How to

16 February 2017

Filming in the Cold - Tips and Tricks

If you’re a keen photographer or film-maker, you’ll be willing to brave most conditions to get the perfect shot. In cold and sub-zero conditions, it’s important to keep yourself warm and your equipment safe and functional. Here are a few tips and tricks for a successful cold-weather shoot.

Looking after your equipment:

It’s firstly important to ensure your equipment, your camera in particular, are kept from getting too cold. Avoid ‘cold soaking’ your camera (allowing your camera to match your surroundings’ temperature), and instead only expose it to the cold air when necessary. This is crucial as most cameras aren’t designed to be used in sub-zero temperatures, and so damage may be done. When you’re not using it, keep it in a bag or case to insulate it. If you’re using your camera for a prolonged amount of time, consider getting yourself an insulating case to prevent it getting too cold.

The batteries in the camera also suffer if they get too cold. As we touched on at the beginning of the year, Li-Ion batteries don’t like the cold, and the cold can drain battery by 25-50%, depending on the temperature.  Some experts say film-makers should use “lithium, nicad, or nickel metal hydride batteries, which function better in the cold, as reported by KFTV. However Director of Photography Alister Chapman advises even these batteries don’t function that well below freezing.

So simply, be sure to bring along spare batteries, and to store them in your pockets or in your bag. It’s also a good idea to pop hand-warmers in with them to keep them warm.

Even switching up certain pieces of equipment will be an advantage. In this instance, avoid the classic metal tripods as they won’t be pleasant to hold and move about with your already-chilly hands. Instead, go for a Carbon Fiber tripod; they’re less likely to get so cold and – an added bonus – they’re more lightweight.

Finally for equipment, bring along some humidifiers. These will soak up moisture and condensation and avoid any damage to your camera. You can also buy humidifying lens caps which would be really effective.

Looking after yourself:

As well as your equipment, it’s very important to keep yourself warm. As a general rule, it’s always a good idea to wear layers, as a way to maintain comfortable body temperature. Of course, you want to focus on your work, and being sweaty or being freezing cold will cause distraction and discomfort.

Choice of material is important; “When dressing for the cold, wool is the best thing you can use. It retains much of its thermal efficiency even if wet. Cotton is the worst thing to wear” says Terry Woolf, a filmmaker based in Yellowknife, Canada.

Gloves are also critical. It can be difficult to keep your hands warm as well as functional for when using your camera, using a touchscreen and pressing small buttons to adjust settings, for example. Options to keep your hands from freezing are to wear touch-screen gloves to combat the technology issue, and then layer with warmer mittens on top for maximum warmth. Fingerless gloves or ones where you can free your fingers without removing the whole glove would also work well.

And of course using hand warmers for their intended use (as well as warming batteries) is also a good idea. Pop some in your mittens or in your pockets to warm your hands up.

So, there we have it; look after your equipment and keep yourself warm, to achieve comfort and beautiful shots of the scenic arctic environments.

Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry, with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.