Freeze Frame: Tips for Cold-Weather Photography

“You’ve been cold to me so long, I’m crying icicles instead of tears!”


Forgive me for starting a blog with a quote from Meatloaf, but his lyrics from Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad seem pretty fitting for these frigid temps. It really is so cold, I feel like I could cry an icicle. But, wow, what a great time of year to get out and take photographs. Nothing says holidays like a well captured snow scene, and we’ve some great ones coming in for processing and framing. They’re proof that when the weather turns frigid, there’s no need for photographs to go into hibernation. Your camera just needs a little extra TLC to survive the temps with you.

Taking Photographs in Winter

–          Batteries. When temperatures plummet, so does battery life. Digital cameras are already rapid battery-drainers, so cold days makes for very short camera life. Always carry at least one set of extra batteries if you’re going to be shooting in the cold for any length of time. Keep these extra batteries warm by carrying them somewhere on your body—an interior coat pocket, for example—rather than in a camera bag. It’s a good idea to keep your camera warm this way, too.

–          Moisture. Moisture is no good for your camera. Some cameras even have an O ring on the lens for this very reason. Still, when shooting in snowy conditions, do your lens changes indoors or under a rain cover. Also, be careful when bringing a very cold camera back indoors. The warm indoor air will condense on your camera’s cold surfaces. To guard against this issue, seal the camera inside a plastic bag before you come inside so that the moisture will settle on the outside of the bag instead of inside your camera. Keep a chamois lens-cleaner handy, just in case.

–          Static. Cold air = low humidity = static electricity. When you advance the film on non-digital camera in cold and dry conditions, you can actually get a buildup of static electricity. It’s not common, but if there’s enough static buildup, a spark may flash inside your camera when you take your next photograph—and fog up the film. Advance your film slowly, and if possible, keep your camera close to your warm body whenever you’re not taking a shot.

Technically, you’re a piece of photography equipment, too. Dressing for the weather is a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget that your fingers need to wriggle free for adjusting settings and pressing the shutter. No matter how warm they are, regular gloves or mittens won’t be your friend here. Instead use gloves or mittens that have fold-back fingers so you can keep your digits warm between shots but set them free when their assistance is needed.

Bottom line, if you want to photograph Mother Nature, you have to cooperate with her. For her coldest days, just remember those extra batteries, a plastic bag, proper gloves, and the equipment-warming power of your own body. Plan ahead and you won’t be crying icicles when you get out to take your wintry shots. You might even enjoy this weather more when you see what you can capture from it with your camera!


One thought on “Freeze Frame: Tips for Cold-Weather Photography

  1. […] in December, I posted a blog about cold-weather photography. One of the things I discussed was the quick loss of battery life in very cold temperatures. […]

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