Photography and Art

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Photography Tips

Brrr! It was a cold morning out there, but I was up early and out the door to take a couple of shots that I'd happened on when I was driving into downtown Toronto last night.

The Golden City

After I got back from my little expedition (with my wallet lightened to the tune of $40 thanks to a parking ticket at 9 am on a Sunday!), I checked my e-mail and found a linkedin request from Cary, an old friend. Somehow, we'd lost track and he managed to find my profile. Now we're back in touch. Turns out, he's also taken up photography and he' pretty good at it too (see here). Cary was interested in winter photography and asked me if I had any tips.

As a matter of fact, I love winter photography and take the majority of my images in winter (something to do with getting sidetracked by golf in the summer). Here are a few tips for those of you who don't often get out with your camera in the winter:

  • Dress warmly! Don't be afraid to look like a dweeb. Wear a hat, a scarf and a warm coat. If you are going out into the wilderness in winter, wear a ski suit or a snowmobile suit. This will make your day much more comfortable and could save your life if you get lost or stranded.
  • If you are taking photos in a remote location, take your cell phone with you and make sure you keep it warm so the battery doesn't give out. Join AAA or CAA so that you can get rescued if your car gets stuck. Make sure you have a good idea of where you are at all times.
  • Battery life is much shorter in the winter. Always have a spare with you and keep it close to your body. If you are going any distance in the cold, take your battery out of the camera and keep it inside your coat.
  • The camera doesn't have much difficulty in cold weather, but lenses will fog up when coming inside from the cold. Some people put the lenses in plastic airtight bags outside and then bring them in and let them warm up. This prevents fogging and the danger of mold.
  • Get a carbon fibre tripod. Metal legs are really cold on the hands when you have to carry a tripod any distance. You'll also appreciate the lightness of weight of carbon fibre.
  • Trigger mitts (designed for hunting) are great for photo work. They keep your hands warm when you're not shooting and let you have your fingers to adjust camera settings when you need them.
  • Watch your histogram and adjust exposure. Often, the camera will underexpose snow and make it a dull gray. You might have to increase exposure.
  • Don't be surprised if the snow isn't white. If you're taking photos on a cold, crisp sunny day, the snow will reflect the blue in the sky. In the evening, as the sun sets and turns golden, the snow will turn golden too.

Cathedral of Religion, Cathedrals of Commerce


  1. Good winter photography tips here...a low-budget alternative to a carbon-fiber tripod is to get insulating pipe foam (get 8 ft. lengths at the hardware store and cut to size) and wrap the legs. Much less cold to the touch. I've also had good luck with chemical hand warmers. They last for hours!

    1. Great tip on the insulating foam. I wish you'd told me that when I had my aluminum tripod! Could have saved some frozen fingers :-)