we’ll discuss them. Let’s get better together!

Barbara Stitzer

Barb Stitzer is an award winning Master Photographer living in Hudson, Ohio with her husband, her teen, Zoe and her tween, Tenley. She creates beauty and memories worldwide. Feel free to find her on Facebook or check out her website.
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