The fluffy, pure, frozen beauty of a winter landscape can be breathtaking.
Hence, most photographers wonder at some point: can I use my camera in the cold? Is it safe, and what precautions should I take when shooting in the snow?
Don’t worry! Your camera is not some precious snowflake (although you might be treating it like one).
With a few essential tips and accessories, you’ll be ready to photographically tackle any snow landscape like a penguin.
How Can I Safely Use My Camera in the Cold?
Using a digital camera in sub-zero is mostly about managing temperature differences and condensation build-up.
Although, it somewhat depends on the severity of the cold weather, the duration of the shoot, and the exact camera model. Let’s have a closer look.
Keep Your Batteries and Memory Cards Warm
It’s not just your camera that should be kept reasonably warm. Keep the storage media and spare batteries nice and toasty, too.
You can always reach in and grab a new card or fully charged battery as you need.
Genuine Micro SDs branded Samsung Evo and SanDisk Extreme should easily handle the cold.
Although, the old adage of “keeping your cards close to your chest” certainly applies to memory cards.
Just do yourself a favor and don’t toss them straight in the pocket—use a nice protective case.
Adjust Your Exposure in Winter Weather
It can prove tricky to dial in the perfect exposure in a winter landscape.
That’s why many photographers swear by handheld light meters, which typically do a better job than the built-in one in your camera.
Also, a simple gray card can help a great deal.
To learn more about exposing for snow like a pro, we advise that you check out the Zone System, as outlined by Ansel Adams in The Negative.
Having a camera with a good EVF can be a tremendous help if you don’t know what you are doing.
Be Gentle With Plastics
Everything plastic tends to get frail under bone-chilling conditions. It’s wise to transport your photo gear in a padded bag with compartments.
We recommend that you take extra care when handling any plastic bits like switches, hoods, clips, caps, and articulating screens.
Don’t use excessive force, and beware of bumps and drops.
Prevent Condensation With a Plastic Bag
Being the oldest trick in the book, this one hardly comes as a surprise. Still, it’s crucial in protecting the longevity of your cameras and lenses.
Simply put your chilled-down equipment in an airtight plastic bag before bringing it indoors. This way, it can safely acclimatize while avoiding condensation on the inside.
Failing to do so can introduce corrosion and mold to the equipment.
How the Cold Affects Your Camera
The thing is, low temperature affects your camera, batteries, and lenses in several ways.
The LCD or EVF can become jittery and unstable in extreme cold—but thankfully, it should return to normal.
Camera batteries tend to drain like crazy when cold.
Getting OEM batteries will get you the best mileage and longevity, but keeping them warm during winter shoots is a must. Make sure to bring a few extras.
Lastly, lenses can suffer damage from condensation build-up.
Old lenses sometimes have mold behind their front elements or jammed focus and aperture mechanisms. Don’t be that person!
Which Accessories to Use for Winter Photography?
Hand Warmers and Gloves
Ever wondered, ”how can I use my camera in the cold?”
Aside from a few basic techniques, certain items make our lives as photographers easier during winter.
If someone knows anything about avoiding frost-bitten fingers while photographing, it’s the Norwegians. We warmly recommend a pair of Vallerret gloves for that reason.
Sometimes, the situation calls for more extreme measures.
Reusable hand warmers like HotSnapZ will let you comfortably deal with arctic weather conditions.
A rain cover is actually an all-weather cover. Thus, even snowfall will not cause you any trouble when doing landscape photography during the winter months.
It always helps to have a weather-sealed camera body like the Fujifilm X100v, but it’s by no means a necessity.
Bonus tip: you can use a single-use plastic shopping bag in a pinch. Simply create a hole for the lens and viewfinder, and perhaps fix it with Gaffer tape.
Voila, you now have a free snow cover for your digital camera.
It’s always a good idea to have some silica gel sachets lying around your camera bag.
You can buy dehumidifiers or simply use the little, rattly ”do not eat” baggies that come with most shoes and such.
So can you use your camera in the cold? In short, yes.
Simply keep your photography gear warm, bring plastic bags, and use quality winter gloves. This way, you can use your camera even during the harshest winters.
Furthermore, good light metering can help you attain correct snow exposure.