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Taking better photos of our snowy landscape

So it's snowing in the D.C. area. Again. As I type this -- with power miraculously still on -- the wind has yet to escalate to white-out conditions, but the bits of pavement, shrubs and earth that had begun to creep out from under this weekend's accumulation have once again been entombed.

At some point, however, the snow will stop and it will be time to explore the ice planet we once knew as the Washington area. At that point, you'll probably want to take a few photos of the scenery -- but digital photography as usual won't yield the best results.


First, don't use your camera's default, automatic mode. It almost certainly has a "snow" scene mode that will adjust its exposure and white-balance settings to help snow look white instead of blue. To activate it, look for a "scene" option in your camera's onscreen menus or a "SCN" item on a dial next to the shutter button; you should then be able to select the snow mode.

Second, when you take the obligatory shot of the yardstick/ruler/tape measure in the snow, remember to use the camera's macro mode to ensure it focuses on your measuring implement instead of the background. Usually, this is represented by an icon of a flower on the camera's buttons or menus, but some new models switch to macro automatically when a close-up object is in view.

(Don't forget to switch out of macro mode right afterward so you're ready to get a quick shot of any unexpected visitors.)

Third, if you want to venture out sooner to photograph the snow falling, use a slower shutter speed, if your camera allows manual control of it, or try using the flash to highlight the flakes. This works better closer to dusk, of course.

Fourth, realize that your camera's battery will expire sooner in the cold. Try keeping it stashed inside your jacket between shots.

For more advice on showbound photography, including suggestions about how to compose a shot, see the hints offered by Digicamhelp and Ritz Camera.

Have any other tips about settings and composition for snowbound photography? Please share them in the comments...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 10, 2010; 11:56 AM ET
Categories:  Pictures , Tips  
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Hmmm. I hadn't noticed any issues with my 5 year old Canon Digital Rebel. I don't think it has a 'snow mode', but it /is/ an SLR..

Last December:

Last two storms:

OT, and x-posted, have you heard of ch4 lowering their transmitter power? The past week the signal's been a lot weaker. Tried rescanning, and no luck. 9 and 22 come in fine, though I have to rotate the rabbit ears 90 degrees to get 9.

Posted by: wiredog | February 10, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Here's my friend's take on snow photography.

Personally, I stink at photography, but my "snow scene" mode works fine for me.

Posted by: slar | February 10, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

As far as preventing condensation when I bring a cold camera inside, I always take a "baggie" out with me and seal the camera inside it (sucking out as much air as possible as I seal it) and let it warm up inside the baggie.
Yes, battery life is a problem in the cold....

Posted by: DrBones721 | February 10, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

I missed a good post about this that We Love DC did a couple of years... I mean, days ago:

That, in turn, linked to two other, more technically-inclined snow-photography posts:

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | February 11, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

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