Do your photos come out looking more like the one on the left or on the right? If you find your photos coming out more like the one on the left and wish that it was looking like the right, please do read on.
It is winter and here in New Jersey we are experiencing a cold and snowy season. Whether it is photos of the weather itself or of kids or that snowman your family built or of the mountain you are skiing or just a family portrait in the snow, there are lots of reasons to take out your camera and snap a few photos during the coldest months of the year. And snow photography can be quite fun as long as you understand the challenges. The first of which is how to properly expose your photos. While this post will be mildly technical, I promise you it won't be far too complex.
What is my camera thinking?
"I use auto mode on my camera and I want it to show snow as white and accurate but it is gray. Why doesn't my camera understand that I am photographing snow?"
Your camera sees an average over the "scene" in your viewfinder. Regardless of the scene that you are photographing, your camera thinks that the proper exposure, or amount of light to let in, should average to what is known as 18% gray. That is an average between black and white that usually looks reasonably good for most images. That means that any scene which is significantly lighter or darker will throw off the computer in your camera and tell it to over or under expose the image. Since a significant amount of your snow scene is white, it is telling your camera that it needs to let less light in and dull down the image to make it more gray in order to meet the 18% goal.
What can I do about it?
Depending on the complexity of your camera, there are a variety of ways to correct it and some camera's may not be able to fix it.
Let me know in case of questions. Happy shooting!