And then I learned two super simple secrets and I've never looked back.
There are plenty of complicated things you can do to get truly stellar snow photos, but for just taking pictures of the kids sledding in the backyard, these two tricks will make a world of difference.
Want to know what they are?
1. Set a custom white balance
2. Over expose.
This photo was taken on aperture priority setting. Because the camera decides how to expose a photo based on the amount of light it sees, it will underexpose snowy scenes because it reads all that white snow as light. The result is a "perfect" exposure and grey snow. Nobody likes grey snow. Yuck.
And if you let the camera choose the white balance, it will generally be too cool and turn your snow blue. So now you are left with grey-blue snow and frustration.
So, let's see what happens when we over expose the photo by a bit, shall we? You can keep the camera set on aperture priority (which is what I prefer to do when shooting my children) and just set an exposure override--check your manual for directions. I set mine to +2/3, but sometimes I take it all the way to +1 or more, depending on the conditions. It was an unusually sunny day, so +2/3 was perfect.
Okay, so now that we are letting more light in, we've fixed the grey problem, as you can see in the sunny areas. But over exposing has now made the white balance (blue balance?) problem even more obvious.
Let's fix that by setting a custom white balance. Check your camera manual for how to do this on your own dSLR, but it will involve taking a photo of the snow and then setting the custom white balance based on that photo.
This is the same area of the yard--same snow, same shadows. And white snow! While Sophia and the dog have a slightly warmer color cast, I'll take that over blue snow any day.
Now, they aren't perfect. I could have metered off of the sky, or metered off of their faces, and set a better custom white balance than I did by using a grey card. And I'm sure there are a million other tips that I don't even know about, too. But, for some just-for-fun pictures in the backyard, I'm totally happy with these results.
Sophia agrees. I think. Actually, she's just thrilled to be outside in the sunshine! And she's silly. (If you want to see my favorite photos from this particular day, click HERE.)
And, because I couldn't resist, here's an up-close photo I took of the snow. I love how you can see the individual snowflakes in the areas of undisturbed snow. I don't have a good macro lens, but isn't it pretty?
Winter Carnival is coming up in a couple weeks, so look for photos of amazing snow statues soon!
Other photography tips:
Four Creative Ways to Photograph Your Christmas Lights
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See the linky parties I link up to here.