April 23, 2013 Winter Image Lesson


During my photo shoot on April 23, I was on some back-roads heading to the next shooting spot and I almost blew through a snow-covered stop sign.  I stopped, and since no other cars were around, I felt it was worthy of an image.  As it turns out, it’s worthy of Winter Image Lesson here on Bluelightpix.com!

I got out of my car, put my D5000 in Program Mode, and it delivered this:

APR 23 2013 under exposedNikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/4.5 and a 1/320 of a second shutter speed.  ISO 100.  Focal length: 70mm (APS-C).

This image is awful!  When I speak of “flat, dull and lifeless” Winter shots, this is exactly what I am talking about.  It was plenty bright enough when I saw it, but as I have been preaching, the dumb camera’s meter was blinded, and was fooled into a higher shutter and aperture than it should have been.  Brutal.


So I took things into my own hands, went into full Manual Mode, and got this:

APR 23 2013 over exposedNikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-70mm F/3.5-4.5G ED lens shot at F/10 and a 1/100 of a second shutter speed.  ISO 100.  Focal length: 70mm (APS-C).

Dumb camera?  How about dumb human!  I over-exposed it, not horribly so, but I went too far the other way.  It has a lot more life than the first image, but it’s too bright…




I shoot in RAW…remember?  RAW allows me to correct my stupid mistakes (or mistakes made by the camera) in post-processing.  So, here’s the fixed image:

APR 23 2013 fixedAhhhh, much better.

NOTE: if I was shooting in JPEG, I would have taken additional shots until I got a proper exposure.  I knew I was shooting RAW, and since I was in a hurry, I just said “screw it, I’ll fix it later”, and moved on.


Even though I over-exposed to compensate for the bright snow on my April 23 images, I still found myself adjusting the exposure on a chunk of them to the bright side during RAW post-processing.  It wasn’t much, but still.  I think this underscores the value of shooting in RAW.


Winter images can be tricky, as the snow creates all sorts of issues with lighting.  Much of your exposure will have to do with what type of scene you have, but often times the snow is so bright it affects the camera’s exposure meter, and it picks bad settings.  Thus, your images, especially the snow itself, can turn out under-exposed, like the first image on this page.

Depending on the scene, sunshine can make that worse, but as Bob Conzemius recently noted to me in an email, it’s pretty pronounced when it’s overcast, as well.


I have never tried this, but a neutral density filter (especially a variable one), would probably help mitigate the extra brightness caused by the snow.  I’ll bet a polarizer would, too. The issue there is another piece of glass the image has to pass through, but it’s certainly worth experimenting with.


This is yet another reason why Digital Photography is so great.  One can experiment and find out on the spot, if their choices worked or not.  Plus, you can fire away with multiple shots when trying different things.  Finally, often times you can fix things that are not quite right.  So cool!

Have fun out there!