Landscape Photography Outdoor Outdoor Photography TECHNIQUES

Cold Winter Photography Tips

Photography in the wintertime can be incredibly rewarding. The sun travels in a lower arc across the sky, which gives you extended lengths of magic hour, especially if you live further away from the equator. Also, there’s nothing so beautiful, angelic and magical as clumps of snow on pine trees or open fields and mountainsides of fresh powder, not to mention what you can do in all that powder!

However, if you’re going to have success in your wintertime photography, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

1. Cold: Yes, rather obvious, I realize, but don’t take it lightly. The cold can make things pretty difficult when it comes to handling your camera gear. I don’t know what makes it harder to operate the camera, bulky gloves and mittens or bare frozen fingers that have gone numb. Having had both on many occasions, I’ll take the bulky gloves any day, or else thin gloves and hand warmer packs.

Also, watch bare noses on ice cold metal and plastic camera bodies. If it’s cold enough, you can easily frost nip the end of your nose when you press your face up to the camera to take photos. I know because I’ve done it. Either try to hold your face slightly away from the back of the camera or else use some kind of nose shield or face mask. Your skin will thank you.

(c) Dan Bailey

2. Batteries: If you haven’t learned it by now, camera batteries get sluggish in the cold. They lose charge more quickly, and will conk out entirely if it’s cold enough. The key to successful wintertime shooting is to carry an extra battery that you keep in a warm pocket near your body, preferably next to a hand warmer if possible. Then when you’re first battery does, simply swap it out for the warm one.

Put the dead battery in your warm pocket and you’ll probably find that after awhile, it regains at least some of its charge. If the second battery gives out, you can swap it back with the first one again. The important thing to remember is to never leave the house without at least one fully charged battery. Two is better.

(c) Dan Bailey

3. Condensation: Be careful with this one. DO NOT under any circumstances, take a cold camera back inside if you intend to go back outside and shoot again. IT WILL condense, and if you take it outside again before it dries up, all that moisture will turn to ice. Any photography plans you might have had for the rest of the day will be completely and utterly thwarted.

If you must take your camera inside from the cold, place it back in your camera bag or backpack before you set foot in the house or ski warming hut. Keep it in the closed bag, which is filled with the same cold air that was surrounding your camera outside until you go back outside. This will prevent condensation. If you stay inside for a long period of time, eventually, it will warm up gradually, and everything will be fine.

If you do experience condensation, your only remedy is to keep the camera in a relatively warm, dry room until it completely dries out. Only then can you take it outside again. Believe me; I’ve had more than a couple of ruined photo opportunities when I tried to take camera from cold to warm and back to cold too quickly. Also, don’t tuck your camera inside your jacket when you’re outside, the same thing will happen.

There’s no reason that you can’t enjoy lots of great winter photography opportunities this year, so get out there in the cold and shoot away! As long as you deal with the battery issue, your camera will operate perfectly fine in cold temperatures. The LCD panel may get a little sluggish, but that won’t stop you from being able to capture lots of awesome winter scenes!

(c) Dan Bailey

2 Comments
   Cold Weather Photography Tips - Today on MasteringPhoto Blog | Dan Bailey's Adventure Photography Blog said on December 21, 2011 at 6:37 pm

[...] time for the Winter Solstice, which comes to Anchorage, Alaska at 8:30PM this evening, check out my Cold Winter Photography Tips post today on the MasteringPhoto [...]

   Winter Photo Tips said on January 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

[...] has some great equipment advice to keep in mind, along with some great images of outdoor adventure. Check it out here. That’s Dan’s shot at the top of this [...]

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MasteringPhoto, powered by bestselling Focal Press authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for hobbyist photographers through pro image makers. No matter what your passion is—from people and landscapes to postproduction and business practices—MasteringPhoto offers advice and images that will inform and inspire you. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of photography, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.