In the past, in-camera meters would dramatically underexpose from all the reflected light and the old rule-of-thumb for shooting snow with film SLRs was to overexpose by two-stops. But no more. Today’s sophisticated cameras can easily handle snow conditions, especially if your portrait subject mostly fills the frame.
Today’s cameras are so good they can handle tricky exposure, such as shooting portraits or glamour in the snow but my shooting tip for these kind of conditions is make a test shot, look at the histogram, and adjust that exposure compensation based on what you see. And if you’re not quite comfortable with that procedure, do what photographers have done from the first time Mathew Brady loaded his Kodak: Bracket like crazy. That’s what the AEB control on your camera is for. Here’s another tip: Shooting in the snow can be really contrasty, so use a speedlight to balance exposure and reduce contrast and make the image pop.
The photo at left was made with a Canon EOS 1D Mark II N with EF 85mm f/1.8 lens and an exposure of 1/250 sec at f/10 at ISO 400. An EX 55o speedlite was used for fill.
A bigger problem than exposure when shooting glamour in the snow is color balance. Shadows in the snow are going to come out blue. If you’re a RAW shooter you’re going to be tweaking the image anyway in your favorite images processing software. If you’re a JPEG shooter as are many, including me, you can try shooting using your camera’s Shade white balance. Every camera handles shade in different ways and some add a bit of warmth that fixes the “blues” and some make it too warm. My secret weapon is PictoColor’s iCorrect Portrait. It will correct the blues” and also let you tweak skin tone too.