1. Dress appropriately
Check the weather for the altitude you’ll be shooting at. The temperature and weather conditions will be completely different at ground level as they are up the hill. Never wear cotton. Cotton will soak up any sweat you may produce and the cold temperatures will freeze it. So you’ll end up wearing freezing cold clothing.
Invest in some great gloves. You won’t be able to wear glove all the time. You may need to get your hand out to change your camera settings or access gear in your camera bag. I had a pair of gloves that came with little glove liners, so when I pulled them out of the big warm shells I was still somewhat protected. The shells were big enough to slim my hand back in without much effort and I could still press the shutter to take a picture.
Wear good boots and layer you clothing. You need the insulation between the snow and your feet. If you get cold feet early on in the day, the rest of your day will be miserable. With layered clothing (wool or any wicking fabric) moisture is moves from the surface of the skin to the outer layer of clothing through a capillary action and If you get hot, it’s easy enough to cool down by taking some layers off.
Take Sunglasses: If the sun is out, sunglasses are a must. I’ve been up the mountain and caught out without them before and it’s been impossible to even open my eyes it was so bright. I had to wear my ski goggles just to cope.
2. Protect you gear
If you’re shooting while it’s snowing, most of the time, you’ll be able to just blow any accumulated snowflakes off but if you’re out shooting in the wet, sludgy snow and rain, investing in a Rain and Weather Camera Cover is a great idea. On a number of occasions I’ve made my own from a plastic bag. You don’t look as cool but you’re equipment stays safe all the same. The important thing is that you don’t put your camera in your jacket to protect it from the cold or weather. It sounds strange as this feels like the natural thing to do for the longevity of your equipment but when you take it out of your jacket, you risk fogging and condensation forming. Just like when a person with glasses walks into a warm house after being out in the cold and their glasses fog up. This will happen to your camera.
3. Keep your Gear Handy
Have a sensible camera bag with good access to your gear. Know where everything is in your bag. The last thing you want to do is fumble around with your gloves off for too long. A good idea is to attach little ties of rope around your zip ends so you can unzip and zip up with gloves on.
4. Keep you Batteries Warm
The cold weather will drain the life out of your batteries very quickly. The simple solution is to keep spare batteries in a pocket close to your body and let your body heat keep them warm. Make sure you take, extra batteries than normal, you don’t want to be caught out because they have a shorter life in cold weather.
5. Shoot in Manual Mode
Exposures can be thrown out by a lot of white (snow) in the frame and when shooting in automatic modes your camera will want to compensate, and you’ll produce a dark image. To get correct exposure, a good idea is to pay attention to your histogram. Do a test shot and take a look at your histogram. It will provide a more accurate reading than just looking at the LCD. Make any adjustments needed then start shooting for real. Don’t delete any of your photo’s until you’re back home editing on a big screen. You’re not in the best conditions to assess your work via the LCD.
6. Shoot in RAW
By shooting in RAW you give yourself that extra bit of room to move if your exposures are slightly off. It’s always better to correctly expose in the first place but we all know when shooting outdoors the environment can change very quickly and one shot taken 3 seconds before may need a different exposure to the next shot. Keep an eye on your histogram to make sure you’re on track but know that RAW is a safety net, where in post-production that great shot can be saved.
Don’t forget RAW files are much larger than JPEG so take extra cards with you.
7. Use a Lens Hood
Shooting in snowy conditions, especially on a bright day, can produce very reflective light. This revelation can make photos look hazy. Using a lens hood will help with any lens flare problems.
8. Experiment with different Shutter Speeds
You can make falling snow look completely different depending on what shutter speed you choose. A slow shutter speed will give you a streaky looking snow fall with a sense of movement and drama. While a fast shutter speed with stop the flakes as they fall, often creating a beautiful sprinkled look. Also, a fast shutter speed is always a good idea when snow is falling in all directions
9. Avoid using flash
Try to avoid using flash, it can throw out your exposures. It bounces off the snow and courses overexposure. When shooting people, you will want to use fill flash to fill in any shadows on their faces but turn your flash off when it’s snowing, even just a little bit of snow can ruin your shot. The snowflakes falling close to the camera will pick up the flash and reflect the light back looking like I large white, distracting, blobs in your shot.
10. Allow your camera to warm up slowly
When you’ve finished your shoot and before you leave the cold outdoors, it’s a good idea to put your CF/SD cards in your pocket. When you bring your camera indoors, that last thing you want to do is open your camera bag straight away. You need to leave your camera in the bag and let the whole lot come to room temperature at the same time. This prevents fogging and condensation. Having your cards on you means you can start downloading without having to wait for this to happen.
Have fun shooting in the snow!