When you’re walking in a winter wonderland, it’s the perfect time to bust out your camera! But the weather outside is frightful if you aren’t prepared for some of the challenges it presents to your film photography. So, we have 10 tips for shooting film in the cold, with some firsthand insights from our photographer friends…
Photo by Ray Larose
Handle Film with Care
In the cold, film becomes extra fragile. If you’ve ever tried to load film right after pulling it out of the freezer, you know how brittle it can get. So, be sure to load your film extra carefully and advance it through your camera slowly when shooting in the cold.
Photographer Ray Larose, who is based out of New Hampshire and knows a thing or two about shooting in the cold, suggests keeping rolls in the pocket of your outermost layer. “It allows the film to acclimate to the cold but not to the point of being brittle."
Invest in Batteries
Get high-quality batteries and bring backups! See, cold weather slows down the chemical reactions inside a battery that create the electrical current. As the battery is used, it will quickly reach a point where it cannot deliver enough current to keep up with the demand from your camera. Even the smallest functions, like automated film wind, will drain your battery much faster than normal if you’re out in the cold.
Get a Set of (Warm) Helping Hands
Even with gloves, shooting outside in winter can leave your fingers in a frigid & stiff state. Emily Furney, of Emily Jane Photography, is based out of Michigan where the winters are some of the snowiest. She advises to “always have an assistant with warm hands. When you've been shooting in the cold (especially if there is wind), sometimes you can’t even move your fingers! I have my assistant keep their hands in their pockets with warmers so their fingers can work fast, holding bags and rolling film, while I keep working.”
Photo by Emily Jane Photography
Be Aware of Reflected Light
A blanket of fresh snow can create a beautiful scene, but it also presents a challenge. “You are essentially shooting on top of a huge softbox,” Emily Furney notes. Metering with a handheld light meter is key! Meter for a middle tone—if you meter for the snow then everything else will be too dark, but if you meter for the shadows then you’ll lose all the detail in the highlights.
Warm Up the Scene
An overcast, winter sky can oftentimes provide very cool-toned lighting, which can make the subject of your snow-filled portraits look pasty and lifeless. Add a little warmth back into your chilly scene by using a film stock that provides a warmer base (like Kodak Portra), use a gold-colored bounce, and/or let the lab know you would like your order scanned on the warmer side.
Watch Out for Rudolph!
What happens when you go out in the cold? You get a red, drippy nose as your body rushes blood to your extremities to warm them up. It’s not the ideal look for any human subjects in your photo shoot… Emily Furney suggests scheduling short breaks throughout your shoot for your clients or models to warm up and get rid of that rosey nosey!
Stop Static—Rewind Slowly
Ray Larose explains, “In arctic temps, the interior of the camera is super dry. Rewinding too fast can cause static discharges (think of running across a carpet in socks in the winter, then touching someone on the nose). This discharge is light, so can add odd light leaks onto your film.” Light leaks caused by static can leave a strange, speckled pattern on your film.
Photo by Ray Larose
Water is the enemy of your camera, your lens, and your film. And when warm air hits the cold surface of these items, it reaches its dew point and condensation forms—yikes! One way to avoid moisture is to put your gear in a tightly sealed plastic bag before you go into a heated space. This way, the condensation forms on the outside of the bag.
Another method is to simply heat your gear back up gradually. “I am always sure to slowly warm the camera and film on the way home. I do not put it up front with in the warm air but, rather, keep them in the trunk where it’s somewhat cool. If it's been brutal weather (I’m talking -30°F), I might then leave my car in the garage a couple hours to allow the gear to continue to slowly, then move to the basement for another hour or so before bringing into the house.”
If your film appears to have gotten wet from condensation, put it in a sealed plastic bag and send it to the lab ASAP with a note that it’s wet so we can do our best to save it!
Move With Care
Ice and snow on the ground can make walking outdoors, well, a little precarious. Add an armload of camera gear, and you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster!
Emily Furney is no stranger to such disasters. “I had just finished up some bridal party photos in -9° temperatures on a very windy Valentine's Day a few years ago,” she explains. “I was walking back into the hotel when a gust of wind came in the door behind me, and I took a bad fall. My bride was in tears! Lenses were broken and my leg was pretty bad. I took some strong pain reliever and shot out the wedding for another seven hours, then headed straight to the ER. I had torn a few ligaments and had six months of painful physical therapy, and I still cannot run on my left ankle. I was even wearing boots! Just goes to show you have to be so careful during that kind of weather.”
Leave Your Best Gear At Home
This one is simple… taking your camera equipment out in freezing weather is a risk for all of the above reasons. Don’t take that risk with your very best gear! Leave your rare or valuable cameras, lenses, etc. at home.
A guest blog by photographer Constance Higley.
Food, gatherings, and storytelling have always been such meaningful aspects of my life. Growing up, the dinner table was the pinnacle of everything in our home. It was this sacred space to sit, relax, laugh, and simply enjoy each other—almost as if everything else in life merely existed in order to make that part of the day possible. Breaking bread together is one of the most impactful community-building experiences, transcending generational gaps, cultural differences, religion, race, political strife, etc.
I believe that the stories told around the table, the stories of the people at the table, and the stories of the people who help to create that experience are of utmost importance. So, I'm sharing five tips to help you effectually tell and celebrate the stories of all involved in this process, whether it's for a commercial shoot or around your table at home.
KEEP THE STYLING SIMPLE
It’s very easy to over-style an image. Remember that props (dishes, flatware, textiles, etc.) exist to support and compliment your subject matter, not to compete or overshadow. Make sure that the composition makes sense. Ask yourself why you’re using the props that you are. Are they appropriate for the story you’re telling? Are they superfluous? Make sure to only include props that are necessary in telling your story. For example, if you’re baking something that doesn’t require a rolling pin, don’t include one in the image. Spend time familiarizing yourself with which knives are used for what purposes, which utensils go with which course, which wine glasses are used for Chardonnay versus Merlot, etc.
More often than not, solid and neutral colors are the best options. In most cases, I tend to avoid graphic, patterned, neon, or bright colors. That being said, I don’t avoid color all together. Subtle complimentary colors can help to accentuate your subject matter. For example, if your dish is a yellow pasta, a light blue table cloth can help to highlight your main subject.
UNDERSTAND THE FOOD
If you’re working with a chef, you’ll most likely not need to alter much, as they’ve typically spent hours figuring out how to plate and display their masterpieces in a way that best represents their hard work. If you’re not working with a chef, be sure to familiarize yourself with the dish as much as possible prior to shooting. Know it well, and create it a couple of times before capturing it. You’ll come to find that some proteins look better when they’re a bit undercooked. Some desserts will hold better if they’re frozen prior to shooting. Embrace the trial and error model here, and you’ll surely thank yourself!
Additionally, small portions are your best friend here. They’re more visually appealing and much easier for the viewer to process.
The goal is that everything in your shot appears fresh and appealing, and different foods have different shelf lives. Are there tricks to make everything last longer? Of course! However, I’ve found that nothing really beats a freshly plated dish. For example, produce starts to lose its vibrant hues, items meant to be served chilled or frozen start to sweat, food that has a natural glisten starts to look dry, drinks that foam (beer and champagne) start to look flat.
While you can always whip out coconut spray to add glisten or a dash of salt to bring back the life to your glass of champagne, I believe the best trick you can have up your sleeve is experience. Experience always brings with it confidence and speed, and those two can be your new best friends when working with subjects with a short life span.
SHOW OFF THE BEST ASSETS
When composing the shot, decide what the most important component is and what angle is best for capturing that component. For example, in a citrus salad, grapefruit wedges can play a really beautiful, informative, and photogenic role. Fruit wedges have a natural glisten and shine, so move around your dish to find the light that best accentuates that aspect. For a medium rare steak, it’s important that you show how the meat is cooked. For a meringue pie, a side view to show the peaks is a must. Is your coffee or soup steaming? Make sure your composition highlights that steam.
SHOW THE PROCESS
Process shots add a sense of humanity and draw the viewer in. They also act as a sort of thread that weaves the entire story together. Focus on the farmer and his routine, the chef in her element, and the community that is being built through gathering around the table.
Process shots also allow you to display aspects of the dish that may be better shown in motion while serving or plating. For example, maple syrup being poured onto waffles, chocolate ganache being spread on a cake, powdered sugar being sprinkled onto pastries, wine being poured, fresh pepper being cracked, etc.
Ready to start taking some delicious shots? Here's a few questions to keep in mind while styling & shooting:
- How is the light highlighting the most important elements of the dish?
- Is the environment complimenting the subject or competing with it?
- Do the props involved make sense for the subject matter?
- What is the best perspective or angle for this dish?
- Does the food look fresh and appetizing?
- Have I created enough contrast for the image?
- Does the styling represent the brands/chefs/makers in the best way possible?
- How can incorporate the human element into this image?
"It's what's on the inside that counts." The ol' adage may have good intentions, but when it comes to the presentation of your photos, it's dead wrong. Every interaction with your clients, right down to their fingertips wrapping around a freshly-delivered package of prints, is a chance to make a lasting impression that invites them to work with you again. Which makes what you put on the outside just as important as what you put on the inside.
Need a little inspiration? Using Richard's elegant packaging in ROES and some simple customization (either DIY or here at the lab), you've got the perfect finishing touches to make every deilvery a special one.
EARTHY & EFFORTLESS
Pair a kraft box with a sprig of something special and a handwritten thank you to give a simple, personal touch that feels au naturel.
CONTRAST & COLOR
Give 'em the old razzle dazzle! Use bright, monotone hues (like coral) on the outside to make dark and moody images pop once they lift the lid.
STRIKING & SIMPLE
A little drama never hurt anybody... a lustre black box tied with Richard's twine is an impressive, professional base for almost any brand style. Try stamps on the inside (or outside) of print boxes to further stylize your packaging!
ROMANTIC & REFINED
Ribbon, anyone? Adding a custom tie is an easy way to transform our rich cocoa boxes... Add a poetic quote to spark some extra passion.
SWEET & SPIRITED
Bring on the whimsy using misty turquoise boxes packed with confetti and confections (yummy!) alongside your prints.