This week on Ask the Expert, we figure out what it takes to shoot great photos in cold weather.
I would really appreciate any tips on cold weather shooting. I’ve never been very comfortable with taking my camera out in the cold and with winter quickly approaching any advice you can provide would be helpful. Tips on keeping my camera safe but also how to capture the beautiful white snow.
This weeks answer to Pam’s question comes from Sigma Pro Photographer Ethan Meleg. Here’s Ethan’s response:
Thanks for your question about cold weather shooting. There’s no need to worry about damage to your camera gear in cold weather –all modern DSLRs are built to operate in a wide range of temperatures and it would have to be VERY cold before you had any serious issues. I find the hardest part of winter shooting is simply getting motivated to brave the cold temperatures. Dressing properly – with quality outdoor clothing in layers – is the key! Also, consider buying a weather station from a site like https://ambientweather.com/all-weather-stations so that you always know exactly how cold it is. That way, you can better prepare for a long day out in the cold.
Here are a few of the common challenges of shooting in cold weather and how to solve them.
Camera batteries lose their charge much more quickly in cold temperatures. I carry spares and keep them tucked inside my jacket so my body heat keeps them warm. When the one in use gets low, I simply swap it out for a warm one.
Fogging up of gear
Bringing cold camera gear into a warm car or house will cause it to fog up – most noticeably on the front lens element. To avoid this, I do one of the following 1) If I’m going back out shooting shortly, I take the batteries out of the camera body and leave the gear in my trunk so it stays cold. 2) If I’m done shooting for the day, I put the gear into my camera pack, zip it up and put the whole thing in a plastic bag – then bring it inside. I leave it that way for a few hours so the gear acclimatizes slowly and there’s no sudden or direct contact with warm air to cause condensation (it will happen on the outside of the bag, which is fine).
When shooting winter scenes that include a lot of bright white snow in the frame, camera bodies are often fooled into underexposing the image. To adjust, I either take a meter reading with the frame full of snow and manually set the exposure 2 stops brighter or I simply check the histogram and use the exposure compensation dial to brighten the exposure. I always check the histogram after each image and ‘shoot to the right’ without blowing out the highlights.
Shoot with a buddy
I get lazy during winter and find it tough to get out of my warm bed on cold winter mornings! To avoid the temptation to stay in, I plan winter photo outings with my friends. If I’m committed to meeting someone for a shoot, I’ll always drag my butt out of bed. It’s also much safer to have others around in icy, winter conditions.
I hope these tips help you out. Have fun out there this winter!