Behind the Scenes | Shooting a Photo Session in Freezing Temperatures

If you look at the photo I shared above, how does the day seem? Warm and serene? It wasn’t. The weekend this photo was captured, NYC experienced extreme cold temperatures under ten (!!) degrees Fahrenheit (It felt like it was under zero degrees due to the wind chill!). Where this photo was taken, extreme gusts of wind threatened to make the surprise marriage proposal I was shooting impossible to shoot outside. The entire time, I was shivering, my fingers were numb and, after a few minutes outside, I could barely feel my nose.

Let’s just put it this way – it was freezing that day. But there was nothing we could do. The groom had flown in from Florida that weekend to propose to his girlfriend (who lives in New York), so postponing the session was not an option. So what did I do? I over-prepared, and did everything I could to overcome the challenges presented by the cold and still create an amazing experience for my clients.

Just like I do when I’m shooting any kind of session outside in temperatures that are not quite as cold as this one, I made sure to wear lots of layers. I also packed gloves that kept my fingers warm but allowed me to operate the different dials of my camera. This was especially important last weekend when I was shooting this surprise marriage proposal – because I had only a few moments to get the shot I wanted and I couldn’t risk fumbling around while adjusting my camera settings with gloves that made it difficult for me. These two things (layers and a good pair of gloves) were instrumental in keeping me warm and comfortable while out in the cold.

But shooting in the cold presents problems to photographers beyond us simply feeling uncomfortable. Cold temperatures affect photography equipment. ESPECIALLY camera batteries. This means I always need to pack extra batteries in my bag that I try to keep warm in case the one I have in my camera stops working. Temperature changes can also lead to condensation on the inside of my camera and lenses, which ultimately affects photos, so I had to let my camera and lenses acclimate to the cold for a few minutes before I knew they needed to be ready to capture the surprise proposal.

And when it was time to shoot? I made sure my couple was taken care of. I scheduled their proposal and mini-engagement session for earlier than I normally would, so that we could make room for occasional breaks that would allow us to take cover from the cold for a few minutes without stressing out about losing sunlight. I had a basic game plan for their mini-engagement session, and tried to move it along quickly to keep them in the cold for as little time as possible.

Whenever I can, I try to bring hand warmers for my clients during cold sessions so that they enjoy some warmth in between shots and as we move between photo locations. A blanket also seems to do the trick for many clients (especially those that have small children). Keeping clients warm until the very last minute when we’re ready to shoot is instrumental in having a successful session out in the cold. I also incorporate into my posing more movement than I normally do, as this helps keep clients warm. And when I’m working with couples, I use the opportunity to ask them to get as close together as possible in order to warm each other up, which also makes their images look more intimate.

Last weekend was a challenge. But we managed to pull through, and the surprise marriage proposal (followed by the mini-engagement session) was beautiful.

Are you interested in having me photograph your surprise marriage proposal or your engagement session? I absolutely LOVE photographing these beautiful moments for my couples, even if it’s freezing outside! To get on my calendar right away, you can contact me by emailing me directly at, or by using my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox!


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