School of Shred: Editing Powder Shots

SHRED THREAD // 24th Mar 2020

24th Mar 2020

As the world is in lockdown, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, this is your chance to sit down and edit all of your photos from this winter season. So our very own ambassador, Tignes seasonaire and camera wizard, Sam Box, is here to tell you everything you need to know about editing you powder shots.

SAM BOX - PLANKS AMBASSADOR & PHOTOGRAPHER

With this glorious and long-awaited neige we received before the lockdown, it was a prime time to get those pitted snaps. The edit can make or break these photographs and so in this article, we will delve into some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your shots. It should be said that I am by no means an expert and am still learning to edit these shots to their best potential, but I will share some things I have learned. These tips will generally apply to shooting on a DLSR and editing RAW files in Adobe Lightroom but can somewhat be applied to shooting and editing photographs on a phone.

Getting everything right when taking a picture is essential to being able to edit the shot correctly. Particularly with the exposure, if you have blown out the highlights in the first place then trying to save them may be pointless. However, if you still have detail in the whites, you want to get the exposure to a point where you can see some of this detail. If the snow is looking better but rider is now too dark, you can make local adjustments to brighten the subject, or vice versa.

This leads on to one of the hardest parts of editing powder shots, particularly when shooting in flat light, which is creating some contrast. When the light is flat, I tend to shoot in the trees to get some depth and contrast which is easier to accentuate in the edit. If you have already brought the exposure down on the snow, you should start seeing some texture and shading. I will then brush on some ‘clarity’ and ‘texture’ to areas where the snow is being broken up and lifted by the rider which makes the spray look more obvious and dramatic. If there are trees or rocks about, I will make sure these are nice and dark to give the image good overall contrast. That being said, flat light makes for desaturated colours so I am a fan of keeping some colour in the rocks and trees where possible so that the image doesn’t look too monochromatic.

Depending on how you have shot the image, it may or may not want a crop. Although there are ‘rules’ and things that tend to look more appealing than others, good composition is really up to you to decide on. The fact that Instagram is the final resting place for the majority of photographs means that portrait, close up vibes tend to be very in-style for shots in flat light as they stand out more on a phone screen. Tragically, as a result, I often see much better thought out and intricate compositions not performing as well since they only really work on a computer screen or in print. My advice, however, is to crop and edit your photographs to how you want them to look, not to a particular style in the hope that they are going to perform better on the ‘gram (a tip I regularly fall foul of).

White balance is something I find really tricky for on-snow photography. All cameras and phones have an automatic white balance which is usually pretty solid. However, snow can often look very blue on camera, especially in the shade or when the light is flat. Christophe Hassel (the god of skiing photography) gave me the amazing yet super simple tip of desaturating areas of snow that look overly blue. Once you are happy with your white balance, this tip is great for cleaning up areas of the shot that still don’t sit right with you.

My final tip is to try to avoid the classic ’over-edit’. It is very easy to go too ham on those sliders and make your photo look like it was edited in MS Paint. It always helps to take a break from the screen and come back to it with fresh eyes. Looking at the original file can also help you see if you have gone a bit overboard with the edit.

Hopefully, you already got some powder shots while it lasted and can now play around with editing them!