Winter is coming: 11 tips for cold weather photo shoots

With winter finally making an appearance (um…we had 60 degrees Christmas Eve…it’s now 12. Bah!) there are a few things a photographer must keep in mind while shooting in the colder temperatures. Here is a list of 11 tips to keep your winter photoshoots running smoothly!

  • Lenses: Glass fogs when moving from one drastic temperature to another. If going from warm to cold, give your glass 5 minutes to adjust to the new temperature. I had this happen going from a cool air conditioned state room on board a cruise ship to the balmy Bahamian sun outside. I couldn’t figure out why everything looked “cloudy”. After a few shots adjust settings, I finally realized what was going on. There was no amount of lens cleaning that would fix the problem; just time and weather acclimation.
  • Batteries: Old Man Winter eats batteries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don’t be left out in the cold with no camera power…especially after your model took time and effort out of their day to prep and show up. Make sure you have spare batteries. I always pack them in pockets on my body so they stay warm with my body heat.
  • Memory cards: Extreme weather conditions call for extreme memory cards. Cards labeled “Extreme” were built to withstand low temperatures.
  • Exposure: Snow is a giant reflector thus throwing your camera’s internal meter sensor for a loop. Overexpose outdoor images that involve lots of snow. Otherwise your images will be dark and drab.
  • Plan ahead: With cold temperatures, have a solid game plan in place to execute in a timely manner
  • Models: Be respectful of your models. If your hands are cold while shooting, chances are very good your model is chilly as well. In temperatures below 40–45 degrees, I shoot in short 10–15 minute increments and encourage breaks for time in front of the heater, whether in doors or blasting on high in a vehicle. This also gives you time to review your images and visualize the shot so you can nail it and keep moving.
  • Pack hand warmers: This will help keep condensation off of lenses, not to mention warm stiff fingers.
  • Snowflakes: Falling Suzy snowflakes are beautiful and mesmerizing, but it never fails…trying to translate that awe and wonder in a photo typically falls flat. Wanna know the secret? Telephoto lens. That puppy will emphasize falling snow in the foreground and give you the snow globe effect you’ve been lusting after.
  • No snow? No problem! Add snow in post processing with PS and overlays.
  • Stay inside: With the past two Februarys in PA bragging of temperatures in the minus 20’s (!!!) it is positively TOO COLD to be shooting outside. Invest or rent a light kit and set up shop indoors. Your fingers and toes (and model!) will thank you.
  • Composite: You find a beautiful winter scene and have your camera, GO shoot it! Yes! But it’s just lacking a beautiful subject. No worries. Composite your beautiful backdrop with another model image for a change of pace and limitless creations.

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