Winter is here for the northern hemisphere! That means half the photography world is starting to spend more time editing their photos. That’s because snow makes the editing process much harder! It’s reflective; it makes white balance way more of a priority; it even changes your composition.
That’s why we asked 6 of our favorite snowy photographers to tell us how they achieve their unique looks.
Tanner is always on the go shooting cool places and he is one of the best at shooting big landscapes. His photos are often filled with snowy epicness, and he has a killer eye for scale.
#1: To embrace cold winter tones, use the temperature slider to dial in the perfect amount of white and blue. Avoid orange and warm tones in the whites. If using the Lightroom app, use the selective or gradient tool.
Use brighter Muted colors for the sky to Achieve a clean minimal look and enhance the cold feeling. If you have beautiful colors, enhance them, but don’t over do it. Balance is the key word here.
#2: Embrace whites, but don’t overexpose images too much. If you overexpose the snow too much, you’ll lose the beautiful texture of the snow. Keep it clean and cold but also textured and balanced.
#3: I use VSCOcam filters at varying strengths. I use a6, a9, m5, s2, s3, n1. I prefer a slight minimal filter.
Dodge and burn can be used in Snapseed with the selective tool or the dodge or burn brush.
Shawn has a great eye for color, light, and framing subjects. He is currently living in Sydney, Australia, but comes from a background of shooting in the mountains and understanding how to get those crisp tones.
#1: I always like to make sure that I keep my snowy tones at a somewhat high exposure value. If you are familiar with the “zone scale,” you know to keep the snow in your shot around zone 8 so it still holds detail but doesn’t clip or blow out the highlights. Basically, in real life, snow is bright and reflective so it should be in your photo too.
#2: Tint your highlights. Sometimes when you apply a filter, it can make a weird tint happen. I notice that in some of my shots the snow is way too yellowy in the highlights. Viewing the photo on a white background helps me adjust it to how it should look.
#3: If my subject is a different color than snow, I like to let it pop a bit. Just a touch of saturation will lift the color and make it stand out from the whites.
Editing Apps used: VSCO and Afterlight for the highlight/midtone/shadow tints
Erica’s photos speak to her love for the outdoors, and she has the ability to capture simple beauty in all of her shots. I’ve always been a huge fan of the way she edits her photos because it reminds me of film.
#1: I try to keep my whites as true as possible. I accomplish this by playing with the hues. If it’s too pink, I slide more greens in and vice versa.
#2: Editing snow tends to give you some harsh highlights and shadows, so I bring down my highlights and bring up my shadows just a touch.
#3: Bumping the clarity if there are trees or mountains in your photos will help define your subjects even more.
Editing Apps used: Snapseed and VSCO
No list of snowy photos is complete without this guy. Erik basically lives in the mountains. If he’s not at work, he’s sending it down some pillows on his snowboard and shooting all of his adventures.
#1: Play with contrast. Snowy scenes can create amazing contrast between lights and darks. Experiment with tweaking your highlights and shadows to control the drama of the image.
#2: Experiment with black and white. As a snowboarder, I love the look and feel of a stormy winter day in the mountains. With the white snow and dark trees/sky, this type of weather is a great time to experiment with black and white editing. Apps like VSCO have multiple black and white presets you can use as a starting point.
#3: Use subtle tonality. Winter scenes have a tendency to be cool, or blueish in color. By using the warmth and color tone sliders in various editing apps, you can tweak the color tone of your photos to get a unique look. I like to amplify sunrise or golden hour light by upping the purple tones and warming it up a bit.
Editing Apps used: VSCO, Lightroom, Priime, Instagram (especially for the highlight/shadow sliders)
Ryan is a Canadian photographer who understands the outdoors and captures the beauty that we all wish was in our own backyard. From horses to giant peaks, Ryan really knows how to capture winter tones.
#1: When I’m out, I always want to find movement of some kind. Whether it is water, blowing snow, or a vehicle, movement is another added element for winter shooting. Winter throws a blanket on everything, and everything moves slower, so any kind of movement is amazing. Rivers are always great because they also have some amazing hues. I tend to up the contrast to bring out the starkness of the movement against the white. Always watch the white balance though because cranking the white to pure what tends to lose the frame.
#2: Colour is always a great focal point. As the blues come out, they can be muted, and most of what you get is… white. snow. haha. So any sort of colour helps. A jacket, a backpack, or even headlights help. Fires are great too and also serve as a comfort for warming your hands. Once editing, I tend to bump the saturation up on whatever was the focal point. Nothing extreme but +5 on a blue F-Stop bag is enough.
#3: There’s something about an animal defying the elements and surviving that is so compelling. With animals, I try to sharpen the image a bit. I tend to associate softer pictures with ease and comfort, whereas sharpening a picture brings a high clarity to the notion that winter is hard, and it’s something impressive that we are surviving.
Julia has a very whimsical way of capturing photos. She’s always out on an adventure and has a way of making you wish that you could be there too. Her photos are bright and fun.
#1: My snowy photos almost always turn out too blue on my phone. I always add warmth, contrast, brighten exposure. I always edit my photos with the 04 filter in VSCO, but for snowy photos, I use the S3 filter because it’s bright and clean, and gets my whites whiter (the 04 filter, and many other VSCO filters, make the snow look too dark, and adding exposure just blows out the details without really making whites brighter). It’s helpful to see an edited photo against a white background to see if the whites are neutral and the right amount of brightness. I try to get my images as bright as possible without losing the clean edge around my photo making the image bleed into the white of the screen.
#2: No matter how much I play with the warmth or tone, the whites still tend to have some color in them, so decreasing the saturation helps a lot to get a really neutral white. Usually snowy photos look almost monochromatic anyway, so I’ve found that decreasing saturation still looks really natural. If there is a subject in my image that suffers from decreasing the saturation (like a bright blue cabin that I want to pop from the snow), I add saturation on the specific area using the Selective tool in Snapseed.
#3: I like to add some green tones into my shadows (a feature on VSCO) because it feels more like a film image to me and keeps my photos consistent. It’s especially helpful for snowy landscapes because it brings some color to the trees even if the image is largely unsaturated.