How to Photograph Snow: The Importance of Exposure

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You’d think a photo of snow would just look like snow, right? But often that isn’t the case, because cameras will add gray to achieve an average metering. This session will teach how to how photograph snow by over-exposing to compensate for the added gray.

When you’re shooting winter photos, you want the camera to accurately represent the true color of the snow, to keep it the perfect white you see when you snap the photos. In this session, you’ll learn the importance of light and exposure as you learn how to photograph snow.

How to Photograph Snow by Over-Exposing

Experienced outdoor photographer Layne Kennedy teaches you that cameras will often try to adjust the color of the snow to 18 percent grey in order to achieve an average metering. Since this isn’t the color of any snow you’ll want to photograph, you’ll need to overexpose somewhat in order to make the snow white, since according to the camera’s meter it’s already darker than it really is. Layne points out that if you use automatic settings on your camera, you can add a stop or two with the exposure compensation buttons or a shutter speed or two, or do the same thing manually if you shoot with manual settings.

Try the Blinkies!

To measure light, you can use your camera’s histogram, but you can also use what in digital photography are called the “blinkies,” which come with most modern digital cameras. The blinkies offer a highlight reading and will blink black on bright areas of a picture you’re looking at on your camera that you over-exposed, basically telling you that these areas contain no data. This helps you understand that the areas need more detail and that they should be dialed back by making the image a bit darker. Layne demonstrates how to photograph snow by using the blinkies to experiment with settings until the blinkies stop blinking and he knows he has the shot he wants.

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