Snow presents a real challenge for video production companies who want to shoot video. The bright sunlight reflecting off the white snow makes for an exposure nightmare. Also, when you factor in the temperature and how that affects batteries and electronics, your day out filming can turn into a disaster with no usable results.
In this article, we look at the challenges presented by filming in the snow and how to deal with them to get great looking video.
Avoid The White Out
One of the main challenges when shooting in snow is dealing with the large expanses of white. The best way to deal with this is to choose a scene that has some elements of contrast such as trees, barns, lakes or anything else to break up the dull, white background. It’s also helpful to look for things that have bright, contrasting colors such as red to add visual interest to the snowy scene.
Watch Your White Balance
If you’ve ever gone out to shoot video or photos in the snow and got the footage back home to see that the snow is blue or purple, then that’s a problem with the white balance. Snow presents such a challenge to your camera’s sensor, that it can’t figure out what the proper white would be if you’re on auto, so it’s helpful to control the white balance manual because the conditions in which you’re shooting can change from scene to scene depending on the position of the sun and your camera angle.
Another tip for getting proper white balance is to point your camera to a clean patch of snow and set your white balance off that.
Lastly, some experts recommend using a Neutral Density Filter for snowy conditions to avoid the scene coming out looking like a big gray mess.
Go Manual With Settings
If you’re like most people, you rely on the camera to make the decision for you based on what it sees through the lens; this is referred to as full auto. Full auto means the camera determines the ISO, the shutter speed, the white balance, F-stop, everything. In order to get great looking snow footage, you have to take control and get off auto exposure. Depending on the footage you’re shooting, you may be going from shadowy areas to bright, sunlight which can throw your exposure off if you’re using full auto. Using manual allows you to make fine adjustments on the fly so that you get the best looking shot for each situation.
Under Expose or Over Expose
Since we’re talking about manual settings, it’s a good strategy to take full control over your exposure when you’re shooting in snow because of the challenges videographers face with bright sunlight against a white background. If you allow for the camera to auto expose, you’re more than likely going to get blown highlights when the sun is bright. So in those sunny conditions, it’s a good idea to under expose the shot by at a half to a full stop and then bring your levels up in editing. If you blow out a shot, you can’t get that detail back regardless of what you do.
Now, in contrast to that, there are times when you want to underexpose your shot and that is when there’s not a lot of sunlight. Shooting snow under overcast skies can make for a dull, gray scene when what you see is white. In these shadowy or overcast conditions, it’s recommended that you over expose the shot to brighten it up and avoid a gray-out.
Shoot At The Right Time of Day
To get the best footage, you should avoid shooting at high noon when the sun is at its peak brightness. This time of day makes for scenes that are much too bright and harsh, there will be too much contrast, and makes even manual exposure a challenge. If you can manage it, you’re better off shooting at sunrise or at sunset when the light is more even and pleasant.
Watch The Temperatures
Cold temperatures are hard on electronic gear when temperatures reach below zero, and while most cameras are capable in shooting in cold weather, the lenses and screens and batteries can take the brunt of the punishment.
When shooting in cold weather, remember to bring spare batteries. Cold weather will deplete your camera’s battery at a quicker rate than if you were shooting in warmer climates, which means you’ll run out of power sooner if you’re shooting in the cold. Carry your spare battery in an inside coat pocket so that it’s kept warm by your body heat.
Also, beware of condensation on the inside of the camera lens, which happens when the temperature suddenly changes. To avoid this, makes sure the temperature changes from warm to cold and back again are gradual.