It’s that horrible moment when you go to download the pictures from your recent ski holiday. What you imagined was a camera full of beautiful snowy pictures is instead a mass of over exposed, out of focus and disappointing images. You could spend a bit of time touching up to improve them, or you could try and get them right first time.
As a professional photographer living in the mountains for the last 7 years, I’ve learnt quite a few tricks to make the most of the scenery that we all try so hard to capture on our cameras. Some of my tips are easy and involve just a straightforward change to your camera settings. Others are a little bit more complex, but without a doubt well worth it!
The most important thing in my opinion is not to let mistakes get you down. Learn from them and with each photo you take, have a think about how you can make it better next time. I wouldn’t be where I am today without making plenty of errors, so here are a few pointers to help you out.
Snow might be bright and white to the human eye but your camera sees things rather differently. Most standard digital cameras have a ‘snow’ mode, which will automatically adjust the exposure so your photos wont be too white or dark. If there isn’t a ‘snow’ mode on your camera, try ‘beach’ or ‘sun’ instead. These are settings for bright weather and so should work just fine.
The better the camera, the more adjustments you can make to improve your snowy pictures. Keep your white balance on automatic, but try adjusting the exposure to +1 or -1 to brighten up your photos or darken them before you take the photo. If you want to experiment, take your camera off automatic and try adjusting the shutter speed and aperture. Increasing the aperture by a few stops, from f5.6 to f10 for example, means the photo will be of a better quality. This will also decrease the shutter speed so make sure there is plenty of light around. Using a flash can also be helpful too. If this all sounds like gobbledygook, then practice and experiment!
Removing the Blues
So things are looking brighter but now you’re wondering why your pictures are looking a bit blue. That’s easily fixed too.
Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to take pictures in the snow, but at any time of day the snow and ice that surround you reflect sunlight, making details appear washed out with no contrast. The best way to tackle this extra brightness is with brightness. Turning on your flash will balance out the light and add depth to the darker features such as shadows in your shot.
A regular sized digital camera in a case should be absolutely fine in your coat pocket or rucksack while you’re out skiing – provided you don’t have too many falls! However, bigger, more specialized camera equipment needs more attention and preparation in the wintery mountains.
Well-insulated camera bags are widely available but if you’re taking your camera skiing with you, a waterproof bag is key!
The cold will reduce the output of your batteries and you’ll need to replace them more frequently. Carry a spare set with you and keep them close to your body to keep them warm. Not only will they last a lot longer, but also putting cold batteries straight into your camera is not ideal!
Only take camera equipment that you can comfortably carry, and this depends on you level of skiing or snowboarding. I wouldn’t recommend carrying a huge SLR if you have only skied for a couple of weeks.
Only take your camera out of its bag to take photos. Don’t carry it around your back or neck if you’re not taking photos. It’s likely to swing around to your front and if you take a fall it wont do you or you camera any good. I’ve seen this happen so many times, and it’s not pleasant!
Wear a thin pair of gloves inside your regular ski gloves and keep them on when taking photos. You’ll have a better grip on the camera and be better able to make adjustments for that perfect shot if your hands aren’t turning blue and shaking!
When you return from a day on the mountain, you’ll be tempted to grab your camera from it’s bag and admire your beautiful pictures. Condensation will occur on the lens, which could cause damage to the camera. There isn’t much you can do to avoid this, other than leave it in the bag for a couple of hours to get back to room temperature.
One of the most important things in photography is having confidence in your camera and other equipment, and the knowledge to use them properly. You’ll only get this by experimenting and having a go and if the end result is rubbish, delete it and try again. Practice really does make perfect.
If you’d prefer to leave the photography to the professionals during your holiday, Robbie is available for group and family photo sessions. For a few hours he’ll follow you around the mountain and capture your holiday. For more info Call +33 (0) 6 36 61 30 51 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also order Robbie’s stunning images of the Portes du Soleil as prints on the Apres Imaging website.