If you have snow in your area or you’re taking a trip to see the snow, you’ve likely struggled with getting photos you love with all that bright, white snow around. These tips from Candice Stringham are easy to implement and can make a big difference in your results. So grab your camera and bring on the snow!
Learning to Meter in Snow
The real problem with photographing snow is that there is so much white. Your camera always meters for a photograph by measuring the brightness overall and making it middle gray. So when there’s a lot of white in the photo, your camera ends up underexposing the image, making the snow gray and anything darker than white black. Not so pretty. Here’s how to overcome that problem:
1. Meter your camera up close on something middle gray. By “meter,” I simply mean to press your shutter button down halfway so you can see the number settings your camera wants you to use. If there’s a person in the photograph, step up close and meter on the face. If you’re just taking a nature photograph, meter on your own hand or something middle gray, such as a rock or something of that tonality.
2. Set your camera on manual mode, then set the exposure for what the camera told you when you metered. Don’t worry if you don’t understand the numbers at this point—just plug them in.
3. Frame the photograph and take the picture. Your camera will be blinking like crazy, telling you that you are overexposing the image. Ignore that. It’s wrong and you’re right—trust me!
Another way to really help your winter landscapes is to change the white balance on your camera. Most often, snow mornings are cloudy and gray, too, so the image will have a blue cast. By changing the white balance from auto to cloudy, I added a lot of warmth to the image you see here.
I took these two photographs out my bedroom window after waking one morning to see what a winter storm had left for us! The scene was beautiful, but as you can see my camera just didn’t do it justice when set on auto. By simply changing the way I metered and my white balance, I changed the whole feel of the photograph!
Use these steps to meter or to change your exposure compensation settings and your winter wonderland photographs will be bright, beautiful pictures with no gloomy gray in sight!
If You Don’t Want to Use the Manual Mode
While learning how to meter is the best way to expose for a snowy photograph, if working in manual mode is too intimidating, meter just like you would normally and use the exposure compensation feature on your camera. Look it up in your camera manual to find where it’s located on your specific brand of camera. The feature looks a lot like the light meter inside your viewfinder.
You will see a “-2..-1..0..1..2” series. If you set the camera to the 1 or 2, it means you will be overexposing each image you take by 1 stop or 2 stops. This setting lets more light onto your sensor, so that the snow is whiter and brighter. Be sure to look at your histogram and your images so that you aren’t making the snow so white that you lose detail.