Most cameras see the snow as a brightly lit area and adjust the exposure towards middle gray to account for it. In other words, the picture comes out dark. The camera’s exposure meter can’t tell the difference between snow white or any other color. It simply tries to adjust the bright white towards an average scene. This leaves your breathtaking snow pictures dark and gray looking instead of vibrant white. Welcome to the world of snow photography!
Now, I guess you are wondering how you can stop the camera from doing that, so you can get the photo you desire. It’s quite simple. All you have to do is adjust the exposure compensation setting on your camera to the setting that gives you the look you desire. You may want to start with EV +1 as that works well most of the time. Check the manual that came with your camera to find out how to set this on your particular camera model. It could be an EV dial marked with numbers or it could be a button with a +/- symbol on many cameras.
Getting the right exposure may take more than one try, but once you are accustomed to using the settings on your specific camera you will be taking those magnificent snow shots in no time. Tip: Take a look at the histogram if you’re using a digital camera to guarantee perfect results. The beauty of having a digital camera is that you can try a few settings before getting the perfect shot. If you have a film camera, you may want to play with a test roll of film and record the settings before you do an actual “real” shoot. A plus for film camera users is that film is more forgiving with exposure than a digital camera, so you’ve got a lot of latitude. With that said, continue to play with camera settings. You just may find you enjoy taking some overly bright or darker photos to use for background images or to cut and play around with a digital photo program such as Adobe PhotoShop.