Ten Tips For Better Snokeh Photos
One of my favorite things to do in the winter is to make photos where you use your flash to accentuate the out of focus snow in the foreground. The snow and bokeh combine to be called snokeh. This makes your snow photos look that much cooler. It gives you a sense of depth which is always a great thing in a two dimensional medium. Below I have included two photos to show how powerful the snokeh can be. The top photo was made with the flash on, and the bottom photo was made with it off. You can see just how much it adds to the photo. Here are ten tips that will help you make better snokeh photos.
- Use a wide aperture – What you are doing with your speed light is illuminating the out of focus snow in your foreground. By using a wide aperture (the lowest numbers that you can) you are making those snowflakes look like the great bokeh that you want.
- Use a speed light – When I first found out about this technique it was by accident with my old Canon Rebel. I was in auto mode and the built in flash popped up at night. This gave me a great effect, but I had a shadow in the photo from my lens. Using the speed light gets the flash up a little higher and it eliminates the shadow of the lens.
- Work the scene – This is a general tip for most photography. When the food delivery unit first came through the frame I was on the other side of the building. I made my photo and then raced over to the other side of the building to make the one that you see above. By working the scene and not settling right away I made one of favorite photos of the outing.
- Take you time, and make lots of photos – the fun thing about this technique is how random things are. The snow flakes will show up all over the place. Make a few photos to make sure that you have a good pattern in your photo. As long as it is still snowing you have unlimited chances to make something special.
- Balance the light – You ideally want your speed light to be strong enough to illuminate the snow flakes, but not so powerful that the snow flakes glow. You also want to try and stay at a low enough power that the speed light will regenerate quicker. That means more pictures can be made. This should be a one time set up at the beginning of your photo outing.
- Protect the front element of your lens – If you are lucky you can make it through your entire photo session without getting any snow on your front element. You don’t want to point your camera up or into the snow. Of course things can happen so bring a shammy or some lens wipes to clean off your front element. Keeping the lens cap on until the last minute is also a great way to keep the front element of your lens clean.
- This works best at night – Ideally you want the sky to be a darker shade so that the snow shows up against it. The best time of day to do this would be at blue hour. A well lit scene also works very well at night as well. The photo above was made in the afternoon, but the dark building helped the snowflakes show up very well.
- Larger snow flakes work best – A very fine snow does not really work for this technique. A large flake works very well. The bigger flakes also looks better in the background of the photo. If the snow lightens up while you are at a scene waiting for the bigger flakes to come back will help you make better photos.
- Use a lens with a wide zoom range – When I go out to make these photos I like to have a wide zoom range. The reason being that I don’t want to change lenses with the snow coming down. My favorite lens to take out is my 24-105mm f/4. It is still fast enough to give me some bokeh, but a wide enough range for most photos that might come up on my outing. Your best results for snokeh will come in the 24-35mm range, but you never know when another photo opportunity may present itself while you are out.
- Protect your gear – When the bigger flakes that you are looking for are coming down it is often a wet snow. In small doses your camera can take getting a little wet. You want to do everything that you can to make sure that you don’t get it too damp though. Bringing a towel on the outing or using a rain sleeve is a good way to help keep your camera gear dry. I will often use a shoulder bag for walking around with a towel inside of it. I bring the camera out only when I am ready to make a photo, and use the towel if it gets too wet.
There are ten tips to help you make better snokeh photos. This is a fun way to get out and play in the snow as an adult. Below are a few other snokeh photos that I have made in the last couple of years.