Photography tips and advice for rain, wind and snow

Photography tips and advice for rain, wind and snow

This is a roundup of some of Alex's tried and tested photography tips for shooting in the rain, wind and snow. There are extra challenges that these weather conditions can throw at you - but like good boy scouts, you should be prepared.

Don't let bad weather get the better of you or your shoot!

Living in the UK we have been exposed to the second wettest year since records began. This has meant that virtually all my shoots in the last 6 months have been in the rain, wind or snow. Coupled with the fact that I (for some unknown reason) do get approached by people who more often than not, want to shoot outdoors or on location. I have written this post with the help of @769inc, an outdoor enthusiast and part-time assistant / partner in crime on shoots.

miss erised outside vw camper in snow

We have spent quite a few photoshoots out in the elements in more difficult conditions than nice sunny days. From bare footed model shoots in deep snow, to wind and rain swept coastlines and hills, we have definitely had some fun.

All products / brands are what we use, and we are in no way endorsed by anyone (no palms have been greased we assure you!). We just research kit, trial and road test everything - and along the way we find some great companies, products and people.

Getting the basics right: Keeping warm

Our model in the snow

On any outdoor photoshoot, as an assistant or photographer, much of your time can often be spent running around like crazy getting this / that / the other, standing still whilst maybe holding a reflector, being a human boom, holding onto kit or shooting. However as we all know, this is in between many other moments of extreme motion when moving lights and gear, or rushing around frantically for some other random reason.

So in adverse weather conditions, you need to make sure that you have plenty of warm clothes but can easily adjust and cool down quickly when you get too hot; and visa versa. Remember, if you sweat whilst engaged in strenuous activity, then this will rapidly cool you in extreme weather when you slow down. So make sure you use a synthetic/wool type mix base layer (not cotton) to wick away any moisture and keep you toasty.

Good but cheap examples can be found in sport shops as simple sport tshirts and more quality ones at outdoor suppliers. However our personal favourite base layers by far are made in the UK by Ussen, who produce some awesome stuff, and are definitely worth checking out. You should then use a layered system of a comfy stuff/fleece and/or thermal jacket and a sturdy windproof/waterproof/breathable shell when necessary. If you can easily adjust layers and airflow then you will be much more comfortable in the long term.

Photo right: RYOlove ( fyi - her idea to go barefoot!!)

Screenshot of some outdoor photography we completed for Surviva

Shot from our shoot for Surviva (as featured onf Dragon's Den), a new company selling reflective survival jackets for outdoor sports people.

Often good outdoor clothing can seem expensive I'll admit, but the only real 'branded' gear I have picked up over the years has been bought in sales, especially during the summer! It's worth noting , that a good portion of our gear was bought via army surplus stores as it often provides a more cost effective, hard wearing and proven piece of kit. For example, a recent purchase was a pair of brand new un-issued gore-tex trousers for £25 - which are hard as nails, and better than any commercial version which might cost £100!...

Our personal stockist of choice: Check out someone like DenbighArmySurplus as a good starting point for quality army surplus products and other outdoor gear, as they know their stuff and produce great kit reviews on YouTube and Facebook.

So basically look around when buying kit and don't jump to spend your money on off -the-shelf high street brands or stores without doing your research ...

Clothing checklist

  • Good waterproof and breathable boots
  • Mittens - Warmer than gloves when holding something like a reflector for long periods.
  • Thermal trousers - Like a sleeping bag you can wear! Army surplus types are a cheap solution here as they are inexpensive, robust and a must have when standing around. Plus you can easily slip them over your normal trousers when needed with the handy leg zips, so easy to get in and out of.
  • Ice grippers (for your boots) - Very useful in snow and icy conditions to allow you to move more confidently and avoid slips. Am currently using a pair of yaktrax walker and they seem to be doing well, though I have not tried them with any major gradients as yet.
  • Hat / scarf / snood
  • Layer your clothing - Easier to take off smaller layers if too hot.
  • Waterproof & breathable (jacket) - This is vital to keep the chill off - you can get away with wearing lots of non-specialist layers underneath.
  • Gloves (our personal favourite for shooting outdoors are Sporting gloves by Sealskinz)
gloves and reflector
Camera being held by gloves

SealSkinz sporting glove - great for operating phones and cameras.

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips02

Ex- British Army Gore-tex and fleece lined mittens.

fingerless gloves - great for operating your phone

SealSkinz sporting glove - great for operating phones and cameras.

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips08

Ice grippers make easy work out of ice and snow.

Before you leave the house

Basic preparations before you even leave the house can make a massive difference.

  • Check the weather (day before and on the day of the shoot - most weather can only be accurately predicted upto 12 hours in advance)
  • How are you getting there? Go by Car / van (with engine on / heating on if you are close by) - gives model/subject somewhere to warm up between shooting as well as helping with your expanding photo-kit
  • Have you got enough petrol?
  • Tell someone where you are going
  • Is your mobile phone charged up?
  • Assistant (honestly, they need to be there with coats / jackets at hand for your model and it makes life alot easier so you can concentrate on shooting)
  • Is the weather too extreme?

Car Essentials

In addition to a fully working, in 'good condition' car, with good tyres these are a few other additional elements that you should keep with you:

  • Spare clothes / shoes (for you and model)
  • Flask of something hot
  • Car survival kit: shovel (fold-up), blankets, first aid, flask, spare tyre,
  • Food

Additional Photo Kit / Additional Essentials

  • Camera bag with all weather cover (with your main kit - we're not going into full photo kit list in this post).
  • Umbrellas (good for covering equipment / model / subject by assistant)
  • Good footwear and socks, preferably Goretex-lined boots so even if your boots get soaked, you will stay warm (trainers or normal shoes just won't cut 8hrs of standing in the wet /cold / damp)
  • Extra batteries - batteries don't like the cold, they run out quicker. Keep replacements in your back pocket to warm up
  • Food (chocolate bars etc)
  • Big plastic bag (survival bag) - useful if like me, you spend alot of time lying on the ground
  • Using flash? More than one? Think support for stands: brick in plastic bag / tent pegs and guy rope
  • Plastic freezer bags + cable ties (goes over flash heads/strobes)
  • Torch / lightstick - it's amazing how quickly the light can dissapear and your DSLR starts struggling with focus.
  • 3 pegs per camera stand + guy rope (thin rope) - you may need to fashion a guy rope to secure your flashes in extreme wind.
  • Foil emergency blanket - Weighs nothing, cost a couple of quid and packs very small - so no excuse not to stick with your kit. Is a great way to warm someone up and can also be used as a groundsheet, emergency shelter or for signalling to help.
  • Waterproof phone / camera case
  • Waterproof camera cover (alternatively, a good assistant or umbrella cable tied to a light stand)
  • lip balm
  • whistle
alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips14

Maxpedition pouch (approx 20cm x 10cm) - great range for keeping your extra kit

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips13

Maxpedition pouch (approx 20cm x 10cm) - great range for keeping your extra kit

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips12

Karrimor SF waterproof bags - ideal for mobile phones that you may want around

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips11

Personal favorite: Freezer bag over strobe with cable-tie. Still operable.

alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips09
alxmls_extreme_weather_phototips06

Key essential roundup: cable ties, paracord/guyline, multi-tool / penknife, bulldog clips, emergency blanket, whistle/compass, lip balm, torch, lightstick, gaffa tape and mobile phone (fully charged).

Everything else / Advice

Obviously your job as a photographer / photographer's assistant can be a varied role and your priority is to get the shots / assist the photographer with equipment and the set, but looking after the model should also of key importance. If a flash or a lens gets damaged, yes, heads could roll, but they can be replaced. If your model ends up losing a toe due to frostbite (flashbacks to barefoot model snow shoot!), then that' could be a different story. So make sure you keep checking that the model is comfortable, warm and importantly keep an eye out for any signs of hypothermia.

Here's our roundup of advice and everything else that doesn't quite fit anywhere else

  • Make sure your subject/model is comfortable - do not ask unreasonable demands. Make sure you clarify what you expect / need.
  • Be flexible. Compromises and on-the-spot problem solving is often required.
  • Assistant (honestly, they need to be there with coats / jackets at hand for your model and it makes life alot easier so you can concentrate on shooting)
  • Plan extra time.
  • Extra reheating breaks for you and your subject
  • Bounce on your toes
  • Don't push it - what I mean is, don't head somewhere completely inhospitable* (in particular, the snow works in your favour and hides alot of the normal dull street architecture - so you can be creative with alot less, without having to go somewhere craaazzzyy). *unless of course that is the purpose of your shoot!
  • Try to avoid exposing your camera / lenses to quick changes in temperature if possible - condensation can form.
  • Are you insured? If this is commercial, you need Public Liability Insurance (usually part of any business insurance, but do check).
  • Have fun

 If you have any additional suggestions, Alex would love to hear them! Enter your comments below or email them to studio@alxmls.co.uk

Useful Links

Denbigh Army Surplus - great friendly supplier. great stock, competitions and customer service.

Karrimor SF - Product overview from the suppliers of specialist kit

Ussen - Ultimate thermal clothing

ALXMLS on twitter

769inc on twitter