Baby, it's cold outside
Last night, after putting on my footie pajamas and tucking in Frank, I cozied up in a pile of warm blankets and turned out the lights.
Sweet dreams of warm, tropical beaches filled my sleep until I awoke.
I rolled out of bed, stretched and gave ol’ Frank a little pat on the head before heading downstairs to fire up a cup of joe and get rolling. I opened the door and…
There was foot of brand new snow on the ground!
I called over to my buddy Frank and let him know the good news. He came barreling out and galloped through the fluffy whiteness (Frank is a connoisseur of fine snow and appreciates the feather-light powder.)
In my mind, I’m thinking - PHOTO-OP! Off to grab my camera and essential cold-weather camera gear.
Frank and I were out there for about an hour and were finally ready to head back in and warm up.
After that fun, I decided to sit down and write these cold weather photography tips for you.
Tip number 1: Photography gloves
The first thing that will stop your winter photography fun is probably going to be cold hands. Your camera will get cold quick and will conduct all that chilliness to your fingers.
Photography gloves come in a few different styles, but I prefer the kind with removable finger tips so that I can work the camera controls. When I’m walking or in between shots, I put those glove finger tips back on and warm up.
These don’t have to be expensive. Here’s a pair from Freehands for just over $20.
Tip number 2 - Extra batteries
The cold weather is going to wear down your camera’s batteries pretty fast. It’s a good idea to keep your spares in your pocket, close to your body - or better yet, next to a hand warmer packet.
You’ll help keep them warm and when it’s time to swap them out, they’ll still have a charge. Put the ones that you just took out of the camera in the same pocket. Once you warm them up, they’ll magically have more of a charge back in them.
Tip number 3 - Ziplock bag
There’s moisture in the air all the time, but it won’t hurt your camera gear unless it has a chance to condense.
If you’re out with your camera and lens in the cold for longer than just a few minutes, that gear is going to get cold. That’s not so bad (although, there can be issues - see tip #4). The problem comes when you bring that cold camera and lens back into a warm environment. The water vapor in your warm house/car/chalet will start to condense on and inside of your camera and lens. That could lead to electrical issues, water spots, rust - any number of bad things.
So to protect them, keep a big Ziplock bag with you. Before coming inside, place your gear* in it and seal it tight. Then you can bring your gear into that warm environment and the moisture in the air won’t be able to get onto the cold surface of your stuff. Once that camera warms to room temperature, take it out of the bag and all is well.
*You can take your memory card out of the camera before coming inside so that you can download all or your great pictures! The condensation won’t affect your cards since their surface area is so small and your hands will probably warm them up faster than the condensation can form anyway.
Tip number 4 - Don’t be a hero!
If you follow tips 1 to 3, you’ll set yourself up for success for cold-weather photography. However, it’s probably best to stay inside when things are too cold out there.
Most camera bodies are tested and rated to perform fine down to about 0° Fahrenheit - though most can usually handle colder temps. But beyond problems like, oh I don’t know, maybe FROSTBITE, there are other reasons to keep you and your camera inside when the temperature (including wind-chill) drops too much.
I’ve already mentioned the toll the temperature takes on your batteries. The colder it gets, the lower the performance. Swapping batteries works to an extent, but at 40 below those things aren’t going to last long at all.
Also, if your camera has a screen (as most do these days), Usually those screens are LCDs. That stands for liquid crystal display. You probably get where I’m going with this: that word liquid is the big clue. Those screens start to perform a little wonky in really cold temperatures. Things slow down a bunch. If you’re using your LCD while shooting, it might operate poorly.
So put a couple of hand-warmers in your pockets and get outside during the cold, winter months. There’s tons of great photographic opportunities to be had if you prepare for them.
Of course, shooting outside in the snow can add a little bit of complexity to getting proper exposure, but that’s a whole other topic (one that we cover completely in our hands-on workshops).