09 Feb DRESSING FOR PHOTOSHOOTS IN THE EXTREME COLD: 5 TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
We finally did it! We experienced an entire winter in Europe, and we’ve come out on the other side (just about), having survived the cold! WOOOOOHOOOOOOO! Ok, this may not be a big deal for most of you, but for us brought-up-under-the-African-sun, skin-only-equipped-for-heat, cannot-even-fathom-minus-20 kids (can I still call us kids?) this is a HUGE achievement. Especially since we ventured out into some of the coldest climates on Earth this past Winter, including a little place called Jyväskylä a.k.a. Finnish Lakeland, and the Arctic Circle at the top of Norway where the Sami people live (that’s me below, wrapped up and looking fabulous for -35C).
Now, if you’re reading this in hope of some serious scientific advice on the exact clothes to wear in Winter, I will immediately tell you that this is not the place. Our friends at the Nordic Bloggers Experience recommended reading this post for ‘scientific’ preparation ahead of our chilly pre-tour to beautiful Jyväskylä, and it is super helpful, so I highly recommend you read it too. What we will, however, cover here, is small tips and things to keep in mind if you are an absolute Cold Beginner like we were, and if you have chilly photo trips on your horizon. So without further ado, here is our:
Quick Guide To Dressing For Photoshoots In Cold Weather: 5 Tips For Beginners
You’ve probably heard it and read it a million times (so we won’t harp on about it too much), but layering your clothes is essential. What you maybe didn’t know (at least I didn’t know two months ago) is that the most important thing is the fabric of your layers. There is no point covering your body in 100% cotton shirts, as these quickly get wet from B.O. and remain wet, leaving you, unpleasantly cold. The trick is having wool against the skin, another layer of wool on top of that, and then weather-proof coating on the outside, to keep out the wind, the rain, and the snow. Ok! That’s all I’m saying about layering. Again – highly recommend reading this post if you want more info on clothing technicalities.
Socks and Shoes
Maybe it was just me, but for some reason I thought wearing five pairs of socks/stockings and stuffing my feet into one pair of shoes was the way to go. Guess what? I was very wrong. Those five pairs were causing my toes to freeze, because blood circulation was being cut off (sort of), and there were no air pockets for warm air to live around my feet. As I have now learned, you shouldn’t wear more than two pairs, and rather layer your shoes (yes, you can do that, and they do do that in the Arctic), with, once again, warm woolen shoes or inners close to the skin/sock, and then a completely weather-proof shoe on top. Regular snow-friendly shoes alone are of course perfect too, just remember to get big enough shoes so your toes can wriggle comfortably.
Probably the toughest thing about photoshoots in the cold, is having to take your hands out to fiddle with the settings and camera buttons. It’s unavoidable and never pleasant. What we did find helpful though, was having a really thin glove hugging the fingers perfectly (so much so that using some of the bigger DSLR settings was possible), and then a giant mitten over that, meaning, again, you had air pockets created around your fingers, keeping them warmer. You could also, of course, skip the thin glove and just go straight for the mitten, but just make sure your mitten is completely weatherproof, and you are in fact wearing mittens and not gloves, as having your fingers together makes an insanely big difference.
Probably the best tip we can share, is the importance of hand warmers. I cannot stress enough how helpful these were during our chilly shoots, saving my hands from giving up. The ones we had were from London and cost around US$1 for a pack of two (but I’m sure any outdoor store will have them). We ended up using only one pack per day (Steve had one sachet and I had one sachet) and they’d last close on 8hrs, so, timed right, your hands were sorted for most of your day outdoors. In between taking our hands out to push the camera shutter, we’d hold the little hand warmer sachet in our mitten, and within 20-30 seconds, our fingers were back to circulating, back to normal, and ready to brave the cold outside of the mitten again. Did I mention this only cost us $1 per day?!
We’ve had countless questions sent through on our Instagram DM, asking how we manage to keep our gear alive in the cold, and, quite honestly, I do not know. We were warned that phones and camera batteries would die instantly in the cold, and that simply wasn’t the case. We certainly had back up chargers and spare batteries in our bags, ready to be used (and we recommend you have them too), but we didn’t find much need for them. I am incredibly proud of our iPhones, Canon 6D, and Fujifilm XT10, because besides the lenses/filters fogging up a little from time to time, all four devices survived the cold and performed perfectly. I guess my only tip, is to not have your devices on all the time. Use these temperatures as an excuse to really plan your shots and only snap when necessary. Think quality over quantity, and do try keep your devices as warm as you can – whether that’s in your bag, pocket, or under your jacket.
That concludes our beginner’s guide. We hope it’s been helpful, and if you need a little more convincing to book that chilly trip, here’s some shots from our January trips through Finland and Norway.