It is mid-February and it seems there is one snow storm after another in the news lately. So it seemed a good time to offer some tips that might help you to get better photos in snowy scenes.
Don’t trust your camera’s exposure meter!
The one thing that can help your snowy scene photos more than anything else is to override your camera’s exposure setting. It might help to understand that your camera’s exposure meter is programmed to do one thing, determine the proper exposure settings to give your image a medium tone result. Specifically, exposure meters attempt to make everything neutral 18% grey. When you are photographing a snowy scene, you do not want that! So, what do you do?
Here is an example which shows the result you would get by letting your camera simply choose the exposure settings for you (auto exposure). As you can see, the photo looks dark and grey. Sort of “murky”. This is because the camera meter analyzes the scene and sets an exposure to make everything the average medium tone I referred to earlier. In a scene full of bright white snow, the camera makes the image darker than it should be. The meter is fooled by the scene and mistakenly underexposes the image. So how do we go about fixing this?