Cold Weather Shooting Tips

Cold Weather Shooting Tips

Shooting in cold weather isn’t without challenges. Here are some tips that will help armor you against the temptation to let your camera hibernate this winter.

Shoot Quickly

Plan ahead so that you can get in and out with the images you want as quickly as possible. Don’t let a storm prevent you from shooting altogether – just let it give you a sense of urgency.

Off-road vehicle and photographer

Most modern cameras can handle getting precipitation and a certain amount of snow on them so there is no reason to panic at the first sign of weather, especially if it seems to be a passing flurry since many landscapes are best seen just after a storm. Bad weather = unique images!

Pack Up Professionally

Use silica gel packets inside plastic bags to store your gear when not in use. Coming into warm buildings from cold weather and out again can produce condensation inside your gear. Once your gear is all fogged up from an extreme temperature change, it may take a long time before you can really use it so try and keep your gear’s temp as constant as possible.

camera in handle bag

Some shooters even put their gear in the refrigerator after coming in from the cold to help it acclimate (just don’t forget it’s in there). Carry heat packs for your lens to use while out and try to hold your breath during composure to prevent fogging up your screens. Note that cameras will produce some of their own heat, especially during time-lapses, from normal, continuous operation so you might not need to completely cover your gear while shooting, especially during a mild winter day. Lastly, bring a paint or makeup brush out with you. Wiping snow off your camera with your hand just warms the snow into water, which is more dangerous. Instead, brush the snow off quickly.

Know How Low You Can Go

Most cameras and lenses are fine at freezing temperatures. When shooting in conditions this cold, your camera’s LCD may temporarily lose contrast, making it difficult to read settings. Plastic becomes more brittle so avoid opening memory card and battery doors.

Extreme Shooting

Avoid touching any freezing metal (like on tripods) with your bare hands (cold carbon fiber is less punishing on the skin than cold aluminum). Common alkaline batteries perform the worst in cold, so you may only be able to use them with small flashes outside for a short period of time. Lithium-ion batteries do better in the cold but won’t last as long as normal.

Visual Temperature

Now that physical temperature is out of the way, your next consideration is visual temperature. A warming filter, or a warmer white balance, may be required depending on the look you are going for since snow takes on a blue cast thanks to its reflectivity of the sky.

Horses Looking at the Camera during a Snowstorm

In general, snow has a very high UV reflectivity so you may want to keep a UV filter on your lens, which will also protect the front element of your lens from scratches if the wind picks up dust and sand.

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Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. She is a Marketing Coordinator for BorrowLenses.com and also writes for SmugMug. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Previously, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.

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