Everything you need to know about shooting snow on film

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Winters offer unique opportunities to capture dazzling natural scenes on film. However, it also comes with challenges while trying to do so. And, to avoid problems or mishaps, you need to learn everything you need to know about shooting snow on film before trying to do it! 

Have your camera treated

If you are going to do shooting in the cold, you want to make sure your camera is ready for it. And what this entails is changing the lubricant you typically use for your camera into something that can withstand low temperatures without causing issues like frosting or freezing. You do not want your lubricant to do that, considering it is supposed to protect some of the most vulnerable parts of your camera. 

Be careful with the light meter

If you are using a light meter, what you need to know is that it can make things a bit wonky. Namely, the snow is very bright and reflective. And your light meter would detect this as too bright, trying to tone it down, which can result in a lot of your footage or photos appearing gray rather than the intended white. You can work around this by using a handheld light meter. But, this would demand knowing how to properly use the light meter manually. 

Play with light sources

You can get some really fun footage or photos if you try out different light sources and angles for casting light in the snow, particularly if you are shooting after dark or during a very overcast day. However, there is something to keep in mind if you attempt this. Due to the reflectiveness of snow, it is very easy for your shots to turn out too bright or very artificial-looking. This means you will want to do a lot of experimenting with it before you settle on any one light angle or intensity. 

Try shooting at several different times of day, too, since they offer unique natural lighting. 

Watch out for moisture

Packing and relocating film equipment is very tricky during winter. Once you return indoors, where it is presumably warm, condensation will occur. And it will cause moisture to form on the surface and potentially inside the mechanism of your camera. There are only two ways of dealing with it. First, you can try to gradually warm up your camera. Many people try to slowly breathe on their camera, put it in the trunk of their car where it is marginally warmer but not by much, or use similar methods. However, this is still very risky. The more sure-fire way is to use plastic zip bags. They seal thoroughly, preventing moisture from forming due to the sudden shift in temperature. However, you need to put your camera into the zip bag before going inside for this to work.

Acquire a lens hood, UV, and polarizing filter

These are the pieces of equipment that can do a lot for the quality of your shoot. The lens hood will help prevent lens flare, which can be caused by snow's reflectiveness. The UV filter is not very useful for its intended effect. But it will, instead, help protect your camera from moisture formed through both condensation and snow melting. Finally, the polarizing filter will give you some interesting saturation options for filming the sky during the day. 

Tread carefully

Another thing you need to know about shooting snow on film is that it can be dangerous. Snow, after all, covers the terrain, which makes for unsteady and tricky footing. If you are shooting in nature and in a location you do not know, these risks quintuple. You could entirely be overlooking a hole in the ground. And even if it is small, you can step wrong and twist your ankle, which would, at the very least, put a stop to the day's shooting. In the end, the best tip for handling unexpected setbacks during shooting like this is to avoid them.

Know how to keep your equipment protected

Experts from promoversmiami.com have a lot of experience with transferring items during winter. And they will always tell you that you need to be careful with securing a proper storage area. Your storage, whatever it is on-scene, needs to be close to the outside temperature but just slightly warmer. This will prevent your equipment from getting too cold and freezing and stop condensation from forming if you need to use it. Without such an area, you place all your items at the mercy of the weather. This means snow may melt and wet your things, or rain could start up and drench them entirely.

Dress extra warmly

Shooting is rarely over quickly. It means you will be out there, trying to get the perfect dramatic shot of snow while freezing in your clothes. Add the need to frequently stay still with your camera, and you will be in a real pickle without proper clothing. Double down on your layers. Wear suitable gloves and a quality hat. And make sure you bring something warm to drink since you will want all the possible ways to keep your film crew motivated you can conceivably plan for. That’s how miserable shooting in the snow can get. 

Put it and reload your film with care

Out of everything you need to know about shooting snow, knowing how sensitive film is in cold weather could save you the most heartache. After all, you do not want to make the perfect shot, capture the best possible scene, only to have your footage ruined! And this could very well happen if you rewind your film too quickly or break it while taking it out or putting it in. The cold makes the film very brittle and dry. So, if you reload too quickly, it can cause static discharge. It would result in light streaks forming over the scene you had shot.  

Final Word

Now that you are acquainted with everything you need to know about shooting snow on film, you are ready! Just remember not to rush the prep process for the shoot. If you do, you are risking the safety of both your crew and your equipment.


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About the Author

Fin Jacobs
Fin Jacobs is a freelance journalist and an experienced former cameraman. He knows about the challenges of shooting since he was forced to endure and learn from them himself. Now, he tries to share this knowledge in the articles he writes.

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