Photography Tip: Photographing snow

Do your snow photographs always look dull and grey rather than having lovely white snow?

The problem is the snow itself, the light reflecting off it is confusing your camera! The camera tries it’s hardest to get the exposure of your photo correct, and lets face it they are usually pretty good,  but on normal Auto mode it probably cannot cope with the snow. It thinks the scene is too bright and tries to correct that by letting less light get to the sensor or adjusting the sensitivity of the sensor itself. The result is grey snow and a dull scene.

under-exposed-snow
The way to correct it is simple, we need to tell the camera to compensate for this. If you have a compact camera the chances are it has a whole bunch of modes, or scenes, that you remember seeing once but have never used; Baby, Portrait, Landscape etc, and there will be one called Snow! That’s it, choose the Snow mode and it will make the camera let more light in and you will have much better snow pictures. If you are using a DSLR then you need to use some exposure compensation to overexpose the image by at least +1 or +2 stops, depending on the amount of snow in the scene. This may involve pressing a button, or going into the menus, and setting the exposure compensation to +1 or +2 (or somewhere in-between). If you are not sure how to make the settings on your camera you need to consult the manual!

correctly-exposed-snow
Alternatively you can always make the adjustment in your favourite image editing software by increasing the exposure by a stop or two. The problem with not doing it in the camera though is that your camera will underexpose the image and, due to the large range of tones (high contrast) often present in snowy pictures, the dark areas may be so underexposed that they can be almost black and lacking in any detail. Making the adjustment in Photoshop will not add detail back in that is not there to start with.

That’s all there is to it. The two images in this post illustrate the point. The first one looks dull and grey while the second one has some exposure compensation applied to it to make the snow white, as it should be.

Have fun and enjoy the snow.

2 thoughts on “Photography Tip: Photographing snow

  1. My snow pictures were all coming out looking drab today and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, but I remembered you’d written a post about this so I knew where to go to refresh my memory. Thanks! :)

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