Tips for taking pictures of your children in the snow

January 8, 2021

2020 is behind us, but unfortunately the pandemic is still lurking and preventing us from getting our lives back. Even so, if there’s something that the coronavirus hasn’t taken away from us, it’s Nature and being able to enjoy it as much as we want.

In winter, we usually don’t like going out much because of the cold and the bad weather. With this post I want to encourage you to do just that and, if you can, to take pictures of your children in the snow.

Below, you’ll find some photographic tips for unforgettable memories. The ideal option would be to use a camera, but many recommendations below will also be useful if you take pictures with your cell phone.

Keep warm

It seems obvious, but you can’t imagine how many failed winter excursions we’ve had because we weren’t properly equipped. When the children are cold, they get grumpy and there’s no other choice but to go home. This year we chose quality snow clothing and footwear from the Swiss brands Namuk, via Stadtlandkind, and Benjie of Switzerland and, as you’ll see in the photos, we made it till sunset in the snow without the children complaining.

Combining colors and patterns

This is very personal and you may not agree, but after years of experience as a mother photographer, I’ve had to surrender to the evidence that what you wear counts and pictures are much better if we choose our clothes carefully. It’s depressing how many failed photos I have because colors didn’t match at all.

I’m not going to advise you on colors, because it’s very personal, but when you buy snow clothes, think about harmonious colors, the color of your daughter’s anorak matching the color of your son’s one, gloves and hats coordinated with the rest, etc.

Choose the place well: nice and little crowded

Avoid the ski or sledging slopes because there’ll be too many people. Mountains are vast and often you just need to avoid the places where most people congregate to find yourself almost alone in the snow. This way you’ll avoid having undesired subjects in front of the camera (i.e. other ones than your children). It will also make you all feel much more relaxed.

You can’t always choose the landscape, but if possible, opt for a place that isn’t just a huge extension of snow; photos will spark interest if they depict trees, small houses, nice views of other mountains, etc.

Choose your lens well and be careful with your photographic gear

The point of taking pictures in a natural setting is to capture the landscape and, for that, it’s better to have a wide-angle or multi-purpose lens. My favorite in these cases is the 24-70mm because it allows you to capture both large shots and close-up portraits. The 35mm or 20mm are also good options, although some photos in this series are made with an 85mm. The disadvantage of this lens is that you have to be far away from your model, but it makes for very nice portraits.

Whether you have photographic equipment or a cell phone, be careful not to drop it in the snow because neither the cell phone nor the camera like humidity.

Camera parameters

The difficult thing about taking pictures in the snow is its white color. If you don’t control the parameters properly, there’s a risk of overexposing the photos and making the snow look “burned”. Similarly, if the photo is too underexposed, the snow will look dirty.

My advice is to first use the manual mode of the camera. In automatic mode, the camera will measure the light itself and choose an average value that will make the snow look grey. In manual mode, ideally measure the light on the children’s faces. You can make a test to see if the snow is overexposed or underexposed and modify the parameters from there. The cell phone doesn’t allow you to control the exposure so precisely, but you can increase or decrease the light until you get what you want. In terms of exposure, it’s the same as with colors, it’s also a question of taste.

Once you made sure the snow is well exposed, you have to play with aperture and speed, depending on what you’re looking for. If the kids are running or sledging, make sure you have a high-speed setting so the image isn’t blurry. If you want to make a portrait, you can set the aperture as low as possible so that the background is blurred. If you are photographing more than one child, be careful not to lower the aperture too much because they won’t all be in focus. If you want to take a picture of the landscape, ideally use a high aperture value so that the whole landscape is in focus. Raise the ISO value if you loose light when increasing the aperture.

The other important camera setting for taking pictures in the snow is white balance. In principle, the snow has to be white, but if you have ever painted your house, you will know that there are many possible whites. Some cameras control the white balance very well automatically and the snow appears directly white. If this isn’t the case, you can manually change the Kelvin degrees of the camera until the snow appears white to you. The other option is to modify this by editing the photos in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Ideas for photos in the snow

  • Sledging: one child pulling the sledge and another sitting on it or with the sledge empty; both children going down in the sledge, etc.
  • Making a snowman.
  • Stepping on virgin snow or rolling in it.
  • Snowball fights.
  • Running through the snow.
  • Throwing snow into the air.
  • Lying in the snow.
  • Eating snow.
  • Making snow fall from the trees.
  • Details of the children’s faces: nose and cheeks rosy from the cold, laughter, eyes that reflect the glare of the snow, etc.
  • Landscape details: tree branches full of snow, small houses lost in the middle of the landscape, the evening sky, the silhouette of the mountains, etc.
  • Skiing.

I’ll leave you with some pictures I took at Christmas at different times of the day (at sunset, under a cloudy sky, at dusk, etc.) and really hope you get the chance to get out and enjoy the wonders that winter offers us.

Place: Solalex and Gryon, Vaud Alps (Switzerland)
Snow gear: Namuk via Stadtlandkind
Snow shoes: Benjie of Switzerland