As the days draw in, the sky clouds over and the temperature drops, it’s understandable to feel like the best days for photography this year are behind you. And it’s certainly true that cold weather can take its toll on your camera and lenses. But there are still great images to be had!
Without being alarmist, you can in fact damager your camera gear taking photos in cold weather without taking proper precautions. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to protect your camera from the elements, as well as how to ensure you, yourself, stay comfortable and creative in low temperatures.
Follow these simple tips and best practice and not only will your camera gear thrive in autumn and winter, but you’ll unlock the full creative potential of taking photos in cold weather.
01 Protect your camera
Even weatherproof cameras don’t like to get soaked or covered in frost or snow so if you’re planning to shoot in really bad weather (or you suspect that it could turn nasty) invest in a weather-shield for your camera and lens.
Also make sure that your camera bag is weatherproof or has a rain-cover. And don’t wait until it’s raining or snowing really hard to put the cover in place, use it as soon as the rain starts to keep your bag as dry as possible.
Also, put your camera in the bag if you have to walk for more than just a few minutes between shots.
It will keep your camera a little warmer and that could make a huge difference to the number of shots that you’ll get out of the battery.
Keep a couple of cloths within easy reach to dry your camera if it gets dripped on and give the lens front element a polish to remove any snow or water droplets.
02 Protect against condensation
If you take a very cold camera into a warm environment it will fog up with condensation very quickly. It’s important to not open the camera or change lenses while the camera and lenses are fogged as this could allow moisture inside the camera.
Ideally, put your camera inside your bag well before you head inside to protect it from the worst of the chill and allow it to warm up a little.
Then, when you get inside, leave your gear inside the bag for an hour or so to allow it to warm up slowly.
Use the time to make your self a warm drink and defrost your fingers and toes. Check your camera over before opening the card port or changing lens and give it a wipe if necessary.
03 Pack spare batteries and keep them safe
Cold temperatures slows down the chemical processes inside your camera’s battery, which in turn reduces the number of shots you can get from a single charge.
Therefore it’s worth taking a spare battery or two on your ventures out into the colder weather. Don’t just keep them in your pocket or on the outside of your bag, though.
Carry your spare batteries in an inside pocket of your jacket or within your camera bag and they’ll stay nice and warm. This means you’re get more life and better performance from them when you need them.
Also consider carrying pocket hand warmers to keep the batteries warm. You can even hold one onto the battery compartment or grip of your camera with an elastic band to keep the battery from getting chilled when you’re shooting.
04 Use a strap to carry your tripod
Tripod legs, especially aluminium ones, can get very cold making them uncomfortable to carry. If possible attach your tripod to your bag or use a dedicated strap to carry it without touching the legs.
It can also be helpful to put a bit of pipe insulation foam on one or more of the legs to make it more comfortable to handle.
05 Find a good pair of fingerless gloves… or make your own
Everyone who has taken photos in the cold knows that your fingers can quickly turn to ice. But wearing gloves can make it awkward to adjust camera settings.
Fingerless gloves are a nice alternative, protecting your fingers yet leaving the tips exposed for adjusting dials. In our experience, though, a lot of fingerless gloves tend to expose more fingers than you actually need to operate your camera.
A quick fix can be to simply transform a standard pair of gloves into bespoke photography gloves by chopping off the tip of the thumb and forefinger.
Stitch-up the ends to prevent them unravelling and you’ll have a pair of gloves that should last you years.
In really cold conditions take an extra-large pair of mittens that will fit over your gloves to prevent the tips of your exposed fingers and thumbs from becoming painfully cold or numb.
06 Wear layers
Several thin layers of clothing will often keep you warmer than a couple of thick layers, so pile on the clothes to stay toasty. And if you have one, wear a water-proof jacket over your layers.
Avoid wearing cotton and wear thermals with wicking properties to move any moisture away from your body in case you get warm when walking or climbing. Cotton holds onto moisture and can make you cold later.
Jeans are best avoided as they take ages to dry once they get wet and you’re temperature will plummet.