How to Get White Snow – Winter Shooting Tips

White snow with camera at plus 1

Why is my snow grey

Predominantly white scenes ( think Snow, white sand beaches, clouds )will be moved toward grey so we must over expose from .5 – 1.5 stops to get true white by using the +/-.
Predominantly black scenes ( think black cars, black buildings, black sand beaches )will be moved toward grey so we must under expose .5 – 1.5 stops to get true black by using the +/-.
 A future tutorial will explain how to get perfect exposures using a grey card.

Using histograms to further understand

For those familiar with histograms we can further look into diagnosing our exposure. The histograms are shown below with both our camera exposure and with exposure compensation set on + 1.0. Histograms are available in almost any digital camera including point and shoots and most imaging programs like Photoshop Elements.

A histogram is just a map of the tonal values in our image from black (left most point) to white (right most point) with the height representing how much of the image is at a particular level of brightness. Your histogram will look the same in camera and when you open that image up in your imaging program.

^Black                   Middle^Grey                        White^

Grey snow historgram - normal exposure

In the grey snow example above our histogram has a good deal of room before the white point on the right so the image represented by this histogram is a shade of grey not white. By overexposing one stop ( +/- +1.0) the camera automatically adjusts and allows 1 extra stop or twice the amount of light. As you can see from the histogram below we still have a small amount of room before the white point (this room indicates we have not blown out our highlights. If this histogram started all the way to the right and did not build to a peak, this would indicate over exposure and blown out highlights. The fix would be to reduce the exposure compensation from +1.0 to +0.7 and check again. The peak will move to the left each time you reduce your exposure. More on histograms in an upcoming tutorial.

White snow when overexposed histogram

Please let us know what you think of this tutorial and let us know what else is causing a challenge in your photography.


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