Tips on Photographing Snow

3

Here are some tips for photographing during wintertime: setting the correct exposure values under the unusual light conditions created by snow and ice.

Credits: trychydts

Photographing snow and/or ice can be a tricky business. If you set your aperture/shutter values according to settings what you are used to, you may see that the snow is a single, washed-out patch without any detail in it. It flattens you picture and does not make it very lifelike. Here I will try to provide an explanation why is that; also you can read some simple tips to achieve better results while photographing when there is a lot of snow around. The article is mainly for beginners; black belt photographers sleeping with a light meter under their pillows should find very little new information here.

You will need:

  1. A camera in good working order
  2. Large quantites of frozen water out in the open (i. e. “snow” or “ice”).
  3. A light meter (purely optional)

What it is the problem?
Simply put: your picture got overexposed. What does it mean?

On a photo, due to the limitations of the film, there can be only a limited difference between the darkest and the lightest spot. On a color negative film, this ratio is approximately 1:256 — meaning the brightest areas can be no more that 256 times brighter then the darkest areas. Your image is correctly exposed if what you wanted to photograph is in that tonal range. Consult the image below; lets suppose it is a sunny, snowy day with some people and a black cat strolling around:

Areas too light are going to be burnt out (appear all white), since all the emulsion will be dissolved from the film. Areas too dark will fade away (there will be not enough light to make a distinct mark in the emulsion, so basically you will see black shadows without any detail on these parts of the photo.) On this picture of mine you can see what I am talking about. In that photo, I had to intentionally burn out the snow in order to make the branches of the tree before the darkish background visible:

Credits: trychydts

In that case, that was a compromise – let’s see what can we do if we do not have to make such decisions.

During wintertime, the extra factor you have to count in is that snow is white. Meaning it will be very, very bright compared to almost everything else on the photo — and it will also reflect a fairly large amount of incoming light; it will serve as a secondary light source. However, you should keep in mind that although snow is white, it is not washed-out white: it’s delicate texture formed by ice crystals is visible beacuse it consisted of many, extremely light shades. If you want to see the texture of the snow (so if you want to see the difference between the very light shades instead of burning them all out), you should make sure that it fells into the 1:256 range mentioned above.

Of course, the diagrams above are a rough estimate and were based on the assumption of bright sunlight. Since snow strongly reflects light, every tone but the darkest become much brighter in snow, so few thing will actually fade to black.

The rule of thumb

A simple and fairly good method to make things right it is if you set the camera as if the light conditions were one step brighter than they actually are. (In essence, you have to underexpose an overexposed picture.) For example, you should set your Diana to “hazy sunlight” instead of “cloudy” — if you are using an instant camera, you should use exposure compensation. This will push the optimally exposed range towards the lighter tones. Besides, you don’t have to worry about the darker areas, too, since the snow provides a beautiful, diffuse, secondary light source — so it will illuminate everything else. So although you formally underexposed the picture, your photo in actuality is going to be fairly well exposed.

I did exactly the same thing in Szeged (a beautiful Hungarian city). I used my Diana with ISO 200 film, but I did not adjust the setting; I used it as I had loaded ISO 400 film. Normally it would have resulted in umderexposed photos — however, under these extreme conditions the were exposed just fine.

Credits: trychydts

Using a light meter

If you happen to have a light meter (old models can be acquired fairly cheap in many countries), or you camera has a light meter, then your job is even more easier. Light meters (built in and separately used models) usually have the option of “spot metering” – instead of calculating the average illumination, they meter the correct exposure on one spot. Direct your meter onto the snow and read the values – you can adjust your camera according to that. You do not want the average metering because now you are interested in the higher end of spectrum – in the light tones of snow.

I found it slightly better to use a light meter even with my Diana: sometimes an adjustment of not one, but two steps were required:

Credits: trychydts

Summary

The exposure settings pre-defined on the camera were calibrated to normal circumstances: when grass is green, soil is brown and sky is blue. When everything is covered in a white, highly reflective substance, you should do some calculation yourself: intentionally “underexposing” your pictures in order to get the right exposure.

written by trychydts on 2012-03-08 in #gear #tipster #overexposure #exposure #tutorial #snow #settings #underexposure #camera #winter #metering

3 Comments

  1. mikeydavies
    mikeydavies ·

    brilliant article, truly great :)

  2. trychydts
    trychydts ·

    Thanks! :)

  3. wyrdchoice
    wyrdchoice ·

    This article was really helpful, thanks!

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomo’Instant on a Sunny Day

    written by jacobs on 2014-11-06 in #gear #tipster
    Lomo’Instant on a Sunny Day

    I recently had the opportunity to take the world’s most creative instant camera — the Lomo'Instant — for a stroll on an unusually warm and sunny November day. My goal was to acquaint myself with the endlessly cool features and infinite possibilities the camera possesses while creating some beautiful photographs in the meantime. Read on to see the results!

  • Indoor/Low-Light Photography Tips: Catch the Lights!

    written by adi_totp on 2014-10-11 in #gear #tipster
    Indoor/Low-Light Photography Tips: Catch the Lights!

    Don't be afraid of taking photos indoors or under low-light conditions. As long as there's light around us, the camera will be ready to shoot. Here's a tipster for you. Just remember to catch the lights!

    6
  • Countdown to Film Photography Day 2015: Week 2 Challenge

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-03-19 in #world #competitions
    Countdown to Film Photography Day 2015: Week 2 Challenge

    Are your ready for another week of sharing photographs and spreading love for film photography? Here is the second set of themes and hashtags for our #filmphotographyday2015 challenge!

  • Shop News

    Feed your LC-A 120 the finest emulsions and save!

    Feed your LC-A 120 the finest emulsions and save!

    Shoot more with LC-A 120 without breaking your budget! The Phoblographer Editor’s Choice Award Winner now comes in a Bundle with 120 format film at 15% off!

  • Summer With Your Shutter: Super Sunny Summer Tips

    written by adi_totp on 2014-08-15 in #gear #tipster
    Summer With Your Shutter: Super Sunny Summer Tips

    It's always summer where I am. Ah, the perks of living in Indonesia: it's sunny here all the time. For me, summer happens all year-long here, so it won't hurt to share some tips on shooting during this season.

    2
  • LomoAmigo Galleries: Asher Moss shoots with the New Petzval Lens

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2014-06-04 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo Galleries: Asher Moss shoots with the New Petzval Lens

    For the third leg of this gallery series of photos by Asher Moss, the “Models in the Morning” photographer showcases his creativity in a different light. Touches of sensuality are very subtle in this set, with Moss’ exploration of the New Petzval Lens yielding artistic and compelling results.

  • Lomo Amigos: The Oscillation

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-08-29 in #people #lomoamigos
    Lomo Amigos: The Oscillation

    The Oscillation are a UK-based Psychedelic space-rock band formed in London in 2006. The band's live shows are a cacophony of growling guitars and hypnotic drum rhythms accompanied by some trippy analogue light shows from experimental filmmaker Julian Hand and light show artist Julian Hand. We gave them an LC-A+ and sent them out into the night! Read on for more.

  • Shop News

    LC-Wide Elite Kit

    LC-Wide Elite Kit

    The LC-Wide Elite Kit gathers all the accessories you would ever need for your Lomo LC-Wide.

  • A Salute to the Masters: Sports Through A Plastic Lens (A Tribute to David Burnett)

    written by sirio174 on 2014-06-21 in #lifestyle
    A Salute to the Masters: Sports Through A Plastic Lens (A Tribute to David Burnett)

    The great American photographer David Burnett is famous for his unusual photos of sports competitions. He uses a tilt-shift lens to create miniature fakes, or a simple Holga camera to shoot in black and white. To write this tribute, I used my Holga to take some pictures of amateur sport activities around my city. Take a look after the jump.

  • Far and Wide with the Russar+ Lens

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-10-09 in #lifestyle
    Far and Wide with the Russar+ Lens

    Paired with your camera of choice, the New Russar+ Lens can produce exceptional images wide-angle dreams are made of. Whether you're in the market for stunning landscapes or striking street photos, the Russar+ makes an ideal companion during those photographic expeditions. Dan from Lomography Hong Kong recently shot with the wide-angle wonder, and here are some of the photos from his shoot.

  • Lomo’Instant Quick Shots: Adam Powell

    written by hannah_brown on 2014-11-04 in #gear #tipster
    Lomo’Instant Quick Shots: Adam Powell

    There are so many exciting things you can do with the Lomo'Instant camera, it's hard to know where to start! We've been giving this lovable Lomo camera the full test drive so that you can experience its full potential in an instant! Here are some top tips on shooting very long exposures in dark places.

    3
  • Shop News

    Diana F+ Premium Glass Bundle

    Diana F+ Premium Glass Bundle

    Diana F+ and Diana+ 75mm Premium Glass Lens are now ready to give you the best shots with vignetting effects, crisp quality shots together with the signature dreamy appeal of the Diana! Save 15% on the Glass Lens in this Bundle!

  • Pee Film Soak By Brigette Bloom

    written by chooolss on 2014-08-07 in #gear #tipster
    Pee Film Soak By Brigette Bloom

    Photographer Brigette Bloom's series "Float On" and her rather unusual film soak recipe has been making the rounds in the Internet recently. But just in case you haven't seen it yet, Brigette has given us the green light to republish her recipe right here in the magazine's Tipster section! As she has so rightly put it, "Let’s all support each other and spread the creative energy!" Check out Brigette's tipster right after the cut!

    5
  • Ilford Black and White Film Development Experiment

    written by jaymeephotography on 2014-07-04 in #gear #tipster
    Ilford Black and White Film Development Experiment

    Here are some self portraits that I took using my Lubitel 2 and a roll of expired film. I used old chemicals, an incorrect ratio, and I under fixed the film during development and washed it in boiling hot water. See how it all turned out.

  • How to Break the Ice with the Lomo'Instant

    written by antoniocastello on 2014-11-20 in #lifestyle
    How to Break the Ice with the Lomo'Instant

    New York is full of interesting people. Everywhere you look you, will find good-looking, smart, and powerful characters; models, actresses, entrepreneurs, managers, artists. Because of this sometimes it can be a little intimidating for a regular guy in the Big Apple to step up, talk to the girl you like, or make new friends. So here are a few tips, courtesy of the Lomo'Instant, that will help you to break the ice.