Shooting in bad weather, as it turns out, is twice as difficult, if not more. Trust us on this; if you’ve never shot in harsh weather or rough conditions before, you might have to go home disappointed, whether you’re coming back from a snowstorm in the middle of winter or from punishing high winds in the desert.
Not only are the elements working against your shot, but you also have to make sure that you and your gear are safe. That’s not even mentioning the fact that you also have to deal with the extra layers of clothing, limiting your access and mobility.
However, if you come prepared, you’ll have an easier time and a more seamless bad weather shooting. Don’t get us wrong; it’ll still be hard. But you’ll have a higher chance of getting good photos. If you’re risking life and limb to take pictures, don’t you need to increase your odds of getting great shots?
Check the weather before you go (and track it during your shoot).
Though, word of warning, increasing your odds by coming prepared won’t make a difference if you’re contending with extreme weather. Shooting in a deep freeze or a light sprinkle is one thing; shooting in a blizzard or a flash-flood-causing downpour is another and also not worth risking your life. Do yourself a favor: check the weather the day of your shoot, not to mention the road conditions, and re-assess the situation. And then, if you still have service, track the weather over the day and keep an eye on your nearest horizons for any incoming changes. For example, even if it’s still bright and sunny, a wind storm in the desert means dust, which is very bad for camera internals.
Don’t just throw on a thick jacket and a pair of boots then head out, if you’re shooting in the winter. Or wear cooler clothes in the summer. That’s simply foolish. You have to account for everything.
If it’s going to snow hard, make sure you have waterproofed top layer. Otherwise, you’ll end up sopping wet in a matter of minutes. If you’re stomping your way through the rainforest, you might need to wear long pants and protective boots, so the mosquitos and leeches don’t eat you alive. If the temperatures are in the negatives, you need—among many other things—a pair of heavy-duty photography gloves so you can still take photos without your hands freezing.
Do your research as far as appropriate attire and gear; it’s better to be over-prepared than to be dead.
Bring your most versatile gear.
Planning a shoot in bad weather includes assessing your gear to see which items are the most versatile and useful to you. The goal is to carry as little as possible so that you won’t waste precious energy carrying a heavy load. Also, only switch lenses when necessary because you don’t want to keep exposing the sensor to the elements. As for cameras, we’ve found shooting with Olympus OM-D series bodies and M.Zuiko PRO lenses offer the most in-camera weatherproofing, while the Nikon Z series, D7XX, and D8XX series bodies are also quite rugged.
Carry a sturdy tripod.
Adding to that, bring your toughest gear, from your most weatherproofed lenses to a very sturdy tripod that can withstand the heaviest winds. Remember, you are dealing with harsh weather. Relying on a flimsy tripod, you’re only risking your expensive camera and lenses as well as forfeiting opportunities for great shots.
Protect your gear.
Even if your $2000 camera and your $1500 lens have dust and moisture resistance, a second layer of protection is always a good idea. After all, your battery might drain in freezing weather, and it would be a pain to clean if covered in dust.
A cold and rain protector will help prevent your battery from draining as well as keep your hands warm when you’re shooting. Keeping heat packs inside the protector is also a good idea. If shooting in scorching weather in the middle of the day, bring a towel to keep your camera out of direct sunlight.
Pack extra batteries.
Since extreme temperatures affect battery life, but it’s a good idea to carry extra batteries with you just in case the cold/rain protector, and heat packs don’t work. If you’re traveling, don’t forget to pack your battery charger, and if camping for a couple of days, a portable power station so you can recharge those batteries when necessary.
Try manual focus.
Weather elements like wind, snow, and dust can cause your camera’s autofocus system to act erratic—unless, of course, you have a camera with an autofocusing system that handles those conditions well as there are a number of them (the entry-level full-frame beast Canon EOS RP, for example). When it starts doing that, switch to manual mode and adjust the focus yourself. It’s a lot more efficient than waiting for your camera to lock it down; not to mention, such a time saver.
Be extra patient.
Since shooting in bad weather is a lot harder than usual, have patience. Yes, if it’s super hot or cold, you’ll probably feel rushed and try to take as many shots as quickly as you can so you run for shelter as soon as humanly possible. It’s human nature. However, as long as you and your gear are safe, resist the urge; trust us, you’ll most likely go home with photos are may be useable, but could a lot better if you had just taken your time.