Skier photographed on the move

Shooting Brilliant Winter Sports Photos

Master Photography in the Snow

In February 2018, it’s that time again: winter sport fans of all nations turn their attention to South Korea, the venue of this year’s Olympic Games—a sporting event throughout which we excitedly follow the performance of our own national team, cheering them along, and through which the outstanding performance of the athletes is expressed through fascinating pictures.

In order to admire those photos, you don’t have to wait for the Olympics. Simply do it yourself! Here we’ll give you some advice on what to pay attention to in winter sports photography and give you tips for cool shots.

Meeting the Challenge of Photographing in Winter

Prepare Camera Equipment for the Cold

The cold doesn’t take it out of just you—it does the same to your camera. At freezing temperatures, the camera battery runs down more quickly than in a warm environment. If shooting with a digital camera, pack a spare battery. Try to carry the extra battery close to your body, such as in a warm, inner pocket of your jacket. In order to ensure your smartphone’s battery doesn’t deplete, you can rely on a fully-charged power bank and charger cable.

Pay Attention to the Reflectivity of the Snow

The particular whiteness and reflective effect of snow will be falsely interpreted by many cameras. Automatic cameras often perceive the target area to be too light and minimize the exposure. In the resulting shot, the snow loses its shimmering white effect and the winter landscape seems more grey than white. Experiment with the exposure of your camera and choose one or two exposure levels higher when you begin. However, be careful that your subject isn’t overexposed.

To be safe, you can choose, if available, “snow mode.” Your camera will choose the best settings for a colour-accurate portrait of the snow.

Skies and ski sticks plunged into the snow

Even your camera’s automatic white balance has its limits when in use for winter sport photography. In order to ensure that the snow depicted in your photos is white, and not blue or grey, you can take photos in RAW format (article only available in German), as long as your camera supports this format. Images in this format will take up more storage space than photos taken in JPEG format, but they allow for much more extensive editing. This will enable you to alter the white balance and many other settings later using photo-editing software. Nowadays, many modern smartphones also offer you the option to shoot photos in RAW format.

Exposure Time for Dynamic or Extremely Sharp Photos

The length of the exposure time doesn’t only affect the brightness of your photos, but can also be used to lend a touch of creativity to your photos. Shorter exposure times are usually required due to high speeds associated with most winter sports in order to capture your motif without motion blur. This, however, results in your photos appearing less dynamic.

You can make your sport photos appear much more thrilling by keeping the main motif sharp with its surroundings blurred. The viewer will then be able to envisage the speed the person was traveling when the photo was taken.

The so-called «panning» technique can be employed to produce this effect. Here, the photographer follows the movement of their motif with their zoom lens while pressing the shutter release. The focussed person will then be sharply depicted while their surroundings appear stylishly blurry. Using this technique, however, requires the use of a digital camera equipped with a zoom lens; use of this technique is quite limited when photographing with a smartphone.

A mother and her daughter sledding down a snow-covered mountain

Camera Modes for More Fun with Winter Sport Photography

Especially at the beginning, all the adjustable settings of a digital camera or smartphone can seem overwhelming. Using the camera’s autofocus might be convenient, but can often lead to blurry images when photographing moving motifs.

Instead, use your camera’s sports mode. By default, this camera mode will select all the necessary settings for a shorter exposure time, which will allow you to fully concentrate on your motif.

Most cameras also come equipped with a camera program called “snow” that will adjust your camera’s settings for the special lighting conditions and white balance of snowy surroundings. You can experiment with this mode to see if you can still use the panning technique to make your photos more dynamic.

Many smartphone cameras come equipped with a manual mode, which you can use to manually set the ISO value and exposure time. On sunny winter days, you should use the lowest ISO value possible on your smartphone (usually ISO 50 or 100). In cloudy weather or in the evening, on the other hand, it’s better to use a higher ISO value. In order to ensure your motif appears sharp in your photos, the exposure time shouldn’t be any longer than 1/100 s.

A snowboarder spraying around powder behind him

You can also use one of the many various camera filters available to make your winter sport photos that much more interesting. Colour filters produce especially brilliant effects when used in snowy landscapes. A black and white filter, for instance, will make the snow appear even more radiant and better depict it in the photo.

Push Your Camera to Its Limits

The central figure in winter sport photography is, of course, the person you’re photographing. Orient your image composition according to the skier, snowboarder, or sledder. It’s easiest to accomplish this by zooming in on them. This is easily done with a system or SLR camera combined with a telephoto lens. Some compact cameras also come equipped with a decent optical zoom.

If using a smartphone or compact camera that doesn’t have a sufficient optical zoom, you should get closer to your motif if possible instead of using the digital zoom. Alternatively, you could also use the wide-angle of your smartphone so you’ll be able to photograph both the person and the wonderful winter landscape surrounding them.

Photos in Motion in a Photo Book with the ifolor MyMoments App

The ifolor MyMoments app gives you the ability to creatively showcase really special moments. The app will enable you to relive photos in motion in your printed photo book on your smartphone via augmented reality.

This is displayed in the form of a short video: from the iPhone 6s to the most current model, you have the ability to take live photos. This creates a short video that records 1.5 seconds before and after the actual photo.

By using our MyMoments app you can also print these live photos in a photo book. Then you yourself, or perhaps friends and family, can hold a smartphone over the printed picture and play the short video. This will really bring your winter sport photos to life - literally! Try it out yourself!

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