How To Get Great Snow Portraits

We live in the South, and we like it here. We don’t get much snow, and we like that too. I’m not a big fan of snow. It’s cold. It’s wet. But I do have to admit that it sure is pretty! Last week, the kids were out of school for one day during the blizzard snow. I wasn’t feeling well, I was swamped with work, but I went outside for photos anyway. And I’m so glad I did! Today, I’m sharing a few tips about how to get great snow portraits that I learned along the way.


1. Suck it Up and Be Willing To Freeze Your Butt Off.

No, really. This is super important. As I mentioned, I don’t like snow. And I almost didn’t even go outside. But then I forced myself to realize that this is a once-a-year moment at best, and if I didn’t get it now, I’d miss out on some awesome photos of my kids. So I put on my coat and several layers of clothes and take the kids out for a little field trip. Which brings me to my second tip.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Locations

We started taking pictures in our back yard. It was close and easy, and Alex was already out there throwing snow balls. But as I got them to stop and pose for a few photos, I just wasn’t getting what I really wanted.

So I asked them all to give me 15 minutes and go down to the park, where there was a lake, and lots of snow-covered trees. I wanted photos where snow filled the frame, and I needed trees for that. Not empty sky, and the roof of my neighbor’s house. Not a car-filled street, or the lines of a wood fence.

I didn’t want to drive somewhere and spend more time outside, but we did it anyway. It was the best decision I’ve made this year yet!

So, go somewhere with lots of nature.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits

3. Get Down on Their Level

If you’re shooting kids, chances are they are shorter than you. Don’t shoot down on them. Squat or kneel so that your camera is level with their face. This way, they look like they are part of the photo, instead of looking up into it. This is also a great way to hide background distractions behind your subject.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits

4. Let Them Play!

The best part about a snow day is playing in it! I’m lucky that my kids love taking photos and are always willing to pose. But if they don’t want to, don’t make them! Kids want to throw snow balls, and hit sticks against trees to watch the snow fall. This is the best way to get action shots and some crazy reaction faces. Let them do what they do, and just always be ready with the camera!

How to Get Great Snow Portraits

5. Remember to Always Over-Expose

Snow is white. And your camera only sees in grey. So if left to its own devices, your camera will try to darken the photo to make white snow look grey. To compensate, remember to always over-expose for all the white. Shoot in manual, or bump up your exposure compensation. If you don’t know how to do that, read through your manual. Most cameras these days have a way to override auto exposure. Even iPhones let you hold and drag upward for more brightness.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits

5. Snow is a Great Reflector!

The great thing about snow is that it’s white. Light automatically bounces off of it. To see what I mean, try going outside on a sunny, snowy day without glasses. You will be squinting! It may be bad for your eyes, but it’s awesome for photos. Any subject standing in snow will automatically have light bounced up into their face. We almost always use a reflector for portrait shots (even of my children!), but we didn’t have to this day. Great light was everywhere!

If your subject is looking a little dark, move them into a snowier spot. Just be careful of squinting! Have them look away from the sun, or down at the ground so that they don’t appear to be squinting.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits

6. Blowing Snow is Fun.

Just saying. And it makes for awesome photos.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits

7. Keep Them Moving

Snow is cold. Moving around makes you warmer. Stop them for a couple poses, then get some action shots. Subjects always look more natural when given something to do, even if it’s just walking.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits

8. If It’s Snowing, Use a Longer Lens

We took these photos after it had stopped snowing for the day. But if you’re venturing out while snow is still falling, use a longer lens (or the longer setting on your zoom) to catch the falling snow. With smaller lenses, the snow is harder to see and may not show up. But a longer lens will compress the image and the snowflakes will pop out more easily.

How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits How to Get Great Snow Portraits

These are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken of Jessie and Alex! I’m so glad that they agreed to go to the park with me. Even more so, I’m so glad I kept my eye on the prize and forced myself outside with them. I will never regret this moment in time with them!

I hope this post was at least entertaining, if not helpful. If you did find it helpful, please share it!


  • Janice
    Posted at 09:39h, 13 February

    Great tips! And timely too for me as we’re expecting 20-30 centimetres of snow today!

  • Paula
    Posted at 07:48h, 16 July

    Great pics and tips! Your kids are so willing! Tried to use my new DSLR this winter on my kids and they were not having it. Oh well snow only comes once a year here so I understand their excitement. I will save these tips for next year and try again. Thanks for the info!