Tips and Tricks for Cold Weather Photography

Winter is coming. Scratch that — winter is here. Are you prepared to brave the cold to keep shooting? Check out these cold weather photography tips.

David Flores of B&H Photo has several key tips to share in this video to make your next cold weather photo outing a successful one. Aside from buying all new gear to better fit the season, as much as B&H I’m sure would appreciate that, there are some basic takeaways here that can help starting today with what you already own.

As a nature photographer that’s lived in the northern states of Wisconsin and Minnesota all my life, I have to say that much of the cold weather preparedness is blown a bit out of proportion to its real-life importance. Sure, my camera will act a little slower and my ol’ Gitzo tripod, even though carbon fiber, becomes a pain to extend and retract, but in the moment these aren’t anything more than a slight inconvenience. Batteries… true, you should keep spares near your body for heat so you can keep on clicking, but I think the most important thing above all else is to just bundle up and keep warm. Nothing ruins the creative mood faster than being cold. I have no problem staying creative and excited to be photographing in the cold, even if the lens isn’t autofocusing at peak performance, as long as I’m warm.

What are your own cold weather photography tips?

Cover image by Pixabay via Pexels.

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Mark Holtze's picture

plastic bags are good for condensation protection as a bunch of "hot hands" you can buy a bulk pack for cheap on amazon.

David Bengtsson's picture

Lots of batteries. And two pair of gloves if it is below -5C. One pair of liners (I preffer ones in merinowool) and then a pair of larger warmer gloves. The best one you can buy is defentivly a pair from Hestra. Durable and their ”wrist straps” are amazing when shooting in deep snow when you don’t want to put your gloves on the ground. Also impossible to loose them as they are attatched to you. Only negative is the price but if you regulary shoot in cold snowy conditions its worth it.

Also most people know this but if its snow, don’t trust the cameras exposure meter. Either use manual or turn up the exposure compensation. I also find that its best to don’t trust the auto whitebalance either as I find you otherwise quite often can. I know if you shoot raw its possible to change but the results are better if you get it right at start imo.

More things to think about when it’s snowy is that if you want to use a fast lens I’d consider bringing a ND filter as the 1/4000 or 1/8000 isn’t always enough if its a sunny day. And if you are going to the snowy mountains bring a pair of polarized sunglasses as its easy to get snow blind. The symptoms are horrible. I have myself experienced some symptons during a backcountry ski trip. I had sunglasses on at most times but not all times. Symptoms are nauseua, hurting in the eyes and things like that. Personally I could barley sleep because it hurt so much to close my eyes. So bring a pair of sunglasses.

One import aspect of shooting in cold conditions is how to bring the camera gear back home. Best way to protect the camera from condensation is to put it in an airtight bag BEFORE you take it indoor. If not, you will end up with a lot of moisture on your gear.

Just finished a video shoot in North-Central Canada where the average was minus 37° Celsius and I agree that staying warm is more important than gear because at those temps your body will give up before the gear does. Even though I thought I was prepared, I learned a lot.

--The most vulnerable body parts are of course finger tips but cold ears can lead to headaches and the surprise was difficulty in breathing super-cold dry air. I learned to breathe slower (to warm the air as it comes in) and shallower.
-- I had two layer gloves but in order to operate the camera the outer layer was off much of the time and the tip of my finger was so numb I couldn't tell if I actually pressed the shutter.
-- The danger of staying out too long is the mind starts to rush things and that's when I made small mistakes or broke my normal procedure
-- And with video shooting, using a LOG profile is imperative because of what others have mentioned about snow fooling the meters. It helps avoid burnt-out highlights.