Shooting Portraits & Glamour in the Snow

In the past, an in-camera meter would freak out 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 it snow conditions, especially if your portrait subject mostly fills the frame. But what if they don’t?

glamour photography in the snowToday’s cameras are so good they can handle tricky exposure, such as shooting portraits or glamour in the snow, but Farace’s Law for these kind of conditions is make a test shot, look at the histogram, and adjust that exposure compensation control mostly 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 to make the image pop.

This model was photographed in a friend’s front yard after a snowstorm. It was made using a Canon EOS 1D Mark II N and an EF 85mm f/1.8 lens. An exposure compensation of plus one third was applied. ©2011 Joe Farace

A bigger problem than exposure when shooting glamour in the snow is color balance. Shadows in the snow are going to come out blue, blue, blue. If you’re a RAW shooter you’re going to be tweaking the image anyway in your favorite RAW processing software. If you’re a JPEG shooter as are many, including me, you can try shooting in your camera’s Shade white balance preset. Every camera handles shade in different ways and some add just that 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. Download a demo and give it a try. But why not make it all blue?

Caption: After a few minor tweaks I applied one of Craig’s Actions to the image because it seemed like a natural fit for a cool image. Craig’s Actions are easy to use: Just click the button in the action palette and the software does the rest. Since the action creates multiple layers, you can make adjustments to each one to fine-tune the effect.

Author: Joe Farace

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