Taking Snow Pictures

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by matt9013, Dec 6, 2015.

  1. matt9013 macrumors 6502

    matt9013

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    Oct 27, 2013
    #1
    Now that we are starting to get snow I want to take a lot of beautiful snow pictures. I have already taken one and it didn't turn out like how I had imagined it. I was reading that I should change the exposure to +1 or +2 and I tested a few none snow pictures on it (snow already melted) and I didn't notice anything different between them. It was kinda bright when I took this photo.

    [​IMG]

    I want my snow pictures to turn out more like this with bright white snow and not a grayish look to them. Anyone got any tips or suggestions? Certain exposure, shutter speed etc? I have a Canon Rebel SL1.


    [​IMG]
     
  2. glenthompson macrumors 68000

    glenthompson

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    #2
    Your meter is assuming all that snow is an 18% gray surface. You need to tell it that it is not the case. Some cameras have metering modes for snow or beach scenes. Otherwise you have to adjust the exposure by 2 or 3 EV. You could also try manual mode and get the exact exposure needed. That's what I usually do in difficult lighting situations.
     
  3. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #3
    Is your WB set to auto? Maybe get a grey card and set it off that. There are really cheap ones and expensive ones, but they all do the same thing.
     
  4. JDDavis macrumors 65816

    JDDavis

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    #4
    Taking pictures in snow is hard. It's hard for the camera too. There is a often a very wide dynamic range for the camera to deal with. If it's not handling it well in auto then as others have suggested it's time to start tinkering with the manual settings. White balance is important but most modern DSLRs do a pretty good job of getting it close automatically. A lot of times on snowy scenes you have to decide what to expose for and what you'll try to fix in post. Expose for a person or object and the snow might be blown out or too dark. Expose for the snow and the subject may be too dark. Expose for the sky or the mountain and the snow gets blown out...and on and on. In general it's easier to make a picture brighter (and fix WB) in post then it is to fix blown highlights so I try to expose correctly for the brightest part of the scene and then pull up the shadows in post.

    The snow pic you posted may not be that far off for WB. It doesn't look too blue or too red (cold or warm). It does look really underexposed though. You said it was bright outside but that looks like light from a classic overcast winter day. It's tough to take good snow pics if you have grey clouds reflecting light for you. The best pics are usually on clear sunny days and before the sun gets too high in the sky.
     
  5. JohnDS macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Autoexposure will expose on the assumption that the average brightness of a scene is middle grey. So when shooting snow, it will using underexpose the make the snow look grey. If your camera is sophisticated enough to have an exposure compensation setting, you can set it to overexpose relative to the metered setting to account for this.

    However, you will still have a problem with the dynamic range and one alternative is to shoot HDR if our camera supports that.
     
  6. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #6
    Snow is an area where modern electronics fail. Like has been mentioned, the computer in the camera thinks the white is an 18% grey and is exposing for that. In order to compensate for this, get a grey card (as mentioned). Put the card where the subject would be in relation to the light source and focus on it. Play with the shutter speed and f stop settings until you have a combination that will work for you. Use shutter priority to see how the aperture changes with speed and aperture priority to see how speed changes with aperture opening. When you find a combination that works for you, switch to manual mode and dial those settings into your camera. Now they won't change when the camera sees snow. Bracket your shot. Use the chosen settings, then back either the aperture or shutter speed (not both) one stop back and then one stop up from that starting point.

    Shooting snow was an assignment in one of my film photography classes and it wasn't an easy one.

    Good luck.

    Dale
     
  7. Bending Pixels macrumors 65816

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    #7
    This is where knowledge of the Zone System will help.

    The meter in your camera (any camera for that fact) reads 18% gray (i.e. Zone V). In order to expose properly for snow (or sand) you'll need to over-expose by about 3 stops.
     
  8. fieldsphotos, Dec 7, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015

    fieldsphotos macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Another option you have to take pictures of people in snow like your example photos is to use the spot meter function of your SL1. Set it to spot meter, then meter off the photo subject (the people, etc) and it should set the exposure closer to what you actually need to get the background snow white. It might still need some tweaks, so shooting in bracket mode is also helpful in these sorts of tricky situations.

    If you are trying to take a picture of a snow covered tree in the snow, then you will have to manually adjust the exposure to compensate for the snow like the above posters said.

    Edit: I forgot one more trick: Meter off the sky if it is a clear blue day. This will require to you to use the AE lock (auto exposure lock) function. You basically aim the camera at the sky, set the AE lock button to lock in the exposure, then recompose your shot, focus, and shoot.


    BTW - I highly recommend the book "understanding exposure" by Bryan Peterson. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exposure-3rd-Edition-Photographs/dp/0817439390 It is an awesome short book that explains exposure issues in a very clear and concise way as well as giving lots of tips and tricks like the blue sky exposure rule.
     
  9. glenthompson macrumors 68000

    glenthompson

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    #9
    Another trick I was taught was to use the palm of your hand for metering. It is close to 18% gray.
     
  10. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #10
    The clear blue sky trick varies depending on where you are in the world. Here in the Pacific NorthWest, it's dead-on.

    Dale
     
  11. matt9013 thread starter macrumors 6502

    matt9013

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    Oct 27, 2013
    #11
    You are right. I kept thinking it was bright out but it was an overcast day so not to bright but the snow was whiter than what it turned out in the pic.
     
  12. matt9013 thread starter macrumors 6502

    matt9013

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    #12
    For anyone with knowledge of an SL1, am I doing the exposures right? In go to M mode and go to exposure. When I turn the dial I get my two lines going left and right. So it turns out like -1/+1 or -2/+2. I can't seem to just change it to +1 or +2.

    Instruction manual was useless.
     
  13. fieldsphotos, Dec 7, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2015

    fieldsphotos macrumors 6502

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    #13
    That sounds like you are in the auto exposure bracket menu (AEB) not the exposure settings.

    If you change the mode to M you will need to adjust either the shutter speed or the aperture until the needle in the viewfinder is at plus 2. Usually on canons you adjust the two values using the dial on the top of the camera and the dial on the back. (I can't remember which is which). Press the shutter button halfway down while looking through the viewfinder to see the current values and the arrow showing where your exposure is. While the screen is active in the viewfinder you can turn the dials to change the value, and you should see the arrow location change as you alter the exposure.

    Edit: follow the directions on page 119 of your manual: http://gdlp01.c-wss.com/gds/5/0300010915/01/eos-rebelsl1-100d-im-en.pdf#page119
     
  14. JDDavis macrumors 65816

    JDDavis

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    #14
    I'm not a snow picture taking expert but I've done it enough to say that the best pics in the snow, especially of people, plants, animals (non-landscape) come from bright sunny days. This of course makes it harder to expose correctly for both the subject and the snow (especially if you want some definition in the snow and not just pure white). Overcast days will generally require a lot of tweaking in some good post software to bring the levels and white balance back to where you want them (even when you do a good job in camera) and you'll probably introduce a good bit of noise doing it. Of course, a lot of folks take really good "gloomy" or faded looking images these days where foggy, overcast, or poor light conditions kind of help.

    Snowy landscape pics are tough too. You need the sun to show definition but a solid blue sky can be boring sometimes. Success really does depend on the conditions outside and sometimes that comes down to good planning or luck (really both). Try black and white sometimes too. I find a really good black and white image in the snow even more intriguing than color sometimes. Especially when there is bright whites and deep shadows or an almost black sky. You can push the black and white a little further too (at least I feel you can).
     
  15. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #15
    Really? You need to see a doctor! :D
     
  16. mofunk macrumors 68000

    mofunk

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    #16
  17. tgara macrumors 6502a

    tgara

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    #17
    I have an SL1. Exposure Compensation doesn't work in Manual mode because you are already manually setting the exposure parameters. As a general matter, Exposure compensation is used in the automatic or semi-automatic modes to adjust from the factory-set 18% gray that the camera will use. In your snow setting (and in beach settings), the scene is bright, so the camera wants to reduce the exposure to preset 18% gray. You have to override that setting with Exposure Compensation (EC) and adjust the exposure back up.

    When I use my SL1, I set the Mode Dial to Av mode. Pick an aperture setting like f/8 to start, and set your camera to ISO 400. The camera will choose a fast shutter speed by itself. Look through the viewfinder, compose the scene, focus on the subject, and press the shutter button halfway to activate the meter. While the meter is active, with your thumb press and hold the "Av+/-" button that is to the right of the LCD screen while at the same time using your index finger to rotate the Main Dial to adjust the exposure up or down. In the viewfinder you will see the exposure meter move to the + side or - side. For your snow scene, try +1 stop. Take the picture and see how it looks. If you need more compensation, add another 1/2 stop.

    Also: The EC adjustment will remain until you change it back. So don't forget to reset this after you've used it!!

    Edit: This is all explained in the manual on page 123 under Setting Exposure Compensation.
     

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