need more light for bright winter scenes

I am sitting here looking through the studio window at the falling snow.  Who knows how much we actually may get but could easily be 2 feet or more.  I hope by Sunday the snow stops so many of us can get out there and shoot some snowy landscapes. 

A common problem in digital photography is capturing this bright of a scene.  The camera's meter is often fooled by such a bright scene and we wind up capturing gray snow.   Not at all as it looked in person.  But hey, at least it's not yellow snow.

The easy fix is to reach for the exposure compensation dial.  It usually has a +/- label.  Most digital SLR's will have this setting that will overide what the camera thinks it should do.  Or more accurately, add or decrease exposure after it determines what it should do from its own meter reading.  It almost sounds backwards, but you will often need to raise the exposure compensation value in a bright scene,  thus letting more light hitting the camera sensor.

What, more light in an already bright scene?

photo by Tom Rothenberg

Yes indeed.  The camera's exposure meter is calibrated for middle-gray. With that much white dominating a scene it determines that this must be middle gray. Providing you the lovely gray snow.  It happens in most digital cameras.  In fact, if you have a point-and-shoot camera that has a setting for snow or winter, that is exactly what it is doing.  It takes the normal reading and says to itself,  "Self, that metered x and just to make sure we get white snow, let in some extra light to be certain".

For DSLR camera's there is no set rule for how much to compensate, but it can typically between +1/2 stop to a full stop or more.  You simply dial in the compensation to the desired level and go for it.  Start small and take a look at the back of your camera and adjust as necessary.  

If you utilize your histogram, and you should be, it is also not uncommon to clip some highlights in a wintery scene. There could be areas of the image that are completely blown out and without detail.  Something we usually try hard to avoid.  But in small doses, can be quite pleasing in our winter wonderland images. 

Have fun in the snow everyone.