Exposure is snow joke

Last week England was hit by a cracking few days of snow. Of course, everything completely ground to a halt, but for this toy photographer, it was a bit of a dream come true!

I rushed out into the garden and took as many photos as I could think of! We’re not likely to see snow again like this for another 5 years!

LEGO minifigure holding a camera in the snow
Toy photographer out and about in all weathers

All this snow photography got me thinking about exposure (camera exposure, not the freezing to death kind). When I’ve taken pictures in the snow in the past, they’ve always been a bit underwhelming. And I think that where I have been going wrong is not changing the exposure settings on my camera (I mean, sure you can always do this in post, but I really don’t like editing so much!)

So this time, armed with a little more camera knowledge, (thank you Henry Carroll) I tried some exposure experiments to see how it improved my photos and whether I could get rid of those grey undertones my snow photos have always come out with.

The photos below are all un-edited (except for a small crop) just so we get a feel for what exposure can do.

Example 1

First up, we have Olaf! Because who can resist a happy snowman!

The first photo I took, I left the exposure set to 0. The second, I boosted it to 2. This might be too bright for some people, but I love how Olaf pops out of the whiteness! No more grey!!

  • LEGO Olaf in the snow
    Happy snowman: Exposure set to 0.

Example 2

In my second example, I actually took a photo at three different exposure points. Set to 0, set to 1, and set to 2. Here, because there is more non-snowy background, I feel that setting it to 2 made it a much nicer photo (although getting it in focus also helped!)

  • LEGO Snape and Olaf
    Snape and Olaf: Exposure set to 0.

The change from 0 to 2, without any other editing, is really what makes me realise how important a tool exposure is in your photography toolkit. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about before, never really touching that exposure button, leaving it set to 0 and just fixing issues in post-processing. However, to get that bright look for snow, without playing around with the settings later, making this quick change before taking the shot really makes the world of difference.

Since all the snow has now gone, I’m just left with over 400 photos taken in 3 days to sort through! At least I won’t have to play with the exposure settings on them anymore! Did you get any snow? I know James did last week! Make sure you check out that post too! Us toy photographers do seem to love it when it snows! If you did take any snowy toy photos, why not share a link to them in the comments? We’d love to see how you got on!

  • Lizzi

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  1. Joshua Kittleson

    Great article, I love the idea of shooting in the snow, but I struggle to get it to look right. or at least as right as i want it, so I don’t do it very often. But ill try this the next time I get some of that white stuff

    • Lizzi

      A very slippery issue indeed! I guess it might be a personal thing, but I love my snow to be bright and like a white sheet! Maybe it’s because normally all the snow I see still has grass poking through! 😀

  2. brett_wilson

    Yet another bunch of snow photos to make me jealous! At least these ones came with a lesson.
    As I shoot a lot in shade, or morning/evening light, I tend to fiddle with exposure. As you say, the less time needed to adjust things in post the better.
    And 400 photos in 3 days?! Does that mean I’m going to jealous for quite some time?

    • Sorry! Usually it’s me being very jealous of the snow! It doesn’t happen that often here!
      There’s a lot of repeats in those numbers – and a lot of failures! But yes, I still have a LOT of snow photos to share! 😉

  3. JP

    I love this. I took a few really good shots in the snow, but for me ended with issues around focus which I didn’t spot till afterwards. Still, good for something to watch out for, snow or no snow.

  4. Reiterlied

    I’ve become quite familiar with the problem. I know that one way to avoid having to change the exposure compensation is to switch from the light metering from matrix to spot metering. But I never managed to understand how to use that feature properly. It seems too much thinking when digital photography allows us to capture as many photos as we want. I’ve rather given up on trying to get the right exposure in camera and “cheat” with exposure bracketing. I use for almost all photos with bright light and/or strong contrast. That way I can focus on the photo rather than my camera and care about exposure once I’m back at home in front of my computer.

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