Monday, February 13, 2012

It's Snowing!

     It's been a crazy mild Winter around here, but the snow is finally flying in Northwest Arkansas.  Seems like an appropriate time for a post on shooting photos in the snow.  If you've ever tried it, you probably already know that snow is tricky, getting good exposures can be a challenge.  Your camera's automatic metering system is very smart.....and it is also very very dumb.  The meter doesn't know it's Winter time, and it does not know that all that snow on the ground is suppose to be bright white.  The meter just sees all that white and thinks "too bright!", and therefore reduces exposure to darken the scene to a more neutral level.  This usually results in very dark images of drab, grayish looking snow.  Problem is we don't want our snow to be drab and gray, we want our snow bright and white as nature intended!

     Fortunately the camera companies are aware that their metering systems are not perfect, and they were kind enough to give us something called Exposure Compensation (EV Comp).  This allows us humans to "over-ride" the cameras automatic settings and easily tweak the brightness up or down as we see fit.  Snow shooting is the perfect situation for using EV Comp.
     So next time you are out shooting in the snow, try this.  Put you camera in "P" Program Mode, and dial in +1 stop of EV Comp.  This is a good starting point, you may need as much as +2 to get proper exposure.

Shot with 0 EV Comp.
(too dark and grey)  notice the histogram is heavy near the center of the exposure range-

For the next shot I adjusted Exposure Compensation..

EV Comp set to +1.3

(brighter and whiter snow!)  notice the histogram weighted far to the right-

     Ideally your snow will be as bright as possible without clipping detail (blowing out).  Use your camera's highlight warning to help you tweak your adjustments.  Increase EV Comp until the highlight warning is blinking at you, then reduce your adjustment by 1/3 of a stop or so.  With just a couple of test shots you can quickly get your exposure nailed down.

     Another consideration when shooting snowy scenes is White Balance.  Often your Auto WB will render the scene a little too blue.  Try setting your cameras WB setting to Cloudy.  You can also try bumping the WB slider in your post-processing software slightly to the right.

     Now, if you are shooting with a compact camera you have no worries.  Many compact cameras will have a menu setting for snow.  This setting will automatically bump up the exposure a stop or two, basically a semi-auto exposure compensation.  Look for this in your camera's scene modes.

    And Lastly-  Bundle Up!  It's Cold out there!!
photo jabber blog by tim wyler
simple digital photography tips and techniques

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