Ways to Photograph Snowflakes: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Photograph Snowflakes: A Step-By-Step Guide

a guide to photographing snowflakes

Snowflake photos look absolutely  gorgeous  – but if you wish to create stunning snowflake macro photography of your own, where do you start? How do you record a little snowflake with all its gorgeous detail?

I have been photographing snowflakes for years. And in this article, I’m likely to reveal everything you need to know in order to capture photos just like mine, including:

  • The perfect snowflake gear set up
  • How to get a whole snowflake sharp and in concentrate
  • The best time to complete snowflake photography (this is critical! )
  • Tricks and tips for great results

By the time you’re finished, you’ll know how to photograph snowflakes like a pro – plus you’ll know the perfect listing of gear to get started.

Snowflake photography gear

Before you can photograph snowflakes, you’ll need to assemble a specialist setup.

The camera and lens

The average snowflake is around 2 mm to five mm across, so filling up the frame – which I highly recommend! – will require powerful magnification.

Any camera can work, as long as it offers interchangeable lens capabilities. But you’ll need to set up your own lens to go beyond 1: 1 magnification, so you should have at least one of the following products:

Any of the above can work, but note that most macro lenses don’t reach 2: one magnifications; before buying, you’ll need to check the specifications (otherwise, you won’t be able to fill the particular frame).

Personally, I’m a fan of the extension-tube option, which will usually get you close to 2: one magnification. Extension tubes are usually hollow and sit between your camera and the lens, like this:

snowflake photography camera setup

These people don’t require any specific knowledge, plus they don’t consist of glass, so you don’t have to worry about sharpness issues.

Close-up filters are usually another good buy; they perform like reading glasses for your camera, and you can stack multiple together for increased effect. As opposed to extension tubes, close-up filter systems may cause optical problems – I find that they result in the edges of the frame to get distorted – yet they’re cheap, and when taking photos of snowflakes you’ll probably be cropping out the edges anyhow.

Furthermore, close-up filters do interfere with the autofocus capabilities on most cameras, but you’ll end up being doing your snowflake photography with manual focus , so this won’t become an issue.

two snowflakes together


Lighting a snowflake may seem like a challenge, but it’s really pretty simple: use a ring expensive. Ring flashes mount to the front of your lens, so that you won’t cast shadows on the subject, and they’re perfect for creating artistic snowflake illumination.

Most ring flashes (I use a Canon MR-14EX ) let you control two banking institutions of light and make one brighter than the various other. I like to dim one bank, then use half the particular flash to light each snowflake. Note that the position of the camera makes a big difference, and getting the right angle can drastically alter the outcome.

Below, I’ve placed two snowflake pictures side by side. See the difference? The camera angle was only a few degrees off, but a single snowflake looks milky, while the other is transparent.

how to photograph snowflakes making angle adjustments

It takes lots of experimentation to find these perfect angles, and I sometimes use a small paintbrush to nudge the snowflakes in the correct direction. (I try to avoid this particular as much as possible, however , because the crystals often shatter when manipulated. )

The background

Technically, you can photograph snowflakes on a variety of backgrounds.

But every single one of the snowflake photos – which includes all the shots in this article! – are made on the same old black mitten. It’s an essential component of my setup, for an entire host of reasons.

black mitten for snowflake photo background

For one, the mitten creates a dark background for the snowflake, which usually produces some stunning comparison. Plus, the mitten offers insulation – the snow gets caught in the fibres and only makes contact in a few points, so minimum heat gets transmitted along and the snowflake remains strong.

Finally, the mitten helps isolate the snowflake on a sea of black. (Yes, each shot has a number of woolen fibers present, but these are far easier to edit out than the usual flat and detailed surface like felt! )

Bottom line: Get a mitten! It doesn’t need to be dark, but I do recommend a person stick to dark colors (so you can maintain the contrast I actually discussed above).

How to photograph snowflakes: the step-by-step process

In this section, I’ll explain the ins and outs associated with photographing snowflakes.

Step 1 : Find the right flakes

First, wait until it starts to snow.

Then take your darkish mitten and set it outside. (Don’t wear the mitten; you don’t want to help heat transfer! )

Watch the mitten, and once a few snowflakes possess landed, take a closer appear. You want snowfalls of the “beautiful” variety, not really balls of ice or crystals covered in frozen water tiny droplets.

Various snowfalls will produce different types of snowflakes. You may need to set out your own mitten for a few snowfalls before you decide to find the best crystals for digital photography: big, clean snowflakes with a lot of branches, as displayed beneath.

snowflake photo

It’s very important to photograph the particular snowflakes during a compacted snow. So as soon as you find the correct snowflakes, get shooting. If you wait even one hour, the particular crystals will begin to melt or even sublimate (i. e., escape without melting first), as well as the sharp crystal edges will certainly soon disappear.

If you’ve just missed the snowfall and you’re not sure whether you have time to shoot, try placing the mitten on freshly fallen snowfall, then pick it up again; the fibers will catch the fallen snowflakes and you’ll have a chance to photograph a few prior to they deteriorate too far.

Step 2: Capture a number of images for focus putting

Once you find the right snowfall and the right snowflakes, you’ll need to shoot with the goal of focus stacking your shots.

What am i saying by this? Focus stacking is a technique where you consider multiple frames of the exact same subject at many different focus points, then combine all of them in post-processing for a last, in-focus image.

So when photographing a snowflake, simply move the camera forward and backward while firing off a series of images. (Burst mode is helpful; the key is to take enough images that every part of the snowflake is within focus in at least one chance. )

The thing is, at such high magnifications, only a tiny sliver of the snowflake will be in focus at any one time. A single snowflake shot looks like this:

one of many snowflake images that go into a final focus-stacked shot

But then, with enough shooting and a little bit of focus-stacking magic, you’ll end up getting a shot like this:

focus-stacked snowflake image

The top image any of 33 shots used in the final composition. The process of combining the frames is lengthy, in part because every picture is done without a tripod – they’re all handheld. In fact , I take far more frames than I’ll actually use, and the 33 frames I stacked were selected away from 112 in total!

Why don’t I use a tripod? Well, getting a tripod set up to exactly the right position and adjusting a concentrating rail to get everything ideal takes a significant amount of time. I must work quickly to be sure the snowflake won’t melt, strike away, or get suffocated by more falling snowfall. And Photoshop does quite a good job realigning the files, as long as the camera angle doesn’t deviate too much through shot to shot.

So instead of meticulously setting up a tripod, I find the snowflake, I adjust the particular angle of the camera to find the desired reflection by taking check shots, then I get capturing.

Pro suggestion: Make sure you photograph at an angle; this way, you can bring out surface reflections, prismatic colors, and even vibrant center colors like this:

tiny snowflakes at 6:1 magnification
Snowflakes measuring roughly 0. 4 mm in diameter, photographed in 6: 1 magnification and cropped significantly.

Step 3: Procedure the files

I’m not going to spend too much time discussing snowflake editing. It is the most routine, unoriginal section of photographing snowflakes, and it’s pretty simple once you get down to it.

Start by putting your images (you can use Photoshop , or you can try a dedicated stacking system, like Helicon Focus ).

Next, take your stacked image and edit this like any other shot. Harvest to emphasize the snowflake, remove distractions (such as made of woll from the glove), then adjust the exposure and comparison to make the snowflake pop.

Have fun, experiment, and you’ll end up with a great result!

how to photograph snowflakes

Learn how to photograph snowflakes: final phrases

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to capture some stunning snowflake shots!

So acquire the necessary equipment. Look for a dark mitten. And then, next time it snows, get ready in order to shoot!

Today over to you:

What setup do you plan to use for your snowflake photography? Have you had any kind of successes? Share your thoughts (and images! ) in the feedback below .

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