Photography 101: It’s That Time of Year Again

Stephen F. Dennstedt

I’ve trekked Romania for two months now and winter has finally arrived. And with it the season’s first snowfall—snow is beautiful but potentially challenging for a new photographer. I’m including a short video with a few helpful tips—Gavin Hoey isn’t the most inspirational of speakers but he appears to know his stuff.

My personal suggestion is to always shoot CameraRAW files for maximum post-processing flexibility. If you’re still shooting JPEG files this might be a good time to up your game. Remember your camera exposes for neutral grey so it’s advisable to increase your exposure compensation by +1 to +1½ stops.

For beginners this is counterintuitive—with all the bright white snow in the scene it’s tempting for the newer photographer to underexpose their shots by -1 to -1½ stops. This is incorrect. Don’t do it. If you want to know more about why search Google for more technical information. Shooting RAW files makes adjustments in post easier but it’s still a good idea to get most of it right in-camera first. Battery life is also important—cold weather sucks the very life out of camera batteries.

Historic City Centre – Brasov, Romania (1/40s handheld @ f/8 ISO 640 @ 16mm with +1 Exposure Comp)

If the snow is falling I will often slow my shutter speed to 1/30s (depending on FL and IS) to catch some motion blur in the flakes. A faster shutter speed often results in dots (flakes frozen in midair) and longer shutter speeds result in long white lines or streaks like star trails—but these are creative choices best left to each photographer. The same is true of WB (White Balance)—there is a temptation to offset the coolness (blue tint) with too much warmth (yellow tint). I like the scene to look as natural as possible (what I saw with my eyes). Again, shooting CameraRAW files allows the photographer to fine-adjust in post-processing.

Field Notes: I shot these images with my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV full-frame DSLR and Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens. I set my camera’s exposure compensation at +1 stop to offset its internal algorithm to shoot white as neutral grey. In post I also made sure that I had both true whites and true blacks using Levels in PSE15 (Photoshop Elements 15). In this case I used a custom WB (colour temperature) of 7000K (K=Kelvin). If you’re new to photography checkout what White Balance is—it’s an important part of your final image. Now if it’s snowing in your area bundle up and go out and shoot. SFD

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