The blue snow problem

The blue snow problem is one that you will inevitably encounter when developing your photography skills in snowy landscapes. In this article I’ll explain why it occurs and how to fix it. I have also added some inspiring examples of beautiful winter shots. Enjoy!

Blue vs. yellow snow

So, you’re trying to get a perfect shot of a beautiful snowy landscape. The problem: the snow is blue or yellow. You can’t get the snow to show up white in your photos. Super frustrating, right? The solution, however, is quite easy (yay!). The problem you are having is due to your white balance settings and can be fixed within your camera, or in post-processing (editing). Just one tip for post-processing: shoot in RAW format if you want to make changes to your photo without loss of quality.

White balance settings

White balance is a scale from blue to yellow. It gives your photo a colder or warmer hue, respectively. Every proper modern camera has an Auto-white balance (AWB) option and a manual one. The AWB chooses the white balance based on the whitest point in your photo + the tones in the rest of the photo. Sometimes this works perfectly and it saves you some time. Sometimes, however, it turns against you and messes up an otherwise beautiful photo, because the whitest point in your photo is not always white. If it isn’t, the AWB is off and there goes your perfect picture.

So, in these cases, it is better to manually choose your white balance:

  • Snow or other spots where white needs to be white.
  • Changing lighting conditions (cloudy, windy days, or changing artificial lights at a concert or festival)
  • Monochrome scenes tend to throw off the AWB
  • Making a panorama (as the AWB is chosen again and again while the conditions change, different parts of your panorama probably won’t match)

Rest assured …

Shoot your photos in RAW format and you will always be able to fix your white balance without loss of quality. Only downside to this: it takes more time, and makes you guess the correct colors. In the end, it could become less natural, colorwise.

Winter photography inspiration