Take Better Pictures | Photographing Snow

Happy Monday Everyone! Since we have been experiencing a lot of snow here in the Northeast, I wanted to share a tip with you to help improve your snow pictures.

Have you ever taken pictures in the snow and been disappointed with your pictures straight out of the camera? Chances are you are using your camera in automatic mode or a program mode such as aperture priority. In these modes the camera is doing its best job to give you a balanced exposure, the problem is all of that white makes the camera think that it needs to underexpose the image. It says, well I see all of this white, so I am going to go ahead and make it grey so I do not ruin the exposure.

We, as the photographer, know better and can make things right. Here are a few tips for you next time you go out to take pictures in the snow.
Manual Mode
1. Put your camera in Manual Mode at ISO 200, f5.6 and dial in a shutter speed that zeroes out your meter (there will be no dashes before or after the zero on your meter reading) and take a picture.
2. Review the picture. Chances are it is underexposed.
3. Now try overexposing the next shot by 1 stop. If your shutter speed was 1/250, try setting it to 1/125.
4. Review the results. Does this look better? It should.
5. If it is still underexposed, slow your shutter speed to 1/90 and try.

Program Mode
1. Put your camera in P Mode and take a picture.
2. Is it underexposed?
3. If so, dial your exposure compensation to +1.0 (you may need to read your camera manual to learn how to do this)
4. Better? If not, try setting it to +1.3 and repeat until you achieve the exposure you desire.

Here are a few examples:
I had the camera set to Aperture Priority Mode. I set the camera to ISO 200 and set the aperture to f4. The camera set the shutterspeed to 1/1000

I set the camera to manual mode and made the following adjustments. ISO 200, f4, 1/500. See the difference? The snow is better exposed and there is still detail in the sky.

I then tweaked the shutter to 1/400 which made the snow look very much like I saw with my eyes, but the sky lost detail.

The image you like best will be personal preference. If I was going to work on one of these to finish as a print, I would choose number 2 because there is still some detail in the sky.

These pictures are nothing special, I was standing on my deck taking pictures for these examples. It was overcast skies which is very boring.

Closing tip: If it were blue skies and sunny, you could aim your camera to a nice blue spot in the sky and get a meter reading. Lock that exposure, recompose and take a picture of the snow and sky. Your results will suprise you 😉

Go out and start photographing snow pictures today.

Comments 3

  1. THANK YOU! Fantastic concise post! Two followup questions:
    1.) What metering mode were you using?
    2.) Do you have any suggestions for photographing people in the snow? I’ve been trying to use spot metering and meter on a face but it seems that either the snow is blown out and the people are exposed correctly or the snow looks good and the people are dark. Your recent engagement shoot in the snow was amazing and I’m just wondering how you balanced the exposure for both the people and the snow.
    See you in a couple of weeks! Assuming we don’t get too much snow, which would be great to practice photographing in, but not so great for driving! 😉

  2. Thanks Missi!
    1. I always use Matrix Mode. I learned it and mastered it for each one of my Nikons. I am a fan of learing one metering mode, understanding it and then learning how it behaves. The Histogram will help you tremendously here too. Never underestimate the Histogram 😉

    2. Photographing people in the snow is a little different, because you want a nice exposure on them and the background. This is hard to acheive if they are in shadow or overcast skies are in play. If we were able to use off camera lighting, the problem is easily solved. Using Avail light, I strive to capture a balanced exposure in the camera (I use my RGB histogram to read White Balance and Exposure). I expose as far to the right of the Histogram as I can so I retain as much data as possible.

    Then In Lightroom I can finetune the exposure and use the Adjustment Brush to bring the exposure up on my subjects faces. I will post a before and after for you. Hope this helps! See you soon.

  3. Thanks again, that’s exactly what I needed! Are you going to cover using the histogram in the upcoming class on the 23rd? I know in general how it should look, but I never use it during shooting, just in post when I often look at it and think to myself “wow, I really messed that one up!”

    So looking forward to learning all kinds of new stuff!

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