orthopedic pain management

Why is the snow grey? What happened?

Thanks to casil403 of our pho­tog­ra­phy forum for the use of these pics. So what hap­pened here? Why is the snow grey when every­one knows that snow is white.

Basic expo­sure is a com­mon area of con­fu­sion for new­com­ers in pho­tog­ra­phy and these pho­tos are PERFECT teach­ing tools.So what hap­pened here? Why is the snow grey(ish) — after all, the pho­tog­ra­pher used a cam­era meter right?

Grey snow

Grey snow

Here is why this shot did not come out. This is text­book basic expo­sure and you NEED to under­stand this if you want the fog to lift and move up a level with your pho­tog­ra­phy.‚ Here goes:

All a cam­era is, is hole with a flap over it. When the flap is lifted light hits film or a sen­sor. On mod­ern cam­eras, depend­ing on the set­ting you use, the camera’s meter sug­gests an expo­sure. This sug­ges­tion is good one in the fol­low­ing con­di­tion;

– When there is a good rep­re­sen­ta­tion of light and dark tones. This is called a nor­mal scene.

AT THIS POINT WE MUST SAY THAT THE CAMERA IS BLIND. IT DOES NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS LOOKING AT BECAUSE IT HAS NO BRAIN. ALL IT DOES IS AVERAGE OUT THE TONES IT SEES AND SPITS OUT AN EXPOSURE. ALTHOUGH THIS IS NOT INTUITIVE (FOR COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHY) THE COLOUR MID-GREY IS THAT MIDDLE TONE THAT THE CAMERA USES AS THE AVERAGE.

Since these shots above have a pre­pon­der­ance of white highly reflec­tive snow and NOT enough other tones to bal­ance out the scene, This is NOT a nor­mal scene. The camera’s meter there­fore, will NOT be accu­rate in cases like this (even if your cam­era costs 3,000‚ or 10,000 dol­lars) and if you use the camera’s meter read­ing in this case you will NEVER EVER get white snow. You have to make adjust­ments to the meter’s read­ing. This is why a mon­key can take a pic­ture, but not a good picture.

In this case, what the cam­era is doing is say­ing “Holy crap bat­man, look at all that white snow, it’s so bright; I bet­ter CUT the expo­sure to bal­ance out the scene”. That’s what the meter does here — It tells the cam­era to cut the expo­sure and so it is too dark. To rem­edy this you need to give the scene MORE light by increas­ing the expo­sure by 1 to 2 stops.

The exact oppo­site is true as well. Let’s say you have a white dog on black pave­ment or just a shot of black pave­ment. In that case the camera’s meter will say “Holy crap bat­man, look at all that black pave­ment , it’s so dark; I bet­ter INCREASE the expo­sure to bal­ance out the scene”. And in that case as well, the black pave­ment will look grey because the meter is try­ing to aver­age out the tones in the scene toward mid-grey. To rem­edy this you need to give the scene LESS light by decreas­ing the expo­sure by 1 to 2 stops.

I hope that made sense. You can fol­low the whole thread (topic) here on our pho­tog­ra­phy forum and read the advice of dif­fer­ent mem­bers. If you still have ques­tions, join for free and post in that thread (or start a new one). It’s our plea­sure to help.

Comments

  1. Alex Wilson says:

    For sun­lit snow, you’ll prob­a­bly need to adjust the expo­sure by 2–3 stops.

    If shoot­ing dig­i­tal, and your cam­era shows high­light blow-out pre­view, you prob­a­bly want the snow just hit­ting the blow-out.

  2. raiven says:

    Thanks for this Marko. Cor­rect expo­sure is one part of pho­tog­ra­phy that is a real strug­gle to ‘get’ at first.

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