Essential Tips for Cold-Weather Photography


How unfortunate is it that some of the best photographic opportunities present themselves when it's miserably cold outside? It doesn't matter what kind of camera equipment you're using; proper preparation and knowledge of your gear and environment are essential to helping ensure success when you're out in the cold, making photographs.

Before we talk photography, let me say this: be smart. Cold causes hypothermia and frostbite. There is no potential photograph worth the damaging or deadly side effects of prolonged exposure to cold. Plan your outing, do not push yourself, and have a plan for getting warm at the end of your expedition. Also, let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back.

Before You Go Outside

1) Batteries hate the cold as much as reptiles and other cold-blooded creatures. The cold temperatures cause degraded performance, and there are few things worse, let me tell you, than running out of battery power during a photographic outing. The Law of Murphy guarantees that your batteries will run out just before you attempt to capture the best shot of the day or night.

Watson LP-E6N Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Watson LP-E6N Lithium-Ion Battery Pack

Head outdoors with a fresh battery and keep your spare batteries—not in your camera bag—but inside your layers of clothing to keep them warm. Now that I think of it, someone probably needs to invent some kind of chest holster for camera batteries.

2) A camera bag or camera backpack is always great for keeping your gear clean and protected from the elements. Winter weather and cold only serve to make these accessories more important. If you are out shooting, your camera will, of course, be exposed to the same cold air that is freezing your feet, but there is no way your camera will enjoy being subjected to driving snow, slush, sleet, or ice. Keep it protected!

3) Bring a large plastic bag along with your gear. I will tell you why later.

4) Gloves. Ahhh. We can send people to the moon and back, but it is really difficult to find gear for your hands that:

a) keeps your hands and fingers toasty warm.

b) allows you the dexterity to manipulate your camera's controls. Several manufacturers have tried to crack the code, and there are winter gloves that feature removable fingertips that are designed to allow you to operate your camera's control dials, buttons, and the shutter release. If you have discovered magical gloves that are perfect for operating the dials on your camera while keeping my fingers warm, please share the name of the product! In the meantime, check out this roundup of winter gloves for a hands-on review of what is available.

Bright Tangerine ExoSkin Leather Armour Gloves
Bright Tangerine ExoSkin Leather Armour Gloves

5) Hand Warmers. In addition to gloves, hand warmers can help keep your fingers toasty between shots without the added bulk. Once I started using electronic hand warmers, I immediately regretted not having used them sooner. #gamechanger

6) Tripod Leg Wraps. Not only are leg wraps useful to protect your tripod from the elements, they can also serve as a barrier between your hands and a very cold metal surface!

Now We Are Outside... Seriously? It's Really Cold!

Don't forget to keep your spare batteries as warm as possible. Also, if you are carrying an external flash, do not forget to keep it warm, as well. The batteries in the flash will suffer in the cold. Where is my battery-holding bandolier?

Shooting Tips

1) Some good news: Cold winter air is generally clearer than warm summer air, as it generally contains less moisture. Clear air = crispier photos. Sweet.

2) If there is snow on the ground on a bright day, watch your exposures. Snow can be one of the trickiest subjects to expose properly, sometimes fooling your meter into underexposure and other times into overexposure and a loss of detail. A common rule of thumb with digital is to expose for the brightest portions of the scene and make sure to keep your highlights from being blown out to "all white." Shadow detail may be extracted later in post-processing, while overexposed highlights cannot usually be recovered. Check out this article on proper exposure techniques for more tips on photographing snow. Another point if photographing in the bright sun: use a lens hood. Since the snow can act as a giant reflector, there is a greater chance of stray light reaching your lens and causing unwanted lens flare.

Canon EW-88C Tulip Lens Hood for EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EW-88C Tulip Lens Hood for EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

3) More good news (for photographers): Because of the lower angles of the sun (the same lower angles that make it so bloody cold), your "quality of light" is generally better throughout the day and shadows are longer (sometimes a good element for your photos). If your shooting day presents you with cloudy, overcast weather, you might also consider changing to the “Cloudy” white balance setting to add some warmth to your photos and minimize any blue cast.

4) A UV filter is an ideal tool for clearing up the appearance of haze in photographs, which is more common to winter and cold temperatures, as well as when shooting at higher altitudes. However, the UV filter's other huge benefit to photographing in snowy climates is that it protects your front lens element from snow or other elements.

Hoya 77mm HD3 UV Filter
Hoya 77mm HD3 UV Filter

Before You Go Back Inside

Frozen cold? Miserable because your toes and fingers are icy cold, yet warmed from the inside by the art you just created? There are some precautions you might wish to take before going back inside to thaw out.

1) Pull your memory card from your camera. Why? Read #2.

SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card
SanDisk 64GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Memory Card

2) Put your camera and lens(es) into an airtight plastic bag. Why? Moisture and condensation will want to form on a cold object introduced into a warm environment. Moisture and electronics do not play well together; the plastic bag will magically sacrifice itself to the condensation process so that your camera and gear can stay dry while it warms up. Leave it inside for about two hours while you get yourself some hot cocoa, draw a warm bath, and transfer your new photos to the computer.

3) If it was especially cold and dry outside, you can put your camera on a windowsill to encourage a slower warming process for your camera.

Enjoy the winter with your camera. Stay warm. Protect your gear. But, most importantly, stay smart while you make photographs!

For more information, check out these other winter shooting tips.

What cold weather tips do you have for shooting in the cold? What has worked well for you and your gear?


What would you consider as super cold? The way my photography works as a hobby for wildlife photos - I take camera/lens in my car to a local park about 4 miles away, and maybe spend an hour or less there, put gear back in the car, drive home. Temperature typically around 20-25 degrees F, maybe warmer at times. I am not in a place where I go out in frigid temp, as there's nothing to photograph. If it's snowing, I put a rain jacket covering camera and lens. Is 20 degrees considered super cold that I need to put things in plastic bag? I am just getting a 100-500RF lens and the last thing I want is condensation build up inside it. Thanks.

Hi Syed,

Thanks for the question!

I would consider those temperatures to be "super cold."

You are way better safe than sorry in this case. Plastic bags aren't expensive and putting your gear in bags before you come inside doesn't take all that long.

Will condensation ruin your gear? I cannot predict that, but I know that no condensation is better than some!

Thanks for reading!



Since this says it is a recently updated article, I want to disagree a bit with some of the information.  IF you are constantly taking your camera from inside your coat (warm body) to outside of your coat, you will start condensing your body moisture onto the cold camera.  Many years ago when shooting film on a Nikon FM2n, I froze the camera the first time I used it in the cold: from taking it in and out of my parka (to keep it warm.) Later, I photographed a three day dog race at minus 20F for three days, and had several larger plastic bags and put the cameras in the bags, and in my freezer overnight between daytime use. No problems with moisture. For Aurora shots, once the camera comes out and is on the tripod it stays out (both Nikon digital and now with Olympus MFT bodies. I use a large trash bag over my backpack when I am done for the day, and let it warm slowly.

I usually take the SD cards out, and into a small ziplock before I get in the house. I hate waiting a day or so for my cameras to warm up.

Hi Walton,

Great points there and thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Did the FM2n recover from the frostbite?

Thanks for stopping by!

Excellent tips here.Helpful tips for photography.

Great article. Should I put the camera and lenses in the ziplocs only before I come inside, or also before I get outside?


Hey Nicolas,

You'll want to put them on before you come inside.

Some photographers have told me that they recommend you keep your gear somewhere colder than right next to the fire place in your cozy living room before you step outside so that your kit can get a head start on acclimating to the cold and you don't have condensation issues keeping you from shooting right when you get outside. I personally haven't had that issue going from warm to cold.

Stay warm and thanks for stopping by!

Thanks Todd! One more question: what about changing lenses out in the cold? Should I have any special care? I'm planning to carry a telephoto and a wide angle, is it risky? Thanks!

Hey Nicolas,

You are welcome!

Aside from blowing snow and dirt, I cannot think of any additional risks to swapping lenses in the cold...unless your hands are frozen and you have reduced dexterity and this causes you to perform a drop-test of your optics onto the frozen tundra!

Stay warm!

I own a Sony 10X mark 4, a sony a6000 and a 10 year old canon 7D with multiple lenses.

I am going to Harbin possible -30 c. Which camera should I take and what is the best to protect it

Hi Hans,

I am not certain, but I am pretty sure that -30 deg C is well below the specified operating temperature of those cameras, so you'll be shooting at your own risk there.

I cannot officially make a recommendation, aside to say that you might want to make sure your gear is insured as part of your renter's or homeowner's insurance or part of a valuable personal property floater in the event that any damage/loss occurs.

Good luck and stay warm!

If you will be shooting in cold conditions, I would recommend purchasing a camera insulator such as either the Porta Brace POL-DSLR2 Polar Bear Insulated Camera Case (Black), B&H # POPOLDSLR2, or the Ruggard DSLR Parka Cold and Rain Protector for Cameras and Camcorders (Black), B&H # RUPACLB, for your usage needs.  For more information, you can see the following link by either clicking directly on it or by copying and pasting the link into your internet browser's address bar:


In actuality, batteries do not discharge faster in the cold; it fact it is the opposite. The battery fails because it CANNOT discharge. What is happening is the ions are unable to to move because they are cold. Since they cannot move, they cannot produce current to drive your device. Battery meters interpret no current as a discharged battery where point in fact, the battery still has the charge it had when it was warm. This is why when you go back inside the battery you thought was dead outside in the cold, all of a sudden is working fine again. So it is imperative to keep the batteries warm to allow the ions to move and produce current. That is why keeping them warm works. 

Hey Dennis!

I stand corrected and, if you saw my college transcript and physics and chemistry grades, my error would be justified...kind of!

I will update the text before others run out into the cold thinking the wrong thing!

Thank you for keeping us straight!

Yes, all excellent advice, and I have done photography at lower than -30 F.  

What perplexes me is advice to remove camera cards before going indoors.  My intuition is to leave them in place until entire rig has equilibrated with indoor temperature.  Also, I'd hate to be handling precious cards with numb fingers in a blowing wind at arctic temperatures.  Please explain why it's suggested to remove cards outdoors.

Hi Richard,

There is a belief that you could get condensation on the metal contacts of a memory card and that could cause issues with the camera. It hasn't happened to me and I haven't read horror stories about it, so I would assume this should be filed under "better safe than sorry."

Thanks for stopping by!

Consider getting a Ruggard DSLR Parka (B&H carries it; B&H # RUPACLB ) to keep both your hands and camera with battery insulated from the cold. I have yet to use mine but it looks promising. It appears have room to add a chemical hand warmer packet for additional warmth.

Thanks for promoting B&H gear, James!

When using a glove with fingertips that can be opened or a hybrid glove/mitten (sometimes called a glitten), I wear a pair of sized nitrile disposable gloves under the glove or mitten. This gives good dexterity but never exposes my bare skin to the cold air or metal.

Be sure to get the sized nitrile gloves that give a good, surgical glove-type fit. Hardware stores, Costco, etc. usually have the gloves in boxes of small, medium, and large but for the best fit you can spend the money for gloves intended for heathcare or lab work. These come in about seven different sizes (e.g. NitriDerm® gloves). The healthcare/lab gloves tend to be softer, more elastic, and provide better tactile sensitivity than the typical hardware store nitrile gloves.

Great advice, James! Thanks!

I have worn nitrile gloves when cycling in the winter for the same benefits.

Good stuff! Thanks for reading and sharing your pointers!

Good advice for cold weather.  When I was shooting polar bears in Chuchill, Manitoba at -35 C (walking outside for 4 hours straight) my Nikon D500 and my husband's D800 did fine.  Many others on the trip with more consumer grade cameras (Sony, Canon, lower end Nikons) had battery failure, lens failure and electronics failure.  My husband has Raynaud's (cold fingers) so we researched gloves extensively.  We both got the Heat Company's Austrian Special Forces gloves which were designed to allow shooting (guns) in cold weather.  It comes with a warm inner liner that can accommodate a handwarmer and a shell with thumb and forefinger that peels back.  That exposes still covered fingers with material that can make contact with a touchscreen. The shell also accommodates a handwarmer.  His fingers were still cold (even with 3 handwarmers!) but this seemed to be the best solution to still allow photography.  If you only expose the fingers occasionally it keeps you warm.   We were in a situation where we had to be exposed for 20-30 minutes at a time, but the photos were phenomenal!

Hey Karen,

Great information! Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Long live the polar bears!

I just wear some cheap leather gloves I got on Amazon a few years ago. I may not be able to feel everything very well, but my fat thumbs and fingers can still operate the dials and buttons on a D600 and an A7III.

Trying to change lenses is a completely different story.

Thanks, Jacob! It sounds like you are tougher than most of us!

Good article. I've always put my camera in a backpack and let it cool to ambient temperature. I've done this with my Nikon D40 and D7000 down to -5°F (-20°C) and been able to take somewhere between 50 to 100 shots during a day. Putting your camera equipment in a plastic bag or waterproof daypack is spot on when going from outdoors to indoors. It's all about dew point.  I have gone from near freezing weather outside in to caves where the temperature is 78°F and very high humidity. I put my camera under my jacket to keep it warm and when entering the cave, I didn't have any condensation problems. One other guy didn't do that and his lens was fogged pretty bad for most of the foray.

Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences, Mark! Good stuff!

Years ago I learned the hard way about the condensation issue, and subsequently bagged my gear before coming inside as a matter of course. That said, it's a bit of a hassle when you have multiple cameras and accessories to deal with. I've since found that Ziploc oversize bags (XL - 24"x20" and XXL - 24"x32.5") provide a convenient solution in that they will hold my entire camera bag. The XXL size will easily hold a ThinkTank Airport-series bag. After a day of shooting I simply pop the entire camera bag into the Ziploc before bringing the gear inside. 

Ziploc for the entire bag; perfect idea!!! Thank you Ronald B.

Great advice, Ronald! Thanks for stopping by to share!

Does anybody know what is spec'ed temperature range for various kind of batteries? Tried looking for Olympus batteries on their site, but no temperature range listed.

Hi Vassili,

Most manufacturers list temperature ranges for the operation of a camera, not specifically the batteries.

Noting my horrible grades in physics and chemistry referenced above, my guess is that a Google search will lead you to information on performance of different battery chemistries under different temperature conditions.

In the mean time, just know that you get reduced performance from the batteries the colder the ambient temperature is.

Thanks for reading!

Have you tried using hand warmers on batteries- such as on drones, outside the battery compartment of camera or flash to keep the unit warm? A crazy idea but was just wondering.

Also for Drones, I usually notice that the drone will signal low temperatures and give a warning but still operate well. Its the phone thats operating he drones that will want to shut down first. Maybe having a handwarmer against the phone in my gloved hand? Or is this a crazy idea?

I have used hand warmers. I put them in my pockets so they served to keep both my hands and batteries warm. This was in Yellowknife while photographing the Aurora so darkness added to the challenge. Temps were not awful for that area. We hit a “warm spell” for March. I think the coldest we experienced at night was -15 to 20F. Everything worked fine.

Bingo! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Susan!

Not crazy at all, Joseph! In extreme conditions, I would certainly give this a try with the added benefit of helping to keep your hands warm.

It is only crazy if it doesn't work, right?

Great tips.  Recently started at the, New England School of Photography, and the winter is upon us.  We're outside a lot and the battery and condensation tips are spot on.  Any tips for film? January we start black and white film.  

Hey Jason,

Sorry for the delay in replying...I was out of town for a few days.

Good question!

I'll admit to having to research this answer, and there might be more information on other websites, but, in general, temperature not only effects film exposure, but super cold temps can make film brittle.

Kodak recommends you let film warm up before loading it into the camera (this applies to taking film from the refrigerator before use). Polaroid says that below 55F you might get some wonky results. And, another New York camera store cautions about static electricity build-up that can create sparks and leave marks on the frames.

It sounds like it might be a good idea to keep the camera inside your jacket or coat when not shooting to try to keep the gear warmer than if it was just hanging from your neck strap!

If you find some other information, please circle back to share with us! Also, tell Jurgen hello!

Great tips!

"another New York camera store" :) 

Love you guys more!

your  Essential Tips for Cold-Weather Photography good article. It helpful article every photographer ........

clipping p. p.,

You are the BEST! This is the 6th positive comment you have left for us here. We love clipping p. p.!

All hail clipping p. p.!!!

I knew something this post.Every tip is important for me because I am a graphics designer.

thanks for posting.

I am new at this but I love photography. I have always wanted to become an prefessional photgrapher. So every tips is important for me. thanks for posting it 

You are very welcome, Hazel! Thank you for reading and good luck in your photographic adventures!

Thank you for the article

Any other recommendations on gloves?

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