Saturday, January 21, 2012

Creating a snowy white background

The snow is FINALLY here in southeastern Massachusetts. We got one strange snowstorm in October then nothing until mid-January. So when it came this week, I bundled the kids up and rushed them outside before it melted. I took my camera with me to capture these precious childhood memories, of course. In the process, I also discovered that snow makes a great blank background for a scrapbook page!

The hardest part, after accepting the fact that my toddlers don't pose for the camera, was getting the right exposure. When you put the camera in full auto mode, the snow becomes a yucky gray and the subject comes out very underexposed. That's because the camera thinks you want an image with an even tone. Under most conditions, that is correct. But snow is different because most of the image is SUPPOSED to be a very bright white. It took me a while to realize this, meanwhile missing the opportunity to get good pictures of my daughter playing the snow for the first time.

One solution is to change the camera setting to “snow.” I've never used it, but I would think that it would produce results much better than it would in “auto.” The other solution, if your camera allows, is to use exposure compensation. I took test shots of my kids against the snow, increasing the exposure until the snow turns into one big blown-out highlight (also known as "the blinkies”), then dialed it back one stop to get healthy-looking white snow and a correctly exposed subject.

The next step is to take pictures with the snow surrounding the entire subject. After chasing my kids around the yard and begging them to move this way or that way, here's what I got:

Using GIMP, I used a soft brush to paint over the woods and some stray twigs popping out the the ground. To make sure that it blended correctly, I used a sample color from the snow, which is a little darker than true white. I was debating whether to leave the leaf in the picture. I decided to keep it there to give the impression that they are indeed standing on ground and are not floating in the air. Then I added the title, journaling, and a border. For those interested, the journaling reads:

Look who's bringing up the rear! It's my little boy, who is now almost as big as his sister. And at 27 pounds, he's just three pounds lighter than her and almost as strong. I have been looking forward to this day since he was a 9 pound newborn and I had to make sure she didn't crush him. Now that they are just about equals, I can relax a little and watching them chase each other around the yard. Having a baby and a toddler is tough, but having two preschoolers is fun! I'm so glad they're just 18 months apart in age and I wouldn't have it any other way. They are quickly becoming best friends and I hope it stays that way forever. ~January 2012

I love using blank backgrounds for my layouts. They isolate the subject and can give the image a surreal quality. This is very hard to accomplish with candid shots of people, as there always seems to be something distracting behind them. A beautiful snow-covered lawn makes a great background, as well as a nice canvas to add text later. I'll also add that for those unfortunate people who don't get snow where they live, you can do the same thing at the beach against the bright sand.

Thanks for looking!

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't ever thought about using the snow as my background (maybe because we only get about one or two days of snow a year!).
    This is good information- thanks for sharing!