Seeing a child’s joy and curiosity over the soft powdery white flakes and the crunch underfoot brings back our own childhood memories of catching snowflakes on the tongue, snowball fights and building snowmen! (Or in my case, it was a beautifully engineered igloo that my dad had us work on together!)
Memphis doesn’t get a lot of snow, however and even when it does snow it’s really more of a dusting! So you can imagine that even the mention of snow gets children buzzing! Snow day!
My eldest likes to snuggle up and keep warm on such days but Joshua had dressed, eaten breakfast and attempted to put on his snow boots even before I was out of bed!
Snow can make a fantastic white canvas for portraits! With the light naturally reflecting off of the snow, it acts like a reflector and you can create some incredible high key portraits with brilliant white backgrounds and vibrant colored outer garments being the main focus as seen above. As well as a plain white blank canvas, I love images with interesting trails lined with trees in background. I spent so many years working in a studio setting with a solid backdrop that I now appreciate the more natural look, such as the soft pastel hues of the bare trees that still appear to make the subject (the child) stand out from the rest of the backdrop.
Before you read on, I admit that with barely any snow to practice in that I am not experienced in shooting professionally in snow! There are additional issues such as white balance and exposure to consider (which I did not consider at the time!) I will have to put this session down to a bit of trial and error and perhaps not enough snow?! So I offer only a couple of personal pointers rather than technical how-tos. And as always, I hope to encourage you to become familiar with your camera and settings so you can enjoy capturing magic moments in the snow without thinking too hard :-)
As much as you should avoid direct sunshine when shooting without snow, be aware that the brightness by the reflecting snow will be even more intensified, very bright on the eyes. You most definitely want to avoid squinty eyes! In this case, opt for some open shade to take the edge off the brightness. Overcast days will help diffuse the light perfectly without the harshness, illuminating the face evenly. I was lucky enough to have overcast conditions, but even so, Joshua was still struggling with no shade. The trail then provided optimal shade from the trees.
BACKGROUND & POSITIONING
Though it was tedious, I learned a lot from my first ever studio job. My mentor would drill into me the importance of having eagle eyes! So you can thank her for this tip! Once you’re happy with the direction you’ll be shooting from (find the even light on your child’s face) then look at your background, is there anything too distracting? Does it appear they have a tree trunk sticking out of their head?! (So easy to do!) Is there enough space behind your child for the background to be slightly blurry? All these things will make for a cleaner shot where your eye is directed to your subject. You can definitely edit out a few things in post processing but if you can eliminate anything from the beginning it will save you time in the long run and it’s always good to learn better habits!
STORY IN THE SNOW!
Once you have your basics down then the fun can begin! Tell the emotive story of your child’s delighted reaction to the cold on their tongue, the joy of throwing it as high as they can, lugging the old tree out to the street! Kids rarely need direction to throw the snow at you :-) I especially love action shots as this is exactly what my child does! I enjoy playing around with the aperture and the focal point for more creative shots, focusing on crisp snow flakes with the child out of focus. Try positioning yourself at different heights to add to the element of action and keep the perspective interesting. Lastly, keep the shutter speed high enough to be able to capture the falling snow in mid air. Then shoot away!