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Thread: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

  1. #1
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    Default Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Hi all,

    Hopefully anyone with experience in taking pics of snow can enlighten me here.

    I just got my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 500D, and what I really miss from it is the snow white balance function which I had in my old Canon Powershot. Anyway, guess I'll just have to learn the more pro way of white balancing.

    The first photo I took below has a bluish tinge, which I assume is due to the white balancing. The setting used then was just 'Auto'. In such a case, when it's also cloudy (oh yes, it was really super cloudy that day. In fact, I don't know if the blue was caused by the cloudiness or the snow), what WB should I use? Cloudy? Or set to 'Custom'?

    I'm also not so sure on how to use the 'Custom WB' function. Yes, I've already read the manual, but still not too sure about it. When customizing the WB, I'm supposed to use a photo I took beforehand for its WB data. My question is, is that photo supposed to be how I want it, i.e. with the right composition, in Auto WB setting, or a zoom-in on the snow/white part, also in Auto WB setting?

    I've also read that in snow photography, I've to expose the photo by 1 stop. I assume this applies to landscape photos and not portrait, right? But even then, there's still something I don't understand. In some of the landscape photos I've taken (pls refer to Pic 2 below), the photo seems already overexposed as it is (the snow on the left side of the photo). If I increase the exposure by 1 or even 2 stops (like what some people advise), wouldn't it be even worse?

    I'm really still an amateur with my new camera. Please feel free to comment on anything. Any tips would also be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks a lot!

    The photos were taken with my EF-S 18-135 f3.5-5.6 lens.


    AE mode, ISO 100, f8, Auto WB


    AE mode, ISO 200, f14, Auto WB

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Hmm... now I've found a page that contradicts what I've read mostly.

    So, over or under expose? Or did I misinterprete anything?

  3. #3

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    second one is fine

    first one it depends on your purpose.

    do note, wb is almost always arbitrary, you do not need to get it "correct" per se, especially in landscape photography. it is more important for certain things such as product photography, documentary photography, event photography.

    do you understand metering? the answers to your questions will vary if you use spot metering versus centre weighted or matrix. for the former, you can choose to expose something correctly other than the snow. for example, a person standing in the midst of the snow. just spot meter on the person, 0 ev should do you fine.

    now, if you use centre weighted or matrix, like in #1 above - you can think of this way. if you are the camera, how often do you see scenes with a whole mass of white? not very often, right? now, if there is a lot of white in the scene, tell me, do you think the camera would want to give you an underexposed photo as a result of its confusion, or an overexposed photograph? obviously it would be the latter, and thus in #1, you should have commanded the camera to OVEREXPOSE, overwriting its programming.

    next, you might ask, why is #2 fine then? because #2 actually has significant amounts of non-white, and thus the camera has exposed it reasonably accurately. as to why you are getting the blown out snow (i.e. overexposed on the left), your trees are exposed correctly, and they will not get all of the light. the problem here is not that the exposure is "wrong" per se, it is that the camera sensor cannot handle such a wide dynamic range.

    for wb purposes, my advice is to leave it, shoot in RAW, correct in the RAW program, using the white/grey point selector. you will not have any problems finding a spot in a snow-filled photograph anyways. if you MUST get it in camera, it really depends on lighting conditions, etc. if you are in sunlit snow, then usually auto wb will not be a problem; if you are in overcast skies, then yes, you will tend to get a bluish cast.

    like i said earlier, it is not a "die die must have white snow". at times, a slight bluish cast can help with the mood you wish to portray.



    (btw, the cast was added in post)

    and again



    asking yourself these questions will help you achieve what you want to have, along with understanding how your camera works - that is how photographs should be produced. there is no one size fits all solution, i'm sorry, you have to shoot, make mistakes, learn, and try not to make them again. reading alone is not enough, you have to understand, and apply, and understand more.

    have fun in snow.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    if you have not understood what i said about metering, please take the time to read excerpt of sulhan's notes here, in this order, it is quite comprehensive and easy to understand:

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showp...32&postcount=9

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showp...3&postcount=10

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showp...6&postcount=11

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showp...0&postcount=12

    full thread here, also worth your time if you are new.

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=309544

  5. #5
    Moderator ed9119's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    +1.5 to +2 ev Over
    shaddap and just shoot .... up close
    Walkeast

  6. #6

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    how do you guys take photos in winter?

    wear gloves - can't feel the buttons - can't even hit the smaller buttons properly - no way to use a CPL

    don't wear gloves - fingers frozen


    I'm in Istanbul now and it's snowing and raining and very windy!!

  7. #7
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by crazybugger View Post
    how do you guys take photos in winter?

    wear gloves - can't feel the buttons - can't even hit the smaller buttons properly - no way to use a CPL

    don't wear gloves - fingers frozen


    I'm in Istanbul now and it's snowing and raining and very windy!!
    If it is raining, it can't be that cold...

    I just came back from a trip to northeast china near the russian and N korean border. When I was there the coldest was around -25 deg C. Sure I wore gloves, but I wore leather gloves, one of those dual layers one, not the mountain climbing thick type. And yes, it was still very cold with those gloves on, but I can still press buttons (if done carefully), turn dials and shoot.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    oh ambient temps only range between -5 to 2 deg C, hence the rain and snow.
    But the real killer is the wind. Wind chill brings temps down to about -15 and the wetness just makes things even more miserable.

    think got to go shopping around for thinner / better gloves ... mine are quite bulky. Can work the camera trigger and dials but can't use the phone properly with them on.

  9. #9
    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by crazybugger View Post
    oh ambient temps only range between -5 to 2 deg C, hence the rain and snow.
    But the real killer is the wind. Wind chill brings temps down to about -15 and the wetness just makes things even more miserable.

    think got to go shopping around for thinner / better gloves ... mine are quite bulky. Can work the camera trigger and dials but can't use the phone properly with them on.
    Imagine -20 deg C WITH wind chill. That was what we fought in NE china.

    The conditions you went through sounds like any typical winter day in Shanghai. I have already gotten used to that. The secret is in wearing an outer jacket that is good at breaking the wind with an inner fleece layer. Northface 2 layer jackets come to mind. The other option is to go for down feather jackets.

    As for gloves, the following look really attractive:
    http://products.lowepro.com/product/...loves,1990.htm
    http://dancarrphotography.com/blog/2...he-pow-photog/
    http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/p...sty-220182.php
    Last edited by daredevil123; 4th February 2010 at 01:03 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by crazybugger View Post
    how do you guys take photos in winter?

    wear gloves - can't feel the buttons - can't even hit the smaller buttons properly - no way to use a CPL

    don't wear gloves - fingers frozen


    I'm in Istanbul now and it's snowing and raining and very windy!!
    I was like michael jackson, wear only on left hand, the right hand no gloves (to fiddle with buttons).

    Without wind chill, was around -5 degrees at the time.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    thanks bros!!

    i will go to local photo stores to see if they got any photo gloves


    any idea if any of the stores in sgp might stock such stuff? photo stuff here in istanbul is about 1.5x cost in sgp!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    i remember taking at grand canyon -20C.
    simple: compose, take out glove, press shutter, put back glove and zhao. repeat another 20 times. change hand to take out glove haha
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Numnumball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by wildsoyabean View Post
    i remember taking at grand canyon -20C.
    simple: compose, take out glove, press shutter, put back glove and zhao. repeat another 20 times. change hand to take out glove haha
    Like wise, but when i was there, it ain't that bad, it was only ard 4C but damn strong winds..
    So thats when ur tripod and cable release comes in.. (in that case u wun have to worry abt havin to remove ur gloves)
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  14. #14

    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by Numnumball View Post
    Like wise, but when i was there, it ain't that bad, it was only ard 4C but damn strong winds..
    So thats when ur tripod and cable release comes in.. (in that case u wun have to worry abt havin to remove ur gloves)
    Not just the shutter leh, still have to fiddle with the dials. I can't do it with the gloves on.

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    Default Re: Snow Photography -WB & Exposure

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    second one is fine

    first one it depends on your purpose.

    do note, wb is almost always arbitrary, you do not need to get it "correct" per se, especially in landscape photography. it is more important for certain things such as product photography, documentary photography, event photography.

    do you understand metering? the answers to your questions will vary if you use spot metering versus centre weighted or matrix. for the former, you can choose to expose something correctly other than the snow. for example, a person standing in the midst of the snow. just spot meter on the person, 0 ev should do you fine.

    now, if you use centre weighted or matrix, like in #1 above - you can think of this way. if you are the camera, how often do you see scenes with a whole mass of white? not very often, right? now, if there is a lot of white in the scene, tell me, do you think the camera would want to give you an underexposed photo as a result of its confusion, or an overexposed photograph? obviously it would be the latter, and thus in #1, you should have commanded the camera to OVEREXPOSE, overwriting its programming.

    next, you might ask, why is #2 fine then? because #2 actually has significant amounts of non-white, and thus the camera has exposed it reasonably accurately. as to why you are getting the blown out snow (i.e. overexposed on the left), your trees are exposed correctly, and they will not get all of the light. the problem here is not that the exposure is "wrong" per se, it is that the camera sensor cannot handle such a wide dynamic range.

    for wb purposes, my advice is to leave it, shoot in RAW, correct in the RAW program, using the white/grey point selector. you will not have any problems finding a spot in a snow-filled photograph anyways. if you MUST get it in camera, it really depends on lighting conditions, etc. if you are in sunlit snow, then usually auto wb will not be a problem; if you are in overcast skies, then yes, you will tend to get a bluish cast.

    like i said earlier, it is not a "die die must have white snow". at times, a slight bluish cast can help with the mood you wish to portray.



    (btw, the cast was added in post)

    and again



    asking yourself these questions will help you achieve what you want to have, along with understanding how your camera works - that is how photographs should be produced. there is no one size fits all solution, i'm sorry, you have to shoot, make mistakes, learn, and try not to make them again. reading alone is not enough, you have to understand, and apply, and understand more.

    have fun in snow.
    Wow, thanks for the comprehensive explanation. I'm still haven't figured out Metering, and those notes would really come in useful.

    BTW, your photos are awesome! I long for the day when I can take photos like that.

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