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Photographing Snow & Exposure Compensation

Why do we expose positively when photographing the snow?

I visited Tahoe for the first time in February. It is supposed to be the snow paradise, but as you may know, this has been a dry year, so there wasn’t that much snow.

Anyways, there was enough for people to sky and for me to go dog sledding. SO MUCH FUN! if you want to see a little bit of it you can go visit my UStream channel and watch some videos!

But back to photography. The problem photographing in the snow is that (and you will notice that on the videos) when you photograph at zero exposure compensation, snow look gray and everything else looks really dark.

Well, this is a small reminder of why it looks gray and how to change it!

EV +2/3

First… remember that when the exposure meter in the camera measures the light and determines the correct Exposure Value (if you do not know what this is, you can go see the terms glossary), it is trying to make all the elements that are being photographed look neutral gray.

That is why, if you are photographing a white scene, an EV of zero would make it look grayish and not white. Also, if you are photographing a scene that is mostly black, the EV of zero will make it look dark gray and not black.

When you are deciding the EV for a photograph, you should consider the tone of the objects and adjust the exposure (the final EV value) to make them look as close to reality as possible. These variations in the value of EV are called Exposure Compensation.

EV +2/3

So if you are photographing a scene that is mostly white, you should let your camera know, by making it let more light than at EV zero so things can look white in your image. That is, over exposing the photograph, but for the right reasons!

EV +1 1/3. This is too over exposed, the sky is completely white. But I guess it did not matter much, because it was white anyways!

Now, the more white you have, the more positive exposure compensation you need, and that is something that you can decide after the first photograph.

So, what I did with this particular shooting was, I took one photo on EV +1, just to check how much I needed to compensate positively. The image had 60 percent snow and 40 percent of darker toned objects. Then I looked at the histogram and very little was clipping to the right, so that was almost perfect exposure!

Example of how to determine how much exposure compensation was needed. EV+1

From then on, if I had more white than that first photo, I went even more +, if I had less white, I went less +, but just around 1/3 up and down, no drastic changes.

EV +1
EV +1
EV +1
EV +1

Once in post production, only the two photos below needed some help in the blacks, but just a little to help saturate colors. I probably was too excited looking at the dogs and I forgot to adjust my exposure compensation! There was 50-50 of white and black in those photos!

EV +2/3
EV +2/3

2 Responses

  1. Giselle Redondo V. says:

    Excelente su página, su blog, sus fotografías. Deseara tener más tiempo para asistir a otro de sus cursos.
    Le deseo más éxitos!

    (soy la prof. del TEC que recibió curso con usted por medio de CONARE)

  2. mqcphoto says:

    Hola Doña Giselle! Siempre un gusto oir de usted! Gracias por su comentario tan alentador y espero realmente nos podamos encontrar de nuevo!

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