The first time I witnessed snow in Paris was back in December 2013. It was my second year living in the city, and I had never seen it like that. I was utterly happy. I remember going out with my camera and walking around Montmartre, checking out the market, the flower shops, then getting a drink with my friend on a terrasse.
Well, 2018 made it happen again! Apparently, this marks the city’s most prominent snowfall since 1987! After two long months of extremely dull winter days with the Seine overflowing, a little snowstorm hit the capital and made all the kids and me the happiest on the streets. It was the right moment to take out that camera again and go check out few of my favourite streets!
Few things you need to keep in mind.
First, your safety:
Snow means very slippery roads. You want to walk slow and mind every step. You don't want to end up with a broken leg, or a broken lens, so wear some good shoes! Stay warm, wear gloves and cover your ears.
Carry extra batteries with you and keep them warm in a pocket under your coat. Cold weather drains your battery much faster!
Don't hold your camera under your jacket, thinking that will warm it up. Instead, keep it cold. You want to avoid having any condensation effect that will ruin all of your shots and harm your electronic components.
Keep your gear safe but easily accessible, avoid putting your bags down on the wet snowy streets.
Try using a lens hood, I know there isn't any sun, but it will help keep those stray snowflakes off your front element.
Shooting in the snow tends to be very bright. You can choose to overexpose by one or two stops to get that super white snow either using the manual mode or by using your exposure compensation on A or S, and setting it to plus one.
It is also essential to get the correct white balance. You don't want to get either a blueish snow or a yellowish one. Getting all of this right on set is very important, especially if you are shooting in JPG. I would recommend shooting in RAW format; this will allow you to get in there and tweak everything you do in post processing, giving you the most possibilities to bring out all of the details in your images: from contrast to colours to a little of sharpening...
Composing in the snow is very crucial. Don't just frame for the whites but look out for interesting details that are going to situate your shot. Include other elements; a branch of a tree, some concrete, someone walking by, some footsteps... You want to think of your story, what is it you're trying to show?
If the snowfall isn't so heavy, but you want to manage to capture their intensity, slow down your shutter speed a little bit and if you're not steady enough get that tripod and your Neutral Density filters if you've got any!
In conclusion, shooting the streets of Paris under the snow was quite an experience, to say the least. Waiting for the sun to set was even better. Night time is always a good time as it allows to bring out much more in the city than during the day! Fingers crossed I won't need to wait another 31 years to see such a beautiful sight blanket the cobblestone streets of the City of Light.
Author: Clara Abi Nader
Clara is a photographer guide at Aperture Tours Paris. She is a graduate of Photography from the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts, and she likes to develop a sense of narrative in the cinematic images she creates. She enjoys turning the mundane into magnificence.