If you love winter as much as I do, when a snow storm comes your way you probably can’t wait to grab your camera and go outside. I feel the same way. I don’t even care about the cold or the wind. To me a snow day means a great photo opportunity for snow pictures and I rarely miss it.
Here are some shots I took during this beautiful New England winter. I also included a few tips to help you with your snow pictures.
Overexpose to compensate for the camera’s metering system. Your camera is programmed to read the range of light at an average of 18% gray. This works most of the time, but when shooting a snow scene, the brightness of the snow will result in a darker image, so the snow will come out gray instead of white. Using the exposure compensation function of your camera, add one-third of exposure compensation and check the LCD screen. If the image is not bright enough, increase the exposure compensation to let more light into the camera.
I recommend that you also check the histogram for a more accurate reading of the scene. If you are not familiar with the histogram, don’t worry. In this case, just make sure that the data (“the weight”) is shifted to the right edge of the histogram.
Adjusting the white balance of a snow scene can be tricky. If you shoot raw, it’s easier to play with the white balance in post-processing. A blue cast will convey a sense of coolness while a yellow/orange cast will introduce some warmth into the picture. I prefer a slight blue cast with neutral highlights, but I believe there is no “correct” exposure when it comes to snow. It depends on how you felt when you took the picture and what how you want the viewer to feel.
The purpose of the vignette is to lead the viewer’s eye to the center of the image, but applying it to a snow photo will turn the snow gray and it will not help the image. I often use a white vignette to add a magic feel to a snow scene and enhance the white-out effect. That is easy to do, especially if you use Adobe Lightroom.
Happy snow shooting and enjoy the beauty of winter.