Shooting snow

edited February 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
Hey Moose! I live in CT and we are going to get hit with a lot of snow. I am shooting at an old graveyard on Sunday with my camera club. What do you recommend for initial settings, seeing that there will be the dark stone of the gravestone against a pure white background? I'm not going to shoot with my manual lenses (I might bring the 20mm if I have time).

Thanks, Stephen


  • edited February 2017
    I think Moose may have some input here, but will interject in the mean time.

    The main issue for snow is that you must overexpose to avoid gray snow and silhouetted subjects.

    Depending on circumstances and the light, I would suggest you try exposure compensation if you're shooting in P, S or A modes, experimenting between +1 and +2. This will almost certainly result in the snow blowing out some, and losing detail, but for the most part that's unavoidable, and snow is mostly white anyway. You'll likely be getting a pretty high key image, which can work well if it's composed well, but you need to watch out that you don't have large areas that just look washed out.

    If you shoot in Raw mode you might be able to compensate less and pull out the shadows in post processing, but when you do this it's going to be noisier. It's always a good idea to shoot Raw anyway, as that also allows some exposure compensation and white balance adjustment.

    You can also try spot metering, which in many circumstances will give you a similar result to exposure compensation. Aim your spot (corresponds to the focus point) at what you want to be correctly exposed - in this case it would likely be a grave stone - and it will expose that, and ignore the rest.

    If you're actually trying to get detail from the snow - drifts and ice formations and such - you'll have to compensate less, and settle for some more blue-gray in the snow coloration than your naked eye sees. If you're after the gravestones and other dark features, you'll have to overexpose and let the snow go white.

    If you have not already, set enable the "overview" replay mode, so that you can review the histogram for shots, and the "highlights" view, which flashes blown out highlights. In a snow shot you're likely to get some flash, but you can decide what and where is important.

    The camera's auto white balance may go a little bluer than you like. Snow in general looks a little bluer in a photograph than our eyes pick up, but you may find, depending on weather, that "open sun" or "cloudy" white balance warms up your colors. If you shoot in Raw mode this can all be done in post.
  • As always thank you for the information!
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