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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that we have snow all around, we will most likely be taking pictures with snow in them.

Is snow white? Does snow look white in your photos? Alas, with auto exposure cameras, snowy pictures are often underexposed and the snow looks quite gray or blueish.

To avoid this you can advance the exposure index a bit in the + direction. This will increase the exposure and your snow will look white.

Have a great day!
 

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In Utah County, the snow usually is grey.....except for those pesky yellow spots in the front yard.
 

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Hmm, I've always had a different experience when shooting snow. On sunny days, the intensity of the reflections off the snow will fool my exposure meter and auto white balance.

True, increasing the exposure compensation (+) will overexpose the snow, making it appear more and more white until it is blown out and loses texture & detail. To keep the texture in the snow on sunny days I set a manual white balance using the snow itself as a reference, and then generally decrease exposure (about -0.7) to get white snow and plenty of detail.

On cloudy snow days, I find that the "Cloudy" white balance setting often achieves the same result, and will again shoot at a -0.3 to -0.7 exposure compensation.

Tricky stuff, the hard part is getting white snow that still has texture.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Tricky stuff, the hard part is getting white snow that still has texture.
Isn't that the truth?

Yes, overexposure will wipe out the details on any frame. The problem is the way the camera measures for the exposure. It may sample the whole frame, or just a part of it, but whatever the case, it will average the frame or sampled portion therof, and set the exposure appropriately. If there is a large amount of white in the sampled area, the frame will be underexposed, and snow will not be white.

The thing that stumps me is how to get the sparkle of the snow when the sun is shining. Maybe our monitors are not capable of reproducing such brilliant lights?

A similar problem arises sometimes if you are trying to take a picture of something in a tree, and there is a lot of light sky in the frame, and the subject is backlit. By advancing the exposure index in the + direction you can expose properly for the subject.
 

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James said:
If there is a large amount of white in the sampled area, the frame will be underexposed, and snow will not be white.
Well said -- most cameras look at a sunny snow photo and say "WOW! This is brightly lit!" Then the meter selects an exposure that is too low. Adding compensation of +0.7 or +1 fixes that keenly.

The large amount of white in the frame also creates trouble for the auto white balance feature of most cameras. Use of proper white balance, which sometimes has to be set manually using an in-frame reference or gray card, will result in white snow without increased exposure. If it's really bright, decreasing the exposure comp will then retain sparkle and detail in the snow. I like using Photoshop's unsharp mask feature at 150% with a 0.3 pixel radius to sharpen the fine texture detail too.

Let it snow! I think we have another storm coming this weekend. Here's a quick pic from the back yard, manual WB, -0.3 exposure comp. Not sure much detail will be present after sizing the photo for the forum, but texture is maintained in the snow.

 
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