Snow Photography Tips

December 30, 2012

Snow Photography Tips

Snow scenes just scream to be photographed! And for good reason. Snow photography can be a lot of fun and the white stuff can make for some really exciting images.

But photographing a snow scene can also be challenging and for that reason, many people find that the photos that they take of the white stuff are a bit disappointing.

One of the difficulties when photographing snow is getting the exposure right. The large expanses of brightness that naturally come with a beautiful snow scene can throw your camera’s exposure meter off. All that whiteness reflects a lot of light, making your camera think that the scene is brighter than it really. The result is that your photo is underexposed and the snow in the scene looks dingy and grey.

The other problem you run into when photographing snow is a white balance issue. Snow tends to confuse your camera’s automatic white balance function, causing the snow in your photos to have a bit of a blue tint.

As an example of this, here is a photo I snapped in my yard, using automatic exposure and automatic white balance. You can see that the image is underexposed and that the snow is dull grey with a little blue mixed in:

snow photography

But when photographing snow, we want it to be white! Not grey and certainly not blue. So, how do we fix this?

First, we need fix exposure. The easiest way to do that is to use your camera’s exposure compensation adjustment.

Exposure compensation allows you to tweak the exposure for an image, overriding your camera’s exposure setting to make your photo lighter or darker. Exposure compensation is measured in exposure values or EVs.

This adjustment is normally accessible through a dedicated button, marked with a ‘plus/minus’ icon and usually located somewhere near your camera’s shutter button. On some smaller cameras, the exposure compensation function is hidden within the menu system. Either way, you’ll want to check your user manual to see how exposure compensation works on your particular camera.

When you are shooting snowy scenes, you will want to use the exposure compensation adjustment to increase the image exposure by ½EV to 1EV. That should be enough to brighten up the scene and let the snow look snowy rather than muddy and grey.

Now, let’s work on the white balance adjustment. If your camera features a Manual or Custom white balance feature, use it here. Then, point your camera at a clean patch of white snow to set the proper white balance.

If you camera doesn’t feature a custom white balance, you’ll have to do some experimenting with the presets to see what works. Of course, if your camera has a ‘Snow/Sand’ white balance setting, use that. Otherwise, try setting the white balance to shade to add some warmth to your scene.

Here my backyard snow photo, with the exposure compensation set to +1EV and a custom white balance setting. Looks a bit more snowy, wouldn’t you say?

snow photography



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