I love doing portraits for my own children on their birthdays! But living in Colorado and having babies born in December and February has sometimes wreaked havoc on my outdoor portrait dreams. The grass is brown, the ground is muddy, and the sun is usually nowhere to be found. However, there are few things I find more beautiful than a fresh blanket of powdery white snow! Luckily for me, on the eve of LJ's third birthday, we got hit with two feet of snow overnight! I decided to take advantage of the weather it and loaded her up with warm clothes and blankets to take some snowy birthday photos. When we got out of the car, she made it obvious that she was NOT going to last long in the 13 degree weather. Fortunately, I've learned a few tips and tricks over the years of photographing my kids in the snow, and I put them to use here. I've included all of my tips on how I get good pictures of my kids in the snow, including a failproof trick I like to call my "secret weapon".
Tip #1- Make it quick!
I'm a perfectionist, and sometimes that means taking extra time, capturing more shots, in search of those perfect ones that I love! But in cold, snowy weather, if my children aren't in their snow gear, we have 2-5 minutes tops before they become too cold to stay outside. This is where mastering shooting in manual mode really comes in handy. I can adjust my settings quickly, and I know that each image will come out with the exact exposure and white balance I have in mind. I can quickly change poses and shooting positions, taking just 2-3 shots of each pose and setup, and move on. Although you can see a variety of different shots, all of the photos on this blog post were taken within a 3 minute window and we were back in our warm car in no time.
Tip #2- Dress sympathetically!
If I could only give one tip on photographing children in the snow, this would be it! Kids, especially toddlers and babies, are more sensitive to cold temperatures due to their bodies not regulating temperature as efficiently as a young adult's. Therefore, it's my rule of thumb to wear one layer less of clothing than the children I'm photographing. That way, when I start to get uncomfortable, I can guarantee they are too! At that point, I know it's time to either take a break or call it a day.
Tip #3- Distract and bribe!
As many of my clients know, I never ask children to smile. I believe in capturing genuine emotion, and I've found the best way to do that is NOT to ask for a smile, but rather to just chat with children about the things that they enjoy. 99% of the time, this leads to natural smiles on its own, but for the other 1%, I am NOT above using bribes! Snow comes with its own built-in activities that can be great distractions to get natural smiles from kids, like building a snowman, catching flakes on their tongue, and even throwing snow! Just prepare to get cold and messy if you suggest the latter! Because I know my daughter so well, it was easy for me to quickly think of something that will both distract her from the cold and make her smile. I asked her if she would like to sing a song with me from her favorite movie (quite fitting as that movie is Disney's "Frozen") The smiles and laughter captured in the above photos were due to her belting out "Let It Go", complete with hand motions. I coupled that with a bribe of a gummy bear once we finished the song, and it was enough to keep her attention for the 3 minute span that we were out there.
Tip #4- Incorporate appropriate props!
I'm actually pretty minimalist when it comes to props in my photos, but in the case of snowy weather photography, a couple of wise prop choices can be incredibly helpful. Blankets and quilts are a great option to add an extra layer of warmth, while any type of chair or other object they can sit on will help add variety to the poses without the subject having to sit down in the cold snow! For this set of photos, I decided to use suitcases in order to get some sitting "poses" without subjecting her to the cold snow right on her behind.
Lastly, My "Secret Weapon" for snowy photos of kids:
HotHands! You know, those little packets that you can shake and put inside your socks or mittens before a day out on the slopes? These work equally well to keep kids warm when they're wearing less than ideal clothing/gear in the snow. Just be sure to use precautions, as the package states that they can heat up to 160 degrees! This is obviously way too hot to have against a child's skin. I always activate ours and then wrap them in a thin washcloth before placing them inside my child's clothing, and I would never, I repeat NEVER put them on an infant or nonverbal child who isn't able to tell me if they start to feel too hot. Once we're back in the car, i remove them immediately to prevent us from forgetting about them. For this set of photos, my daughter had a onesie on under the dress with one washcloth wrapped packet of HotHands each on her chest, back, both sleeves, and both boots. She also held one packet in her hands to keep her fingers nice and toasty. This isn't always necessary, but these photos were taken in 13 degrees Farenheit with a chilly wind.
And there you have it! With using a few simple tips and tricks, it's possible to get great pictures of your kids in the snow that you'll want to hang on your walls!