Turning dirty yellow snow into Clean White Snow

Winter is actually a great time to shoot photos.  A lot of people shoot less in the winter, but up here in Canada you got to learn to enjoy the cold.  I’ve always wanted to shoot a waterfall in the winter, so up to Hamilton it was.  The only problem is Hamilton is known for its air pollution.  This air pollution gets in the water, on the snow and everything.  The snow and ice around the water actually turned an ugly yellow.  So I thought I’d share with you a tutorial or lesson using a very easy Adobe Photoshop technique to turn your ugly yellow or grey snow back into something that looks clean and pure.

Here’s the photo I’m going to work with.

This photo of Websters falls isn’t too bad. Except for the yellow snow. It’s not the pristine clean white stuff we think about of a winter scene.

As you can see the waterfall is quite pretty.  Except it looks like someone urinated in the river.  Maybe King Kong or the Green Giant.  There’s also quite a lot of detail and variation in the waterfall so masking it is going to be difficult.  Luckily this technique is so easy we won’t need to mask off the snow and ice from the rest of the scene.

We’re going to use the Color Replacement Tool in Photoshop.

I used the default settings and a brush size of 30.  You can vary the brush size depending on your scene and what you’re painting of course.

The technique is simple; you can either select white or something close to white as your foreground color.  Or if your snow has a bit of a tint to it, use the color picker to select a bright white area of your snow.  I would actually move the slider a bit whiter than what you got from your color picker because we are in a way tinting the snow.

Now simply just paint over the areas of snow and ice.  I like to do a lot of small strokes so I can easily undo any areas that I got sloppy in.  You’ll find you don’t have to be perfect as mostly the white areas will show the effect the most.

It actually only took me about 5 minutes to do the whole photo.  I than used a similar technique to make the sky bluer.

And of course our Final Result.

Our final result looks like what we would expect of a nice photo. Clean snow, and a blue sky. 

If you used this technique, or enjoyed the article, I’d love to hear from you! Please contact me or leave a comment below!

Thanks!