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8 Secrets to Shooting Stellar Portraits in the Snow

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When you shoot the wedding day for your couple, it is not always easy to know exactly what the weather will be like. Depending on where your target market is, you could shoot one wedding in the sun and the next in the rain or snow. Knowing how to shoot in any weather condition is key to growing as a photographer and booking clients who are perfect for you.

Shooting in the snow can be an opportunity for you to capture unique and gorgeous photos. But, what happens when a shoot in the snow does not turn out as planned? Learning the best ways to handle this type of shoot can help you document every important moment, regardless of the weather conditions. So you can get started shooting in the snow today, here are 8 secrets to shooting stellar portraits in the snow.

1. Arrive with a Plan

Even if you are a photographer who is a comfortable shooting in colder weather, arriving to the shoot with a cohesive plan can help make your time move quickly. The same can be said for your couple; they may be used to the winter weather and snow, but probably never had to stand still, smile, and pose for the camera during those type of conditions. If it is an engagement session, the bride and groom can be more bundled than usual, but their faces will still be exposed to the cold for a period of time. On the wedding day, the bride is wearing her dress which is light and not proper attire for the cold. She will probably not have too much to cover her since a jacket will take away from the details of her dress. Avoid any discomfort for you and your couple by planning out the engagement session or wedding shoot.

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Image Compliments of Jason and Gina Grubb

Not only can it make your couples comfortable, planning ahead can help you be more efficient. Although you may not be able to plan out every moment, there are a few things you can prepare. Start from planning out the exact gear you are going to bring. Only bring gear you really need and leave the rest home (you will be thankful you do not have to carry heavy items and spend more time in the cold). After deciding on necessary gear, plan out exactly where the shoot will take place. Scout the location before the shoot so you can see where the sun hits at its harshest and what areas are better for you to capture the best shots.

Every step you take before the shoot to prepare helps you quickly capture the images you need from your couple. If you are constantly moving around to find the right light, because you may not have scouted the location, you will increase the time you and the couple have to work in the snow. Even though moving around can keep you warm, it distracts you from your main goal (which is quickly capturing dynamic photos of the bride and groom).

2. Dress Warm

If you are an outdoor photographer in a colder climate, you probably already know to dress with more layers than you usually do during an indoor shoot. Layers are important for a few reasons. The first reason is because you want to avoid getting sick. As a busy wedding photographer, it would be harmful to your business if you were unable to shoot due to being sick. Also, you can add layers when you are outside shooting your couple and easily take them off when you are in an indoor location for the ceremony or the reception. When it gets really cold, you could lose the desire to stay outdoors and capture every important moment. This could hurt the images you produce because you may rush the shoot to get indoors. Properly dressing for the occasion can help you capture necessary images in colder conditions.

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Another key reason to dress warm while shooting in the snow is so you can capture different angles! As you pose your couple together, shooting straight on can become repetitive over time. Shooting from higher and lower angles assists you in capturing diverse images for your couple. When you bundle up, kneeling or lying on the ground to capture a different angle will not be so bad. Also, dressing warm is important, but avoid wearing constricting attire which takes away from your movement.

3. Adjust the Exposure

When shooting your couple in the snow, there are many opportunities for you to capture the snow in a flattering light. Depending on how bright the ambient light is, though, the snow can become overwhelming for your camera to shoot. Because the snow is so white, especially when the sun is shining down, your camera may combine all of the tones in the photo, creating an overall gray look to the entire image.

Related: Your body matters…your camera body, that is! Download The Wedding Photographer’s Guide to Camera Bodies to discover some of the best cameras on the market

Unless there is a specific reason why you want your images to look like this (perhaps you wanted a darker mood for the shoot), try increasing your exposure by one stop. When you adjust the exposure, and create a more natural-looking lighting, you can more easily take the shots necessary to capture your couple on their wedding day.

Tip: You can also white balance when shooting in the snow. Try setting the white balance with a flash instead of the automatic setting which is usually set. Use white balance to avoid an overall blue color in your image; white balance helps you bring out the whites in the photo, helping you create a more natural-looking photo.

4. Search for Color

As the first snow falls, it can be soft and beautiful. This is perfect for your couple’s wedding photos, especially if the ambient light hits it just right. On other occasions, the sky is cloudy and the snow has been there for a while, causing the snow to become a dull color. Because your images should stand out, it is crucial to take the opportunity to look for color you can add into the images.

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Image Compliments of Jason and Gina Grubb

When scouting the location for the shoot, look to see if there is one area which has a bit more color from the light in the sky. If it is completely cloudy, bring along your off-camera lighting to create natural-looking light. When placed correctly, off-camera lighting can highlight the snow, your couple, and create beautiful colors for the images.

Tip: Bring along along, which your couple can use during their shoot to provide extra color in the shoot. If the bride has something lighter, such as a pink scarf or a shawl, have her wear it over her shoulders or place it somewhere in the background to bounce your light off of.

5. Avoid Harsh Light

Depending on the time of day, harsh lighting can increase the challenges you face during the wedding shoot. When you incorporate snow into the shoot, harsh lighting can create harsh and unflattering shadows off of the white surface. If you are shooting your couple’s engagement photos, suggest a time in which the sun will be most helpful to your shoot. The best times for you to shoot would be during the early morning or later evening.

Sometimes you cannot control when the wedding shoot (or even engagement shoot) happens. If you have to combat harsh lighting conditions, use these harsh lighting techniques to still create dynamic photos. Simple movements and adjustments with your couple can drastically impact the photo, such as moving the bride and groom under a nearby tree (away from the direct light).

Related: We’ve pulled 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Lighting – use them to advance your lighting knowledge! 

6. Use a Natural Reflector

As you shoot through different lighting scenarios, you start to learn what is best suited for your couples during their shoot. Although sometimes using harsh light can work in some situations, other times the light can be too overwhelming for the setting. Because too much light can overexpose your couple and wash out their features, bouncing the light from a reflector can assist you in achieving the perfect look for your photos. Use a reflector to bounce the ambient light to control exactly how the light in your images will work.

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Image Compliments of Jason and Gina Grubb

With a white or gold reflector, create soft and even lighting which features the snow in a flattering way. Using the white reflector, at the proper distance, highlights your couple’s features, especially since the snow can be flattering in that sense. When you use the gold reflector, you are adding color to the photo (remember how snow can make the light pretty dull).

7. Work Quickly

After you have a plan in place for shooting your couple in the snow, from what gear to bring and what clothing to wear, start shooting right away. During the shoot, capturing the photos you need in a short amount of time can benefit you and your couple. When you know the portraits will take less time (because you are prepared), you can access the location earlier to take scene-setting shots. If you are in a location close to the ceremony or reception, you can feature the area in your images with the surrounding snow.

Related: In addition to shooting in the snow, learn how to properly shoot on the beach

Another benefit of working quickly with your couple is you can capture the shots you need without having to make too many adjustments. Once you take their photos, they can join their friends and family in a warm location to start celebrating. Since you have already taken their couple portraits, you can spend more time shooting the reception and other detail shots of the day.

Tip: With the extra time you have, capture some creative detail shots. Take accessories from the wedding, like the rings, bouquets, or the bride’s jewelry, and incorporate it into the scene.

8. Encourage Movement

Although you should work quickly to capture the best images in a short amount of time, make it fun for your couples. Acknowledge that you know how cold it is outside and encourage them to move around during the shoot. Encouraging natural movement between the bride and groom can help them relax and also keep them warm! Have your couple work with some action poses which require them to get out of their posed mindsets. Suggest they jump in the air or walk with each other to allow you to capture diverse poses and angles.

Candid photos are great to incorporate into the wedding shoot, especially because your couple is comfortable with you and the camera and are naturally interacting to create those expressions. A bonus for you is not only can you document the interaction, but you can also stay warm while following them around as they move.

Tip: Learn how to creatively capture candid photos with 4 simple tips. Your couple will appreciate your attention to detail and how you documented their emotions during the wedding day. After you take photos of the bride and groom enjoying themselves, save yourself time in your post-wedding workflow by sending your images to a wedding photography post processing company.

Understanding how to properly shoot in the snow assists you in becoming a well-rounded photographer. It may be difficult in the beginning as you are working with lighting and posing in the snow, but practice makes perfect. Practicing your shooting skills, especially in inclement weather, helps you capture dynamic photos for your couples. Learn more about using lighting and posing techniques during your shoots with our Pro Photographer and Lighting Guide!

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