Tips for Shooting in Cold Weather

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Cold Weather Shooting

Shooting out in the cold, you know the feeling, shorter days, lower temperatures, snow, ice, gusty winds. With all the seasonal challenges facing a photographer, here are some tips to get you through the cold.

First and foremost, don’t wear shorts! Water resistant and moisture wicking materials are great for keeping you dry. A good hat, gloves, and warm winter clothing are a must.

Use the Right Camera

Some cameras have weatherproof construction. Cameras like the Panasonic GH5 and Sony A7RIII have a full weather sealed build, which offers protection in the elements. While neither of these cameras has full cold-proof construction, their magnesium-alloy bodies are weather, and water sealed, making them suitable for many winter applications provided you have a spare battery.

Also, if you’re shooting in really cold atmospheres, lenses with manual focusing will actually function better in the extreme cold since they don’t rely on autofocus motors.

Use a Camera Bag

Camera bags not only make carrying your camera and lenses much easier, they offer padding and protection. A waterproof backpack will offer insulation and work as a barrier from things like snow or rain while you’re making your way to your shoot.

Keep Your Batteries Warm

In cold temperatures, battery chemistry doesn’t perform as well. You’re likely to get fewer frames per charge than you would under normal conditions. Keeping your batteries closer to your body on an inside layer will help combat this.

If you know that you’ll be using multiple batteries on your shoot, have a system in place to distinguish fresh batteries from spent ones. Flip them around in a battery holder, move used batteries to a specific pocket in your jacket or bag, whatever works best for you.

Carry the Right Tripod

If you’re shooting landscapes, astrophotography, or anything that demands a precision composition, you’ll greatly benefit by using a tripod. Not all sticks are created equal, and this is especially true in the winter. Carbon fiber tripods are typically lighter in weight and easier to carry than their aluminum counterparts. As an added bonus, the material doesn’t conduct with cold the way metal does. You can work with carbon fiber without gloves and without fear of sending a cold shock to your hands or sticking to the sticks.

If you do have an aluminum tripod you can always add tripod leg warmers and no we’re not talking about an 80s fad! But, they too come in many colors, patterns, and sizes and as a bonus offer a soft, padded covering on the legs to both ease the shock of the cold metal as well as providing you comfort when carrying a tripod over your shoulder.

Mind Your Exposures

If you’re dealing with snow and ice in your frame, there’s a good possibility that your camera’s metering system thinks your subject is brighter than it actually is. If you use an SLR, reviewing shots on your LCD is one way to go.

If you’re a mirrorless shooter, you might try changing your camera style or film simulation to black and white. This offers a much better representation of contrast in your photos. RAW files record all of the applicable color info, so it’s easy to ‘colorize’ your work in post. The cold should never be an excuse for not taking photos.

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