When the snow falls, we're often tempted to head out and photograph the local landscape while it's covered in a natural blanket. But, as you may have discovered when using auto mode on your Nikon camera, snow can sometimes appear blue or off coloured in your images. This can really spoil what's meant to be a pure white snow shot. Here, you can find out why the snow in your shot might appear off coloured, and how you can fix the issue in camera before you take the shot.
Why does snow appear blue or off colour in my images?
Images of snow can sometimes appear blue because the vast amount of white in the shot can trick the camera's sensor into thinking that it needs to underexpose the scene. This fooling of the metering system causes the snow in images to appear darker, and more shadowy, giving it an off white cast. If the snow in your shot isn't in direct sunlight, a blue cast can appear due to the snow reflecting the tones in the sky.
How can I fix this?
Your Nikon camera has a built in metering system that is designed to deliver a well-coloured image assuming that that contrast range is normal, ie that there are light and dark tones in the image to even the exposure out. The exposure is achieved by scrambling all the tones in the image and adjusting so that the scrambled colour brightness is 18% grey or average.
When the tonal range is brighter than average, the camera underexposes. If you're using a Nikon Coolpix compact, you'll most likely have a scene mode called 'snow/beach' which will automatically compensate for the extra brightness in the scene. If you're using a DSLR or more advanced compact, the solution will be to adjust your white balance.
On newer DSLRs such as the D5500, the touch screen on the back of the camera will give you access to the 'WB' option. Tap the WB square, and your options will appear. Setting the white balance to the shade setting may work. If this doesn't fix the problem, you may have to create a custom white balance setting for snow photography. Nikon DSLRs have a kelvin colour temperature option, allowing you to set the degrees kelvin of the light in the scene, letting you fine tune the colours until you see them as accurate. By using the camera's live view, you'll be able to see the effect the particular kelvin temperature you choose will have on the image.