How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush


As the first snowflakes touched down here in Ontario, Canada I snuck outside to snap a few quick shots on my back deck. The snowflakes were big and fluffy and moving very slow, and didn’t last more than a minute or so once they landed. I have been playing around with macro free lensing and just recently received my macro reverse ring adapter. The adapter makes the process much easier (without the adapter you have to hold your lens up to the body, which can become tricky at times). Using my Canon Rebel T2i, the adapter and my Canon 50mm 1.8 lens I assembled them like so:

carly bee photography reverse macro instructions

While in manual mode, I set my shutter speed to 400 and kept my ISO on auto (for this shot it was at 100). Once I found the snowflake that I liked, I simply moved in until it appeared sharp through my viewfinder and snapped away. The technique itself is very simple and with such a shallow depth of field it’s actually very easy to see what is in focus, it’s just a matter of holding still enough (if hand holding your camera) and using the right settings to get it right SOOC. This was my raw SOOC shot (not perfect, but it was good enough):



And here is the after image:carly-bee-sparkly-snow

To edit I opened the RAW image in ACR and applied basic adjustments:

  • Straightened and cropped, adjusted exposure value to +0.40, adjusted contrast value to +75, adjusted highlights value to -100, and adjusted blacks value to -36

I then opened in Photoshop CS CC and applied the following edits:

  1. I de-noised.
  2. Adjusted levels and curves for a rich matte finish (on blurred background only). You can use one of the many matte actions from the MCP Inspire Actions Set for Photoshop and Elements to get this look quickly.
  3. Using the white eyedropper in levels, sampled the snowflake and then reduced the layer opacity until the color looked correct (to 32%).
  4. Applied a grey gradient fill layer → created new fill layer → gradient → style: reflective → angle: 90° → scale: 40% → checked off “reverse” → then dragged the gradient until it was placed over the in focus strip of wood and snowflake correctly (sort of like a faux tilt shift effect) → masked any of the gradient off the snow flake and adjusted the layer opacity to taste (to 33%). MCP Inspire also has two powerful actions to accomplish this: the Shallow Depth of Field action and Custom Depth of Field action
  5. Ran the FREE MCP Touch of Light and using a large (2500 px) brush clicked on the snowflake area a couple times then decreased the layer opacity (to 25%) until it looked right

The last step was adding the faux sparkle that I created by hand. Want to use this on your images? Use the “share box” here. If you do not see it, please try another browser:

[socialshare-download href=””]THE FREE SPARKLE BRUSH FOR PHOTOSHOP[/socialshare-download]

Carly Benjamin is a natural light photographer based out of the Toronto area. You can see more of her work on her website Carly Bee Photography and follow her on her Facebook page.

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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How to Photograph and Edit a Snowflake + A Free Sparkle Brush