We don't get a lot of snow in my part of Arizona but I do see a lot of snow pictures from friends and family elsewhere. One of the almost universal problems is with the snow in the pictures and the over all scene looking blue or perhaps dirty gray. That's caused by the camera trying to figure out the lighting of the bright snow and the "white balance" of the scene. If you're feeling brave you can Google "white balance" for a complete explanation.

Essentially one of the things the camera has to do is decide what is white in the picture and work from there in figuring out the image processing. With extreme scenes like a lot of snow, the camera is usually wrong and you get blue snow.

I'm going to use a friend's shot of her Corgi in the snow as an example.

Here's her shot:

The fix for the blue snow is really simple. Most image editing programs have the capability to set what's called the "white point," i.e. the whitest point in the photo that should be white. This is usually set by selecting a "set white point" tool of some sort and clicking on the area of the image that you think should be absolutely white. The software will then recalculate the rest of the image from that white point and shazaam! White snow:

That fix took just one click on the picture. No fancy stuff at all. And now you know how to make your snow pictures look more snowy.

You can also go two steps further and set a black point and gray point but mostly, just getting the white point correct does the trick well enough for our family and corgi photos.

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Comment by Gromit, Sparkle, and Doug on January 22, 2012 at 6:29pm

Glad you guys found the info useful.  Thanks, John, for expanding on the various techniques.  There is usually more than one way to solve an exposure problem with camera.

Comment by John Wolff on January 21, 2012 at 7:34pm

Snow scenes are almost always "backlighting" situations:  the camera sees all that light, and it doesn't let enough light in because it's calibrated for a 17% grey surface.  This is why your beach and snow photos are often underexposed.  Your camera has an exposure compensation feature somewhere handy.  Learn to use it and get good at it.  Experiment with overexposing snow/beach shots 1 or 2 stops.  DO NOT forget to return your setting to normal when you're done, or subsequent shots will be overexposed (you'll learn this the hard way, like I did).

Point-and shoots usually have various quick-and-dirty presets.  Mine includes a "Snow Scene".  I'd figured it just opens the exposure a stop or two, but maybe it adjusts white balance, too.

I usually just use the auto-adjust on the computer.

Be careful:  whenever you tweak a file, save it as a copy lest you wreck your original.  I add an "R" to the filename and save-as.


Once you know how to photograph backlit subjects, you can photograph people with the sun behind them.  You'll find their faces more relaxed, not squinting.  Side-lighted faces are also better for this reason (and also the shadows).

The way I bracket exposures is to simply "guess":  I'll take several frames:  1 set on the sky, 1 set on the subject, 1 set lower down (without the sky).  But digital photos are NOT free -- they cost time.

Comment by Laura and Tommy Jefferson on January 21, 2012 at 6:40pm

Thank you! Great tip! What a difference!!!

Comment by Beth on January 21, 2012 at 5:52pm

Thanks!  That's a great tip.  

Comment by Sam Tsang on January 21, 2012 at 5:43pm

Thumbs up!

Comment by Snickmom on January 21, 2012 at 5:16pm

Thanks! we are going to try to get the "kids" to the snow this winter. It's tough because when the weather is nice enough to brave the mountain roads, everyone else wants to go too, and the traffic is horrendous.

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