How to Photograph Snow

Have you ever wonder why it is that when you take a picture of snow it turns grey and doesn’t appear white like you saw? It’s because of the way the light meter reads the scene. It reads everything in 18% grey. Why is that? The camera meter doesn’t see color it only reflects light off of grey shades. 18% grey is the middle.

How do we get the camera to see what our eyes see?

The best way that I have found to do this is to overexpose the image by +1-stop using the exposure compensation function. Now you many need to adjust how much you over expose your image, sometimes you may need to overexpose by +2 stops this will depend on the scene that you are measuring. You will have to take a couple of test shots to make sure that you have the correct exposure for the snow.

Above photo taken without exposure compensation – notice in the above picture how grey the snow looks.

Taken with exposure compensation +1. Curve levels, vibrance, and saturation adjust in Photoshop. Curve levels were adjusted to take out the overall yellow tone that was in the trees. Vibrance and saturation levels were adjusted to make the sky stand out more.

Is there anything else I can do?

One thing that is really helpful when photographing snow is to have your highlight warnings or “blinkes” on. This will allow you to see any areas that are overexposed and blown out, meaning no detail is in that specific area. Another must when photographing snow or any other photographs is to photograph in Camera Raw. This allows you to adjust a lot more of the image in post processing as there is more data contained in these images then in the JPEG images.

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