So the snow has fallen and you’ve packed up your photography equipment for winter because it’s just way too cold to go outdoors for photos anymore. Right? WRONG!! Every season has its advantages and disadvantages, and winter is no different. On one hand it’s cold and you have fewer daylight hours, but, on the other hand the daylight hours you do have provide unique lighting that can’t be replicated any other time of the year. Winter is bright, and that makes it such an amazing season for pet photography. Those brave enough to weather the elements will be rewarded with some truly special shots.
How to Use the Snow to Your Advantage
A thick blanket of snow is the most useful tool a photographer can ask for and guess what, it’s completely free. Instead of buying expensive reflectors and flashes you can use natures blanket to brighten up your photos and improve the overall balance of your images.
Harsh, contrasty lighting (which is normally experienced in the middle of the afternoon) is a huge problem for many pet photographers who like to shoot outdoors. It creates dark shadows and bright highlights which throw your exposure off balance, leaving you with a less than desirable image.
But in winter, when there is snow on the ground, you are able to use that natural light more effectively; capturing exceptional clarity and a wide range of colour tones in your images.
Snow’s reflective properties are what make it so useful to photographers, white is a highly reflective shade that allows light to bounce off its surface and spread evenly upwards towards your pet. This creates an illuminating effect that brightens their face and body; filling in shadows and allowing you to create a clean, even, exposure with a rich range of colours and detail. This makes it way easier for you to get a balanced photo in camera without needing to reduce the contrast or lift the shadows during editing, which is ideal.
So when you go out to take photos of your pet in winter you don’t need to avoid the harsh midday sun, something that is often necessary in other seasons. With snow on the ground you are free to use the full range of daylight hours.
The reflective effects of snow are even effective in the darker hours of dusk and dawn which is a major bonus considering the limited amount of light available during these times. At any time of day taking a photo in the snow effectively doubles the amount of light available to you, but this is especially useful during low light hours. This means that in winter dusk and dawn are actually brighter than at other times of the year because you not only have the light from the sun above your subject but you also have the line refracting off the snow below, offering a soft light glow to brighten your subject.
How Snow Makes Your Colours Really POP!
A bright white snowy backdrop is perfect for isolating your pet, studio style, and accentuating your pets natural colouration. This is because the plain white snow accentuates the colour of your pet’s furry coat making them appear more lively and vibrant than they would in a traditional outdoor background which is generally cluttered or multi-coloured. Busy backgrounds can distract your viewers from the colours of your pet, especially if the colour of their fur is subtle or muted. This is why having a blank background (provided by snow) can be so important, with a clean background there is nothing to diminish the colours of your pet making subtle colours seem bold.
Next time you’re out photographing your pet in the snow try to get as much snow in the background as possible. The white background will highlight your pets features and give you a look that is usually only possible in an indoor studio space.
Balance Lighting and Colours
The even illumination mentioned earlier also improves colour retention in your images. Balanced lighting allows your colours to be rendered more accurately in camera by providing the bright reflective light necessary to make colours visible in their purest tones. Deep or dark colours, like brown or black, require extra lighting in order for them to be read accurately by your camera.
Usually this extra lighting can be provided by flashes and large artificial reflectors but the natural reflection of the sunlight on the snow provides a level of illumination that is difficult to duplicate even with a powerful external flash. This natural high quality illumination allows your colours to be rendered as accurately as possible which provides you with a nearly flawless image right out of camera while also providing you with a lot of wiggle room in post, should you decide to boost the colours even further. This is a huge bonus considering how long it can take to correct uneven colouration when editing, especially when you want to balance dark colours with light colours.
The snowy white outdoors are the perfect setting for any photo shoot. Not only will the snow add a festive vibe to your photos but the reflective properties create the ambient environment necessary to illuminate your pet and showcase the vibrant colouration of their coat, which will make your photos standout.