How to Protect Your Camera in the Heat

How to Protect Your Camera in the Heat

Shooting in the sun isn't easy — for you or your equipment. While you're at risk of heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburn, your camera also needs taking care of. Here are some tips to follow if you're caught in Europe's current heatwave or if you live somewhere hot year-round!

1. Stay in the Shade

Sorry to say it, but the best way to deal with heat is to stay out of it. If you do have to shoot outside, you're best finding shade as much as possible. If you have to go outside of the shade in order to take photographs, then leave anything you aren't using in that shaded area. Return to it as soon as you can, and don't leave any of your equipment standing in the sun. Bring anyone else working on the shoot, particularly your models, into the shade whenever possible as well.

This isn't just to save your camera, but also your hands. You don't want to touch a hot plastic body that has been out in direct sun for a long time!

Natural and permanent shade is the best option, because the ground will be cooler thanks to not being exposed to the sun. If you can't manage that, however, you can ask an assistant to hold a large umbrella or parasol over you and your camera. 

When you aren't shooting, keep your camera away and protected in a bag or case to cool it down further (though use your common sense — if the inside of the case is already hot, this obviously won't work).

2. Use a Fan

If you're shooting indoors, it can still get hot. Make sure that you have a fan on set to help cool everything down. Point it directly at where you will stand with your camera for the best results. This simple act can really make a huge difference to how comfortable you are personally, as well as helping to cool the camera down.

3. Take Breaks

Have you ever had your camera overheat on a shoot? Chances are it was while you were utilizing a rapid-fire mode over a long period of time, causing the camera to slowly warm up. If you use your on-camera flas,h this can happen very quickly. Generally speaking, taking a break and allowing it to cool down will solve the issue.

This applies even more when you are shooting in hot weather in the first place. Don't expect to fire rapidly for hours. Take short, effective bursts and then rest. This is good for you and your model too as well as any other crew on set.

Coyote in Death Valley

Coyote in Death Valley

4. Turn off the Lights

Anyone who works in a studio environment regularly can attest to how hot it gets in front of lights. In hot weather, it can quickly become unbearable. Keep your lamps off, and only use flash if you absolutely need it. With such bright sun, natural light may be more effective, even in an indoor space. Use reflectors for fill-in light rather than a flashgun. 

If you do need to use studio lights, refer back to step four and take regular breaks. If you can't comfortably hold your hand within a few inches of the bulb, then it's definitely time to take a break!

5. Upgrade Your Cards

Writing information to memory is one of the most arduous tasks your camera has to do. This can cause internal heat to build quickly (which is why you might not be able to press the trigger or see error messages). If you use a faster, newer memory card, your camera won't build up as much internal heat while you take photographs. This also make your camera work faster in the first place, so it's a good idea no matter what.

6. Invest in Cold Gel Packs or a Cooler

Wrap up your camera in a towel, and within the folds of that towel, place cold gel packs. This stops your camera from getting wet in case the gel packs do, but will also help to cool it down. You could also place your camera into a cooler, though don't fill it with ice. You don't want to cool your camera down too much or too fast, as this could result in adverse effects! 

7. Use Two Bodies

If you're really suffering (maybe it's the hottest day of the year in Death Valley), then use a backup. Rotate two camera bodies, so that neither of them have to work for very long. You can switch them out as soon as you start to see errors, but it's wise to start swapping even before that point. This reduces the risk of permanent damage.

How are you protecting your camera in the heat? If you don't have an answer, maybe it's time to think about taking precautions. Having a camera fail midway through a photoshoot is nobody's idea of a good time!

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8 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

I just postponed the job instead. Over 40c here In Belgium on Thursday. I wasn't going to stand outside working all day if I could help it.
Stayed home, did some work here and didn't venture too far from the pool.

Placing a white towel or rag over the camera body and lens, it will reflect the sun and keep the camera from heating up as well. Just drape it over do not wrap you want the air to be able to flow around the camera.

Same as you, essentially, only I leave it under a reflector with the silver side up.

The answer is an EZ-UP. It's a portable tent. The cheapest ones are around 50$. There may not be a market for them in EU though they are common in US. They are available on Amazon or a sporting goods store (or larger store). I grew up in a temperate climate and moved to a hot and sunny place. All the locals have and use one. As you spend more time in the bright sun, the answer is temporary shade. Yes, it is more gear but it allows access. Your gear, skin, and sanity are protected.

At this point, you probably have a backpack with camera and gear, water, ez-up for self/talent/family, and maybe a cooler. I would also suggest a wagon. The wagon can double in the city and cool days and the better ones fold up nicely.

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Rob Mitchell's picture

Yup, we have them here in various sizes. Very handy to keep in the shade or out of the rain, which is more common here than baking sun.

JT Blenker's picture

EZ-Up tents and folding wagons. They are great for summer shoots for you, your equipment, and the talent!

Cordless fans powered by lithium-ion batteries can go where no AC can go. There are different systems and voltages. Dewalt uses their 20V batteries. Kobalt (at Lowes) uses their 24V batteries. Ryobi (at Home Depot) uses their 18V batteries.

I live in the desert of Southern California and I am a photojournalist who shoots breaking news and sports mostly. I shoot with two D4s' bodies and an D500. I have never once had any issue with any of them and that includes shooting brush fires on the fire line next to the firefighter's on 100 degree days. So if you are smart and can afford to buy professional bodies than that is the real answer here. My D4s bodies are tanks and they can take the heat and the cold, much more than my body can and if I did pass out from heat stroke they would still be going fine.