snowy scene

Shooting in the Cold

If it’s cold for you, it’s cold for your gear, too!

Cold can affect lots of things when you’re on a shoot. For me, the biggest effect is an overwhelming desire to go back inside… but here are some of the things I’ve learned from while shooting in the winter.

Reduced battery life. Batteries don’t hold a charge as well in the cold. It simply slows down the chemical reaction, and the life of your battery will be significantly less. If you’ve got a spare battery, keep it close to your body (in a pants pocket, for example) to keep it warm. Swap out batteries as needed—you can get a little more life out of them!

Insta-fog! If you wear glasses, you’re already aware that moving from cold to warm environments (or vice versa) can fog up glass like nothing else. Same goes for your camera lens. Unless you’re hoping for some really abstract, blurry pictures (and potentially damaging your camera!), avoid sudden temperature changes. Make those temperature changes as gradual as possible.

Auto-schmauto. If it’s really severely cold and windy, auto-focus motors may simply freeze up. Some components just don’t do well in the cold. I don’t know exactly what’s behind it (my guess is some camera parts contracting at different rates than others, or maybe condensation again), but it can be pretty unnerving. So be prepared to switch to manual focus, or to go back inside until it warms up enough to start working again.

Protect yourself, too—dress appropriately. Getting an amazing shot is not worth frostbite or hypothermia. Here are the things I can’t live without:

  • A good pair of waterproof hiking boots.
  • If the location is icy and not well-maintained, cleats for traction. I use YakTrax—stretch a pair over your shoes when you need them!
  • Gloves that I can use a camera with. I either go fingerless if it’s not crazy-cold, or a pair that’s not too thick, but with grippy fingers. This pair by Matin does a little bit of both.

But let’s be honest—the biggest winter hurdle is getting off the couch.

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