Shooting in cold weather can create stunning imagery for your film. However, it also can be extremely challenging to accomplish successfully. Follow these 6 tips and hopefully your shoot will get done without a problem. Not sure what to bring out with you? Check out our recent article about 14 essential items for shooting in the cold.
1. Avoid 'Cold Soaking'
“Cold Soaking” is allowing your camera to become as cold as the environment around you. This is something you do not want to do. Cameras are a very sophisticated piece of technology, but allowing your camera to reach sub-zero temperatures is not what most cameras are built to do. Cameras are delicate, you have to take care of them if you want them to keep working. Keep your camera somewhere warm and safe until it’s time to shoot. You should even consider sticking hand warmers to them to keep them from freezing.
2. Climatize Your Gear
The first challenge you will have when shooting in the cold is acclimatizing your gear. One of the biggest challenges when shooting in cold weather is keeping the lens clear. If in the off chance you do ice up or get some moisture on your lens, you need to clean it as soon as it’s safe to do so. As we mentioned in our previous article, you should always be carrying an air puffer and microfibre cloth with you in your kit. Do not use any type of cleaning solution when you’re out in the freezing cold. It is extremely likely that the solution will freeze the instant it hits the lens tissue and obviously that is not something you want to happen to your expensive lens.
3. Don't Breather on Your Lens
We’ve all done it. Accidentally touching the front element of your lens and leaving a large, smudgy finger print. In normal conditions, the quickest way to clean it is to breathe on it then clean it off with a microfiber cloth. However, these are not normal conditions. If you breathe on your lens while you’re shooting in cold weather it will instantly fog up/freeze your lens. Further to this, there are harmful acids in your breath that can potentially damage lens coatings.
Pre-production is extremely important in general. Don’t be cutting any corners especially when it comes to shooting in cold weather. Plan your day as best as you can, and be sure to include how much longer it will take to do things in the cold and compensate for potential problems. Shooting when the sun is at it’s highest point in the sky in the snow is like shooting high-noon on the beach – too much bright light will wash out darker surfaces. If you can plan it, shoot in the early morning or late afternoon for the best conditions (unless shooting in overcast conditions).
5. Control Your Image
Shooting in cold weather can be difficult in terms of maintaining equipment, but also with securing yourself a good image as well. Here are some tips to help with that.
Under Expose Your Image
Shooting in snow is difficult not just because it’s all white, but when you lose color you also lose detail with a too-bright white/gray sky. Try to underexpose your image so you can pull more detail out of the darks.
Using Your Histogram/Zebras
One thing that is extremely important when shooting in the snow is using your Histograms/Zebras. It is extremely hard to judge exposure accurately in these conditions. Another good habit to get into is using a light meter.
Using filters is important, especially on sunny days. Because of the way in which the sun bounces off the snow, you will need to use filters to stop down your image to keep down your shutter speed if you hope to achieve any depth in your image. Be aware when using screw-on filters, you might get fog between the lens and the filter. To avoid this, I highly recommend shooting with a matte box setup because this will allow air to pass between the lens and filter.
6. Utilize Your Environment
The sun hangs lower in the sky creating longer shadows and can be used to help shape your subject matter. Embrace this and use the sun to your advantage.
Diffusion & Reflectors
Soft shadows, diffused light and an even tone are perfect conditions for shooting closeups of people. Overcast and gray conditions mean you don’t need to lug along the diffusion tools because these conditions create natural diffusion from the grey skies and snow.
If you desire to shoot at Magic Hour, you don’t have to worry about getting up as early or staying out as late. Nights are much longer in the winter (as I’m sure you know) so being comfortable and ready for Magic Hour is much simpler.
Unique weather conditions arise during winter such as fog, frost, and snow. These will add to your footage if implemented properly. There are plenty of films out there that have used winter as their backdrop and the results are beautiful.
What Are Your Tips For Shooting in Cold Weather?
Anything missing from this list? Let us know if the comments and help your fellow filmmakers have a successful shoot!