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Photography Question 
James C. Scott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/16/2006

Getting a Good Exposure in Snow

With the snow season coming up, could you give some pointers on making adjustments with the Digital Camera and the effect bright snow has on the camera? Thank you.

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10/26/2006 3:58:41 PM

Mike Rubin
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/15/2004
  You could try to meter the sky (if sunny), and then re-compose. Another thing to try is to compensate by +1.5 to +2 stops. The reason for this is that your meter will think the snow is very bright and it will give a false meter reading which means ,you may end up with gray snow if you don't compensate. It is not a typo, you want to ADD 1.5 to 2 stops.

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10/26/2006 6:20:10 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  Just expose with an incident reading, no adjustments.

You know actually I had two AE-1P's and I had never used them and they have a partial meter inside (or whatever it's called that measures the middle ~30% of the viewfinder). I metered off the sky and went from there. I was using Portra VC and with it's wide latitude I'm sure some exposures were way off but the darn film is so forgiving I just guessed exposure on half of them with the days trend and they came out good. The meter proved to be pretty reliable; now let's just see how they do with some picky Velvia, lol.

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10/26/2006 6:33:02 PM

Raymond H. Kemp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/2/2004
  I like the incident reading for that was my method back in my medium format days. But James S may be lacking a hand held incident meter in which he should follow what Mike suggested by compensating a plus 1.5 to 2.0 stops to correct the fooled reflective meters reading of all the sun bouncing up from the snow.

Justin how did you compensate for the bright sun off the tarmac in some of your air show images? I have found that produces near identical meter effects as snow.


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10/26/2006 6:47:38 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  James, if you don't have an incident hand-held meter, you can just get an 18% grey card and meter off of that. Before you take your shot, put the grey card in the same light your shot will be and point your camera at that. Now press down halfway and see what the meter says. Now shoot the scene the same as what the meter said.
You said you're shooting digital, so here's the best part. That whole immediate feedback thing everyone brags about ... USE IT! lol. Just shoot one and check it out on the LCD. If it's way off, the change your exposure to fix it. Now if it looks good, expose two more shots. One shot 1/2 stop over-exposed and another shot 1/2 stop under-exposed. This will give you 3 shots that are very close to each other but when you get on your monitor you can pick the best one. The reason I say bracket your exposures is because the LCD screen should only be used as a guideline. What looks good on there may not be a perfect exposure, so if you do the 1/2 under/over, then once you hop on the computer, you should have a perfect one. Hope this helps any.

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10/26/2006 9:42:56 PM

Fritz Geil   James, if you don't have an 18% grey card (and you must not, since you asked the question), meter the back of your hand, set the exposure +1 stop if you are caucasion, +1/2 stop if you are Asian, and use the meter reading if you are African. Set this value on Manual, then shoot to your heart's content. Incidently, this works in all situations, as long as your hand is in substantially the same light as the subject. This method is accurate enough for many professionals, even using chrome with its notoriously narrow exposure latitude.

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10/31/2006 1:29:18 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  A deep blue sky on a sunny day will give an accurate meter reading but only if the angle of the sun is low and is behind you.

Metering off one's hand is done quite often but keep in mind that skin tones vary and it can be difficult to isolate what will meter correctly based upon one's race.
Generally speaking, what has worked well on YOUR hand will work again in the same light at another place and time.

Metering bright colors has always worked for me when analyzing the light falling upon winter scenics.
Quite often I'll wear a bright red hat when afield and simply toss it into the snow to get a quick meter reading.
This works in shaded areas, when the light is diffused by cloud cover, and also in bright sunlit snowscapes.

Or, you can just meter off the snow itself and set to over-expose it by 2 stops if the sun is shining on it,...1 stop over if the sun is diffused by a thin layer of clouds, and 1/2 stop over in deep shade.

You will probably find that the "hat trick" will recommend the same exposure settings in each scenario.

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11/1/2006 3:28:26 PM

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