Two Secrets to Better Snow Photos

Do you ever get frustrated with your photos of the snow because the snow never looks white? I sure do. And living up here in the snow capital of the world with cool snow sculptures and lots of winter activities, I was getting really frustrated.

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?

Two Tricks to Better Snow Photos

1. Set a custom white balance

2. Over expose.

gray snow

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.

automatic white balance over exposed

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.

How to take better pictures in the snow

This is the same area of the yard—same snow, same shadows. And white snow! While my daughter and the dog have a slightly warmer color cast, I’ll take that over blue snow any day.

Two secrets to better snow photosTake better photos in the snowGet better snow photos nowSecrets to better snow photos

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.

Two easy ways to get better snow photos

My daughter agrees. I think. Actually, she’s just thrilled to be outside in the sunshine! And she’s silly.

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?

IMG_7476 snow glittering in the sun web

Winter Carnival is coming up in a couple weeks, so I’m excited to keep working on my snow photography skills.

Other photography tips:

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