Better photos in the snow. And at the
beach (yeah, you wouldn't think it's the same)
Our "Blizzard of the Century" has come
and gone in Aiken, South Carolina. We had 5" to 8" of snow
and it was all gone by the next day. It was a great day for
photos - people were thinking about next year's Christmas
card - but many of those photos looked too dark and gray.
Let's talk about why that happens so you'll be ready the
next time, and those instructions carry over to other
subject matter like a day at the beach.
Your camera has an automatic exposure
control, a light meter that controls the lens opening and
the shutter speed. And that metering system has a couple of
built-in assumptions which are not always accurate.
camera assumes that all subjects reflect about the same
amount of light. About 18% gray. So the camera will try to
make all the photos come out with an overall look that
reflects about 18% of the light. The camera will make the
lens opening (f stop) bigger to let in more light, or
smaller to admit less. And the camera will leave the shutter
open longer if it's dark, so the photo looks lighter.
Problem is, many subjects are not
supposed to be 18% gray! Show, for example, is supposed to
show up quite a bit lighter!
camera has no way of knowing what degree of lightness
(density) is a good representation of the subject.
That's why the snow and the card in the
photo above look much too dark. The camera left the shutter
less long than was really necessary, resulting in a "grey"
The same thing happens at the beach,
where the camera doesn't know enough to take a longer
exposure, making the beach brighter.
there's a simple answer. Almost every camera has an exposure
override, which has an icon looking like this +/- mark. this
allows you to make an adjustment to the exposure, making
your next photo look lighter (if you press the + button) or
darker (if you press the camera's - button). Usually it's a
two-step process - you press the button and then use the
camera's 4-way exposure control to go to the plus side.
That's for snow or sand or other subjects
that should be brighter than the camera's computer thinks.
On the other hand, when you're taking
photos of a stage presentation such as a graduation, there's
far more light on the subject that on the entire stage area.
The camera sees all that darkness surrounding the stage and
tries to brighten it up. More on
stage and sports photography.
Very important - don't forget to
set the +/- control back to neutral when you've finished the