Cold-Weather Photography Tips

If your camera had teeth, they’d be chattering right now. When the days grow shorter and colder and you’ve got Jack Frost nipping at your extremeties, you might be tempted to stay in, make some hot cocoa, and save the photography for warmer weather. Don’t; you’re missing a lot of photo opportunities!

  • Keep your batteries toasty: You might keep your AA’s in the fridge so they don’t drain as quickly. Your camera battery, similarly, won’t perform at its best when it’s cold. Keep your camera warm the best you can; failing that, keep a spare battery in an inside pocket. If your battery’s showing a faster-than-usual rate of drain, switch it for your warmer backup.
  • Use a polarizing filter if you have one. The bright light caused by the angle of the sun, and by the glare reflected off the snow. Since you may find yourself stopping the lens down to f/22 or thereabouts (which isn’t where your lens is at its sharpest), the polarizer lets you lose a couple of stops of light. In dim light, this can be a drawback, but when it’s very bright, it can be a godsend.
  • As with other times, fill flash can be helpful when the light is hinky.
  • Pay attention to your white balance; snow and bright light can wreak havoc on metering and white balance.
  • Be aware that plastic — whether in camera bodies or in lenses — behaves much differently in the cold than it would at “normal” temperatures. It loses flexibility and can become brittle. A bump or ding that might leave a small mark under normal circumstances can lead to cracks and chips in cold weather.
  • Watch out for moisture. Bring a large Ziploc bag (large enough for your camera and lens) and bag the camera before you’re inside. Similar to leaving a glass of iced tea on a table during a summer day, bringing a camera indoors from cold weather can lead to condensation in and around your gear. Bagging it first means bagging colder, drier air with your camera; the bag will fog, but hopefully your camera won’t.
  • Purchased any electronics lately? Hang onto those silica gel packets; they’re useful for removing airborne moisture.

It should go without saying that your first priority should be keeping yourself warm and safe. Bundle up, keep gloves handy, and have fun!

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