Cold Weather Shooting Tips

I get asked quite a lot during the year about keeping your equipment safe during various weather extremes.  I figured now would be a great time to review a few tips for keeping your equipment and you in working order during the chilly winter shoots.

  • Disposable Hand Warmers
    • Believe it or not, your camera or lenses don’t like the arctic cold! Most cameras today are rated to work to about 32 degrees (f).  Being out in weather lower than this will tend to make your camera work slower and seem sluggish.  One thing I recommend is to keep an ample supply of disposable hand warmers with you.  A couple of these, with a couple of well positioned rubber bands, can keep your camera happy.
    • Needless to say, you can also put a hand warmer in your camera to help lower the risk of condensation when you come back in from the cold.
  • Batteries
    • If you are going to be shooting out in the extreme cold, plan on going through batteries like you won’t believe.  Extreme cold sucks battery life very quickly.  Placing a hand warmer near you battery compartment can help some, but you will still need spares.  Spare batteries should be kept in your inner pockets if at all possible to help prolong their charge.
  • Memory Cards
    • Most memory cards have been tested to several degrees below zero, so most should be ok during the cold.  As I’ve said before, this is one are not to skimp on.  Spend a little more and get a reputable brand of memory card.
  • Clothing
    • Not only is it important to keep your equipment in working order, but you need to be as well!  I recommend dressing in layers and leaving no skin exposed.  Especially if you’re going to be out in the extreme cold.  Don’t forget to cover your head as well!  Most heat loss in humans is via their heads.  Gloves are also equally important.  Each photographer is different, but I prefer gloves that still allow some dexterity to manipulate camera settings, etc.  I recommend going to your local farm and home store and trying on a few to find a pair that best suits you.  Farm gloves are warm and are often more less expensive than some competitors.
  • Other important tidbits
    • Remember, most cameras have a lot of plastic on them today.  What happens to plastic in the cold? It becomes stiff and brittle.  Use extreme caution if opening any ports or covers while out in the cold.  It’s best to do this when the camera is warm.  You may also notice issues with your LCD as your camera cools.  Generally speaking, these issues will resolve themselves once the LCD has returned to normal room temperature.
  • Coming in from the cold.
    • So you’ve finished your project, now it’s time to come back in.  But wait!  Cold air is very dry.  Warm air of the indoors will be more humid and will cause condensation problems both on the inside and outside of your equipment.  We all know that moisture and electronics don’t mix.  Here’s a couple of tips to help with this.
      • Consider putting your camera and lens in an air tight reclosable freezer bag before you bring it in. Why?  This is will surround your gear with the cold, dry air and will allow your equipment to warm up without condensation forming. 
      • If a bag isn’t an option, remove the battery from your camera and open up all doors / covers to help dry it out.  Most, if not all, of the condensation will disappear once the equipment has come back up to temp. 
      • Just like dealing with the humidity of the summer months, I always keep a couple of desiccant packs in my camera bags to help draw moisture out of my equipment.  These can found in various sizes from most retailers for the cheap.  Depending on how much I use my gear during a given month, I change my desiccant packs monthly to keep them fresh and ensure they do their job.

Don’t be afraid to get out and shoot during the winter months! 

Just keep in mind the tips listed above in mind and have fun!

— Mike

A winter scene featuring trees covered in hoarfrost.
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