Can I take pictures in the cold?

The answer is obvious - you can. But, this must be done wisely - carefully. Read about what and how you can shoot in winter in another article - how to take pictures in winter. Here we will talk purely about the technical aspects of winter photography.

Yes, this is my DSLR. Yes, nothing happened to her. Yes, I shot in the cold at her. Yes it's me.

Yes, this is my DSLR. Yes, nothing happened to her. Yes, I shot in the cold at her. Yes it's me.

Battery Handling

In the cold, batteries run out very much, especially NI-MH batteries. For me, this is critical when using a flash that eats 4 such batteries. And the problem is not that they are discharged, but that they unable to provide quick reload. Often you have to change the batteries to warmer ones on the flash. Those that “froze” in the middle of the flash can be warmed up in a bag or pocket and they can still stretch out a couple of hundred frames. I strongly I recommend having at least two sets of batteries.

Conventional batteries also suffer a temporary loss of power in the cold. Try once, as your camera and flash drive and draw conclusions.

With regard to lithium-ion batteries, the situation is simpler, they are not so afraid of the cold. Almost all digital SLR cameras are powered by lithium-ion batteries. You shouldn't worry about their release. From personal experience I will say that on my SLR cameras Nikon D90, Nikon D200 the number of shots decreases with frost somewhere by no more than 30%. In order not to spend extra battery power, I advise you not to peer at the pictures taken on the display for a particularly long time. It is enough to check one two pictures from the series and the overall quality of the result. But still, I strongly I recommend having a spare battery.

Photo in frost on a SLR camera

Photo in frost on a SLR camera

Camera acclimatization

When they’ve filmed plenty on the street and entered the room - the camera needs to acclimatize... This means that it should stay in your bag for 10-20 minutes. And you don't need to worry too much about her. I do not advise putting the camera on a battery, etc. The problem is that when the camera gets from the cold to the heat, a lot of condensation settles on it. Condensation is especially visible on the lens, which becomes foggy. If it is a DSLR, then condensation appears both on the viewfinder and on the mirror and may appear on the shutter, and even worse, on the sensor. Condensation must not be washed... You just need to methodically wait a couple of minutes until he disappears himself. The only thing that can protect the matrix from dust is the built-in dust shake function, but protecting the matrix from light condensation is very problematic. Therefore, on almost any camera, small blots appear on its matrix. This is treated by cleaning the matrix with special means, or simply in a service center. Personally, I only clean the matrices on my cameras because of the dark streaks that appear over time.

Winter photography

Winter photography

Tricky solution

Often I have to personally work in the cold-warm-cold mode. At the same time, it’s practically not possible to cope with a single camera. I’ll explain, I rent the bride’s ransom at the entrance, then the fun goes to the house or apartment or to the limousine, and the condensation on the lens completely blocks the ability to take pictures. Therefore, I quickly take out the second warmed camera from the coffer and continue shooting. The same thing happens throughout the day of filming. Worst case, when the camera from the case also sweats. This also happens. Once my second camera fogged up when filming in the tropical climate of the botanical garden. I got out in this situation not in the most successful way, took out another lens from the coffer, warned that there were only a couple of frames and until the lens managed to fog up for a minute - I shot a series and saved the situation. I understand that the second camera is an expensive solution to such a small problem, but sometimes without it you just can’t get a photo, but the customer doesn’t need it, it requires a result.

Winter photo on a digital SLR camera

Winter photo on a digital SLR camera

Caution! Snow!

Be careful. Falling snow melts on camera... The resulting water from melting is poured between the buttons and can lead to a short circuit. I had a case when the snow melted on a warm camera, water flowed into the grooves between the buttons and froze there. Then the buttons stopped pressing. The solution to this problem is simple - before going outside, cool the camera on your balcony. The wardrobe trunk works like a thermos. The cold will remain cold, the warm will remain warm. And if snow gets on the camera - just blow it off, or sweep it away.

I'm filming. Please note no lens hood.

I'm filming. Pay attention to the lens hood.

If it is snowing (as in the picture above), you need to shoot only with a hood... The trouble is, snow falls on the front lens and often sticks to it, and even worse, melts. I have had cases when the snow melted on the front lens, and then froze, after which I had to twist safety filterto continue shooting. I recommend even with the smallest snow or rain to take off with a hood and protective filter.

Winter photo

Winter photo

Minimum cold movement

Whenever possible, we expose the main settings in warm home conditions. We make the ISO settings, shooting speed, image quality and focus method. With experience, you will immediately understand what needs to be configured. Also, check other settings. Is autofocus turned on, how many frames are left on the memory card and what is the battery charge. If the charge is low - change or recharge the battery. All this is done at home, so as not to waste time in the cold in the cold. In severe frost, every second is important for both the camera and the photographer.

Photo taken in the frost on a DSLR

Photo taken in the frost on a DSLR

Personal experience:

If I don’t need to do commercial shooting, I try to shoot on my inexpensive lenses, it’s fast Nikon 50mm F1.8DHelios-81 Kit 18-55. Personally, I prefer to take fixes in the winter. Zooms have more moving parts, more lubrication, therefore, there is a greater chance of damaging the lens at low temperatures. In the cold, the lubricant freezes and focuses, sometimes it becomes impossible. Also, in the cold I advise you to use a minimum of technology, a camera is enough. Even the flash I try not to use when shooting in the cold. All unnecessary photographic equipment requires attention and time, and during this time the photographer, camera and people in the frame freeze (if any).

Winter photography.

Winter photography.

Display and frost

In cold weather, the liquid crystal display starts to slow down just like on a mobile phone or on an electronic watch. This is normal. After acclimatization, everything always bounced back to me.

Winter photography. Photo during a snowfall

Winter photography. Photo during a snowfall

Warm your hands

I had a case when I was shooting a mobile set in the snow, and I was so cold that I could not press the shutter button. Therefore, I highly recommend learning how to work with the camera with gloves. With the usual a digital device is not convenient, but I manage to shoot perfectly with good warm gloves on the SLR camera with its large buttons and large sizes. The only serious problem with gloves is that you don’t feel whether you pressed the focus button or not, but you can perfectly orientate yourself by the sound of the lens motor or camera. If you need to configure something in the menu, I advise you to remove the gloves.

Winter photography. Photo during a snowfall

Winter photography. Photo during a snowfall

Well, really?

In fact, I used to feel sorry for my “expensive” SLR camera and blew dust particles off it. With experience, I realized that in frost, cold and high moisture, nothing bad happens to her. Therefore, it is better to get a good shot than to go for a winter walk without a camera. And in fact, all the photos in this article were taken with the simplest Nikon D40 и Tamron 17-50 F2.8 and virtually no processing. Special thanks Natalya Romanenko for backstage and heroism when filming. You can see the processed winter photos in the gallery Winter Photoshoot on another my site.


In order to make the camera and the photographer as good as possible when shooting in the cold season, it is enough to follow these rules:

  • cool the camera before shooting
  • stock up on batteries
  • do not waste unnecessary time in vain on settings and checking the shot material on the camera
  • allow the camera (especially the lens) to acclimatize in warm conditions
  • shoot with a hood and protective filter, for ordinary digital cameras we try to prevent snow falling on the lens
  • learning to take off gloves

Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 65, on the topic: Is it possible to photograph in the cold?

  • Serg

    The camera is not cold, but Nate?)))))

    • Arkady Shapoval

      no, she’s running in the frame, and I’m freezing)

  • Smetanka

    The long-awaited winter! =))

  • Now overboard - minus 16 !!! The figure is a skiff, but Kiev-19 will work.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Well, the article, in fact, is about the number, and I would have looked at how to change the film in -16 with 36 bare hands after XNUMX frames :)

      • Yura

        changed once, at the zenith ... on the fotik a piece of skin from a finger remained = D

      • Lech

        we and -30 is not the limit))))))))))

  • The

    I love winter pictures :)

  • Last weekend I got out into the woods with a camera, it was -11. The camera and lenses worked fine, no glitches. With Jupiter 37A it was the most difficult - it is metallic and the fingers were very cold when working with it :)

  • In general, with the number you have to stand on your ears. But there are problems with the film. At minus 15 and below, the film in the chamber may crumble, and the silk gates (watering can, FED, Zenith, etc.) freeze.

  • Andrei

    And frost and snow are not a hindrance ... Oh cool!

  • Arkady, where does this information about Ni-Mh batteries come from? As far as I know, everything is exactly the opposite. Li-ion batteries discharge much faster in the cold. But they are lighter and more compact and have no memory effect. They also provide more accurate discharge information. My 1d mark II N is on NiMh and works long in the cold. And 5d mark II on Li-ion.
    In general, they do anything of value on acid batteries. They generally are not afraid of frost. For example, a Broncolor A2R battery generator.
    Also automobile ..

    But the trend of switching to Li-Ion, regardless of frost resistance, exists.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Personal experience, I have 6 sets of Ni-Mh accs, and everything starts to "slow down" in the cold. Li-on batteries from my Nikons, when shooting all day in the cold, give about 600 photos instead of 1000.

      • Michael

        Not all NiMH batteries are equally useful. Try Sanyo Eneloop. Low self discharge. They tolerate frost well without loss of capacity.

  • Anastasia

    the beauty! really enjoyed it. for me personally, as a novice photographer, it is very useful! thanks!

  • Alexey

    brrr, cold) in the summer, in the 40-degree heat it’s nice to watch such photos) it’s beautiful now in Kiev!

    in winter, do not forget about such trifles as a thermos with hot tea)

    Thank you for the article. interesting!

    • Yuriy75

      Hot drinks and alcohol, on the contrary, lead to rapid freezing, because a warming throat warms the carotid artery through which the body controls the general temperature of the body and feels warmth, opens the pores on the skin, which leads to faster heat loss. It’s better to just move or warm up indoors.

  • Alexander

    And I honestly don’t want to shoot in the winter. In the summer it’s somehow more comfortable. And in the winter, sort out, handle the summer. During the warmer months, usually several thousand photos were taken - traveling abroad, in Ukraine, macro, landscapes, just sorties to nature and the city. A lot of photos are being collected, which are usually moved quickly to lay out the most interesting ones. And in winter you can make a collage and sit over RAW-s to think, play with the parameters.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I'm lucky, I often get a couple of thousand a day.

  • Dmitriy

    As far as I know, when shooting in the winter on the street, the matrix freezes and produces clearer pictures with less noise.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      this is all from the field of theory. Matrix heating does play a role in creating noise, but in practice this can be felt with very long shutter speeds.

      • Dmitriy

        I often shoot night landscapes, and as I see winter photos have much less noise than summer ones

  • SONY

    Filmed a rally on February 4th.
    3 hours camera (Canon EOS 550D, Canon EF-S 18-55 / 3.5-5.6, Canon EF 50 / 1.8 II, Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 135 / 3.5) on the chest at -18.
    He generally did not react to cooling. I didn’t even notice the screen lag in LiveView (only then I thought that it seemed like it should be).
    When he caught a camera in the subway, he was covered with frost. Then the frost melted and the whole camera was wet. NOTHING! Dried up - and takes off further.
    If the lens is not removed, then nothing will sweat inside. Water from the outside will not harm anything, even if it has flowed inside, it is distilled ... The main thing is not to freeze inside - here it can break something purely mechanically.

  • Novel

    Hello :) tomorrow it is necessary to shoot at -31 :))) nikon d3100 + 15-55 + jupiter 37a…. and nikon d90 + 18-105 + nikoor 1,4 .... Is it possible ?? :))) to shoot for an hour and a half (races)

    • Arkady Shapoval

      You can, I’m going to shoot tomorrow.

    • Eugene

      outside the window -40 tomorrow the wedding, I shoot on nikon d 300S and nikkor 17-55 F2-8, and I don't need to change anything ... ... about 4 years in this bundle I work ... .. everything is fine

  • Shiko

    There was such a thing last winter - the frost was obscenely strong and I was somehow tempted to take pictures of the evening industrial landscapes. Knowing about the fast discharge, I took three pairs of Ni-Mh batteries, the charge really flew out at once, but after that the Akums never held a charge, a fully charged battery flew out while watching. I had a sony h-5 yuA now canon 1100d and I have been painfully thinking for a week whether to go on a winter photo hunt or not.


    Thanks again!!!

  • Konstantin

    Arkady, under the photo with the young man there is a print “I'm taking pictures. Please note that the lens does not have a hood ”.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Thank you for your attention. Fixed.

  • Daria

    And with what settings did you shoot? :)

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Each situation has its own settings. This is a more general question, and the settings are not very dependent on the temperature of the environment.

  • NordWind

    Thank you for the article. A small addition - I bring the camera in from the cold, put it in a cellophane bag with a large bag of silica gel, and in the wardrobe trunk there is a large bag of silica gel, it saves well.

  • Igor

    but there is such an article, only about film cameras (zenith, Kiev, etc.)

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I do not have.

  • Sergey Sh.

    Arkady! After reviewing a photo shoot with a girl in the cold, I came to the conclusion that in many pictures the golden ratio rule is violated. Or I'm wrong? This is not criticism, I just recently became interested in photography and I want to figure out what's what.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      yes, broken

  • Kate

    Thanks! Your advice really helped the newbie !!

  • Alexander

    A couple more chips. I haven’t tried it myself, but I read it :)
    1) The camera is wrapped with cling film (in rain and snow).
    2) The exposure is set to +0.3, +0.7 in snow (since the camera is mistaken with exposure metering due to the reflection of light from the snow)
    3) Gloves with cropped fingers. These are not always easy to find, but your hands are warm and you feel the buttons.

  • Ivan

    You wrote that condensate must not be washed. And if you do delete it, then what could be the consequences, and then how to deal with them?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      It leaves streaks, and it can remain on the inner lenses, even if it is erased on the front, it may not help much. After shooting, the lens should be detached, then the stains should be removed in any usual way - with a napkin with microfibers, a pencil for cleaning, etc.

  • Ivan

    Thanks! And another question in pursuit: and if you accidentally hold your fingers on the front lens, then cleaning is the same as condensation?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Ordinary dirt is cleaned by conventional means, as after the lens has fallen apart.

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