Digital cameras, weather and water

Taking photos in cold weather

Written by Gail Bjork

You have more than cold fingers to worry about when venturing out with a digital camera in cold weather to take photos. The camera needs special care.

snow-sceneYou have more to worry about than just fingers freezing when taking photos in cold weather. Special care needs to be taken with your digital camera.

The camera lens can fog up, batteries will lose power more quickly than usual and condensation may form on all parts of the camera. The LCD and any other camera displays may flicker in and out.

Keep the camera and batteries warm

When venturing out in cold weather, keep the camera close to your warm body, inside a pocket or coat. Also keep at least one set of spare batteries in a pocket close to your body. Some photographers don’t insert batteries in the camera until they are ready to begin taking photos.

Place the camera in a plastic bag (with a zipper closure) to help prevent the lens from becoming foggy. If condensation forms, it will do so on the bag instead of the camera.

To conserve power turn off battery-consuming features such as the LCD and continual autofocus until needed. After taking photos, put the camera away until ready to use again.

Don’t let water freeze on the camera

When the temperature is at or below the freezing point, melted snow on the lens can freeze and potentially cause damage. Don’t breathe on your digital camera either as the water droplets from your breath causes condensation that can freeze. Wipe off any moisture immediately with a lint-free cloth.

Bringing a digital camera in from the cold

When bringing the camera inside from the cold, give it time to adjust to the room temperature. First put the camera in an unheated room for about a half hour before bringing it into a warm area. Before moving to a warm area, place the camera inside a standard camera bag to help minimize condensation.

If condensation forms on the camera, stop using it immediately to prevent damage. Remove the battery, memory card and lens cap, keep compartment doors open and don’t use the camera until the condensation evaporates.

It’s better not to take the camera out into the cold again until the condensation is completely gone. The moisture may freeze causing permanent damage.

Digital camera operating temperatures and operating humidity

Your camera manual specifications list the minimum and maximum operation temperature and humidity for you model. If those specifications are exceeded, it could invalidate any warranty that is still in effect.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • Actually, my Canon S100 manual explicitly recommends placing the camera in an airtight, resealable plastic bag to prevent condensation from forming—that is, after shooting, when moving from outside to inside, cold to warm, temperatures. I think the idea is that warm, moist air from indoors will condense on cold surfaces, and the bag will prevent that moist air from coming into direct contact with the camera.

    What it doesn’t specify is that you should place the camera in the bag before coming inside—i.e., while still in the cold, dry outside air.

    It also makes no mention of how to treat the camera when moving from indoors to outdoors, or warm to cold. This suggests that there’s less to be concerned about in that regard.

  • Thanks Jim for perspective on using a plastic bag. Many photography sites recommend using a plastic bag. I’ll do more research and adapt the article as necessary.

  • In all honesty, the first paragraph sounds like a recipe for disaster.. That much of a temperature change is guaranteed to create a huge amount of condensation from the extreme sudden temperature change. Combine that with a plastic baggie, your sealing the condensation in.. I’ve never once ever had a problem having the camera out in the cold, and yes as the manual states, “Put your camera in a bag and let the temperature equalize before bringing out of the bag when coming in from cold temperatures”, they mean a normal camera bag, not a plastic one.. let it be out in the cold air.. I believe pulling out from your pocket into the cold will destroy it faster than anything else…

  • Avi, congratulations on wanting to improve you photography. The article about how to compose photos should help. There are photo illustrations to give you some ideas.

  • really helpful.
    i am just learning photography and i lack creativity can someone please help in how to train your eye and be more creative..please..
    i have a nikon D7000 with a standard lens. as i am learning it is more than i could ask for..
    I am in Paris right now and i am struggling with clicking needed..
    Many thanks

  • kashyap, the silica gel will help with condensation when you bring the camera into warmer rooms. It won’t protect the camera from the cold. Check the camera specifications in the manual for the Operating Temperatures. I also recommend you can the manufacturer tech support for suggested care for the camera in very low temperatures.

    This article has many of the tips offered at this site, but some additional information about using a camera in extremely cold weather.

  • Hi,
    The tips are very helpful. I plan to travel to Ladakh, Indis this Jan 12 where temp are expected to be minus 30Celsius. Any special tips? Will a bag of Silica Jel help?

  • Thanks gentlemen, very helpful info. I’ m just off on a [non] skiing holiday and will stick to your recommendations.

  • You need to re-think the advice of keeping the camera in your coat. A coat is not only warm, it is also moist. When the camera is then taken out into the cold, the moisture condenses, not just on lenses, but also electronic circuitry, lens cams, etc. And if that moisture then freezes you can have other problems. Cameras are better off in the dry cold. Keep a change of batteries in your pocket and switch them for batteries that weaken in the cold.