Mountains and valleys covered with snow, icicles glisten in the sun, children pulling their sleds… winter offers a variety of fun activities and endless photo opportunities. If you follow a few tips when taking photos in the snow, you can later show that much more impressive work to your family and friends by the warm fireplace. In this article i want to give you my best tips on how to make the perfect Ski Photo and Snow Action photos yourself.
For more than a decade or maybe more two to be precisely i am photographing in winter in the Alps. Spending a lot of time in the snow i curcial for a ski photographer. In this article i compromised my best photo tips for skiing, tobogganing, and many other fun, snowy activities.
Skiing photography – camera settings for beginners and advanced users
If you are not yet a professional and have not yet mastered manual photography, you are in pretty good situation with the automatic functions of modern cameras. Smartphones, in particular, often do a very good job here. You can switch to sport mode, possibly triggering a series of photos – and things will, more often than not, run like clockwork.
In older models and generally in automatic mode, cameras often have difficulties with the high contrasts and many images end up being underexposed or overexposed.
If you want to master snow photography and skiing, you should learn more about manual photography. In private and group workshops, the Mountain Moments crew shares this knowledge with like-minded nature-loving participants.
During winder, in general, the light is very bright and the contrasts are big.
- Standard settings for beginners: sport mode and burst release
- Standard settings for advanced users: AV mode, skiers at least 1/800 sec., Aperture approx. F7 to f14, ISO 100
- Standard settings for professionals: manual mode or AV, skiers at least 1/800 sec., ISO 100
Snow photography – capturing the photo action in winter
Taking photos while skiing (in the ski area) – action photography tips for the ski slope
Taking photos of skiing in the ski area is not that difficult with a little preparation and knowledge. In principle, you should know your camera and you should be able to use it. You have to choose a suitable location and communicate well with the skier or snowboarder on the slopes beforehand about when and where you are taking the photo.
First things first, for your safety: don’t stop behind hilltops. Other skiers may not realize you are here. Go to the edge of a ski slope and don’t take photos in busy narrow areas. Avoid long photo action on large carving turns of busy slopes.
Remember: the best photos are created when you have mastered your camera properly, and the right settings are just the beginning.
Our best tips for taking photos on the ski slope :
- You will find good light especially right after sunrise – then the slopes are still in the best condition and it is relatively empty. Getting up early is well worth it.
- The best time for good winter light is the early season – from around November to the end of January you have beautiful, rich winter light almost all day long when the sun is shining.
- Terrain peaks and light-shadow borders offer many opportunities to be creative.
- If your mountain is in the shade, make sure you don’t have a sunny area in the background. This is usually a big distraction from the action you want to capture and can be difficult to handle.
- In bad weather, choose a photo spot in the forest – here you can find good contrast.
- Communicate with your ski model as precisely as possible when and where you want to take your picture. Throw a snowball to pinpoint the location. Pointing with your arm and saying “there” doesn’t work that well.
- Before the day of the shooting, encourage your ski model to put on a red, orange or yellow jacket – these are the natural contrasting colors to the blue sky.
- In manual photography (mode M or semi-automatic AV), the most important value is the shutter speed – it should be at least 1/1000 of a second. Skiers and splashing snow are very fast! You can sometimes capture blurry action with 1/100 of a second.
Tip: The best time to take pictures in winter for a real winter mood is the early morning December-January.
Would you like to learn about the best practices in simple image editing? Take a look at our photography workshops and learn from the pros.
Taking photos in a snow park
Since the drivers are often fast, you should use at least 1/1000 of a second as the shutter speed. It is also useful to take a series of photos. In “continuous fire” mode, you play the scenario in your head beforehand and follow the skier as he approaches. Either you select the correct image section in advance, or you follow the rider – both methods work. Most of the time, the best moment has to be selected from a series of images afterward. It makes sense for both the photographer and the skier to agree beforehand on what is going to be done – and to repeat this a few times until you are satisfied with the end result.
For our German-speaking readers:
Because public transport works so comparatively well for popular sports in the Tyrolean mountains, we have not only summarized the most beautiful sports options for you in our book Outdoor Guide but also described how to get there by public transport. For now, it is available in German:
Taking photos while freeriding (backcountry)
Freeriding is the supreme discipline in skiing. Difficult snow conditions, the dangers lurking, and your aim is to ski on the untracked line and take photos. All of this requires a lot of experience and a good assessment, on both sides
The art is to be in the right place at the right time.
- Avalanche situation, weather, other skiers, location and light – a lot of things to consider, and everything has to line up perfectly. Photography is also made more difficult by the white surface that lies in front of you and looks different from different angles.
- The most important thing in freeriding is communication with the rider. Before departure, both sides need to be clear on movement and location. Professionals often throw snowballs to signal the skier where the move should be made.
- A walky-talky set is useful for communication.
- The settings are to be selected as usual: exposure time 1/1000 sec, in sunny weather f8-14, ISO 100. The A/AV mode is usually also suitable.
Photographing ski races
As a photographer, you are usually outside and therefore it is best to use a telephoto lens or telephoto zoom lens. The focal length should cover the range of approx. 100-300mm. A classic 70-200mm telephoto zoom lens is often sufficient.
The most exciting scenes are usually the start (tension), the finish (cheers and emotions), and particularly difficult parts of the route. If you want to document the whole event as a photographer, it is advisable to start at the top and go down one station after a few skies.
For the racing scenes, you look for a photogenic spot with the sun or at the light-shadow border. A telephoto lens and a fast shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second are essential. Since you know roughly where the skiers are riding along, you can pre-focus and thus reduce wasting of the image. You can cut out the driver well against the background with an open aperture.
Take a Photography lesson and learn to make awesome outdoor photographs
Do you want to take your outdoor photography to the next level? Are you stuck at certain points of the process? Do you have problems during image editing? Have you been on a photo tour, but your photos sometimes disappoint you? Get personal coaching from an outdoor photo professional and book your individual photography workshop now. This can push you years ahead in a few hours, as you benefit from the experts’ broad knowledge and experience.
The following workshops are often booked: sports photography, image processing for landscape photography, Lightroom workflow, photo portfolio advice, location planning, and mountain photography.
A single lesson is perfect for those with very specific questions and hurdles and is also ideal as a gift. For clearly visible results and learning success, we recommend at least a 3-hour photography coaching package.
Tobogganing is great fun. Go up the toboggan path, for a spot where you can ultimately photograph all participants from. It is best to communicate everything clearly with the group, prepare, and wait for a point when the tobogganers slide past you.
You should also capture the mood in the hut. Typically indoors, the lighting conditions and requirements change quickly. Here you should be able to switch your camera settings quickly or use a (semi) automatic mode.
Hi, i am Marius, i love exploring the mountains and nature. Friends say, i know the mountains better than most locals, but actually i get lost all the time while photographing ;). Read more about the Mountain Moments Team.