Do you live in an area where the weather turns cold and you aren’t sure how to keep your camera safe in the freezing temperatures? Mandy Blake of Mandy Blake Photography has a few tips that will help you get the most out of your winter shooting experience while also protecting your gear!
5 Cold Weather Camera Tips
1. Let Your Camera and Gear Acclimate
One of the most important things to remember when you plan on using your camera in cold temperatures is to avoid drastic warming and cooling of your gear. There are many electronic components that can be easily damaged if condensation is allowed to collect inside of your camera or lenses.
To get my gear ready before heading out for a cold-weather session, I place my camera bag in the car about 15 minutes before I plan to leave. This way my equipment has the chance to cool down closer to the temperature outdoors, avoiding fogging of the lens, mirror or viewfinder when you pull everything out to use. While there is typically very little moisture in cold air, in certain conditions it may be a factor. Remember that hazy, misty look that was popular in 70’s and 80’s wedding photos? Let’s not let lens fog bring that look back. Ever.
On location, I try not to change lenses when there is a chance that water may get inside. If I am working in falling snow or other precipitation, I do my best to find a covered area to make the switch, or if all else fails, I change the lens inside of my jacket. The more you can avoid getting the camera or lenses damp, the better.
When I am finished my session, I will leave my gear in the car for a little while to avoid condensation to collect due to a drastic warming. Think of how a cold glass of ice water sweats when you leave it sitting out at room temperature – you don’t want any camera sweat happening. Ewwwww. Besides sounding unpleasant, camera sweat can also wreak major havoc on the electronic components of your lenses and body and is tricky to get out of there once it has occurred.
2. Bring An Extra Battery
Unfortunately, due to the laws of physics and chemistry of how batteries generate energy, at very low temperatures batteries will lose power more quickly than they would in higher temperatures. Obviously, this can be an issue when our cameras and flashes are battery-powered. But there are a couple of things that you can do to get maximize the time you have before your battery is totally drained.
Firstly, you can save some battery life by keeping your gear as warm as possible when outdoors. Keep your camera, lenses, batteries and even memory cards tucked as close to your body as possible, perhaps under your coat or in zippered pockets. By minimizing the time your camera is fully exposed to the cold temperatures, you maximize performance. This also lessens the chance that your shutter will start to stick, as the lubricant that allows it to release smoothly may begin to freeze if exposed to extreme cold for prolonged periods.
Secondly, keep extra, fully charged batteries with you, just in case you need to work longer than you anticipated. Again, keep these warm, preferably close to your own body in a pocket or inside your coat.
3. Keep Your Fingers Warm
Consider purchasing gloves that have the flap for your fingers, so you only have to keep your fingertips exposed for a couple of minutes at a time while you are photographing. Another option is to get gloves that are designed to use with touch screen devices, which have a bit of grip to them and won’t slip while you are trying to use the wheels to change your settings. It is really hard to do a good job with your photos if your fingers are frozen solid!
4. Keep Everything Dry
Snow, sleet, freezing rain, ice pellets. They are all WET. If you are brave enough to be out photographing in this kind of inclement weather, make sure you keep all your gear as dry as you can. If you have rain covers for your lenses and body, use them. In a pinch, I have been known to poke a hole in the bottom of a plastic bag and then sticking just the edge of my lens out of the hole, with the rest of the bag covering the body and leaving me lots of room to check and change my settings. MacGyver’s got nothing on me, I tell ya! Also, keep a lens cloth handy to gently wipe away any drips or flakes that end up on your lens or to dry off parts that may have gotten excessively damp.
5. Know Where Your Memory Cards Are Located
The last thing you want is to lose a card full of images in the snow. Likely you will never find it, and even if you did the photos may not be able to be recovered if the card ended up getting cold and wet. If you plan on doing cold weather shooting, buy a weatherproof/waterproof case to keep them in, to make sure they are safe and secure throughout your session. When you get home, allow your cards to warm up a bit before you load them. While they don’t tend to be victims of condensation, I have personally found that they are a bit slower to load if they are freezing cold.
Well there you have it! If you plan on heading out to capture some beautiful winter scenes this season, make sure you take the time to properly prepare your camera equipment so that you can focus all of your energy on having fun and being creative, rather than fighting the elements!
Mandy Blake, owner of Mandy Blake Photography and Flow for Photographers, is a natural light family and children’s photographer, as well as a Photoshop Action designer, Photoshop mentor and Photo Editor. She is the mother of two sassy, stubborn girls, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, and slobber-covered-ball thrower for her faithful Lab-Hound mix. You can also find her on Facebook.