How to Photograph and Edit Portraits in the Snow

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How to Photograph and Edit Portraits in the Snow

It can pose certain challenges to photography people in the snow. But don’t let it be a problem for your photography! Snow can make a wonderful setting for portraits if you use it to your advantage.

One of the largest problems found by those trying to photograph people on snow getting the correct exposure. As you can guess, snow is a natural reflector and can cause your image to be over-exposed or under exposed if you are not careful with how you are setting up your shot.

Here are a few quick tips to help you take better photos in the snow!


The histogram is a wonderful tool for helping determine exposure in tricky situations: MCP Tutorial explaining the histogram. Here’s a brief histogram overview:

In the photo below, you can see that the snow has retained a lot of detail but the rest of the image is underexposed. The camera tries to get the white a middle gray and leaves the rest of the photo too dark to use. As you can see in the Histogram, the peak is highest on the left side. This shows that the photo is too dark.

Underexposed histogram



In this next photo, the photo is over-exposed.  You can see the shadows are exposed correctly but everything else is completely blown out. This often happens if you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode with spot metering and you are metering in the wrong place.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.31.03 PM



This next image shows a proper exposure on both the subject and the snow – with a near perfect arc in the histogram.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.31.44 PM






Skiing group small-1

Snow has a very useful power, and that’s being a very large natural reflector even in overcast situations. If possible, make use of it for multiplying the amount of light you have to work with. In this example, you can see how the snow helps fill in shadows and light your subject better.



Shooting in RAW is important on many levels, the largest being that it give you the most even ground to work with when editing. RAW images capture more dynamic range and are not constricted by the picture style used on jpg files. Dynamic range is very important when shooting in snow because how the large range of bright(snow) and dark (trees) fill the frame.



First of all, unless setting a custom white balance, I would suggest using the slider manually to handle white balance instead of the dropper. When using the dropper, I have found that using the snow as a white sample warms the photo more than a photo in snow should be. Not everything that comes out of the camera is perfect and requires some work to make it look it’s best. My largest suggestion is to start with lifting the shadows and lowering the highlights. This helps even out the range. Adding contrast and vibrance will also help liven up a scene by separating your subject from deep skies and busy backgrounds that can normally accompany snowy backdrops. Or you can use a more matte look for a soft winter feel.  The choices are endless.


Jarrett Hucks is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. His revealing journalistic story-telling has helped him find his voice in a saturated market. He is very active on his Blog and his Facebook Page sharing his commissioned work, personal work and street photography!

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1 Comment

  1. February 7, 2014 at 11:29 am —

    I prefer the clean look…I like how the colors pop more..though they’re both cool in their own way!

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How to Photograph and Edit Portraits in the Snow