Let me talk about two main principles before we turn to practical advice:

  • First, I think it’s very important to only photograph in the cold if it will bring you unique result. When I hear that people photograph model in November in light dress and outside without particular idea, but just because they lack skills or equipment to stay in, I wonder why the model even bother to work in these conditions. At the same time, if you have a story which would be really best told in the middle of a snow storm and you know pictures will be expressive and unique, you should definitely do it.
  • Second, every person is different and has different sensitivity to cold. So model should be in charge of when you should stop and warm up. You should encourage him/her to tell you when it’s too cold because you might get caught up in the moment exploring different ideas.

Now tips:

  • If your idea permits, make model walk, run, swirl, jump — it will be warmer for him/her that way.
  • Start with the warmer look and make your way to colder ones.
  • Once the model starts shaking, he/she will not be able to return to the cold. Even after warm up, he/she will immediately start to shake again when outside. Try not to reach that point.
  • Invest in a long warm blanket. It should cover not only shoulders, but also legs.
  • Have a warm tea with you or plan where to take a break and get it.
  • Do not use alcohol to warm up.
  • There are warm bags for skiers (with some chemicals that start to warm up when you rub them), that you can glue to model’s stomach or place in her pockets or socks.
  • Layering helps. It’s best to have a coat over turtleneck over bodysuit, jeans over tights. You can photoshop extra volume afterwards.
  • Sometimes in the winter it makes sense to start the photoshoot inside to go through the phase when you and model sync your styles. Knowing each other’s favorite angles and poses, you will know what to do when in the cold and will achieve what you want faster.

In conclusion, some of my best shoots were cold weather shoots, as well as some of my worst ones. The difference was in heaving a plan and working with adventurous people.

NextUp: Weather With An Attitude: Rain And Snow.