Protecting Your Camera from the Elements

Guest post by Justin McKee

Whether you have an expensive DSLR or a point-and-shoot camera, taking photos during inclement weather can be a huge risk if your equipment is not weather sealed.

Weather sealing is a no-brainer for me. I have to have it.

I love shooting outdoors and, as we all know, during the fall and winter months in Michigan if it’s not raining it’s probably doing the other thing…

As my boss always says in his opinion columns: Sigh. Just thinking about winter hurts.

Let’s cover rain first to stave off my depression about the colder weather.

From a small sprinkle to a downpour, rain is bad news for your camera. Each camera is an advanced piece of engineering genius, and the connections between the lens and camera body need to be protected from any kind of moisture. The same thing applies for any switches on the camera or lens.

The cheap route to protecting your gear would be to grab a plastic bag and learn your camera’s button layout so you don’t really have to see to shoot. You’d have to cut some holes for the lens and the viewfinder.

Kind of annoying in my book, but OK; doable.

The best way to weather seal your equipment is simply by purchasing a camera and lens that feature weather sealing. When you’re shopping for cameras online or offline, weigh all the options before making a purchase and include weather sealing on your list of things that you need to have.

Cheaper point-and-shoot cameras might not have the option, but high-end DSLRs do.

All right, let’s say you don’t have the money for a high-end DSLR and you don’t fancy wrapping a plastic bag around your gear. One cheap and easy way to protect your gear is by using an umbrella during the rainy days. Using a camera one-handed isn’t too hard if you’ve got a good grip. I’ve often contemplated purchasing one of those silly umbrella hats. Rainbow colors and all. And guess what: I did!

Using a lens hood is a fantastic way to protect your lens’ front element from rain. Rain on the front of a lens can distort image quality and make some images look foggy. Lens hoods are generally cheap so long as you don’t buy name brand. I purchased a Vello lens hood for my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS USM (an already weather sealed lens) for $22. The Canon equivalent was $60.

Yeah. No.

Purchasing an UV (ultra violet) filter for your camera’s lens — at least to me — also is a no-brainer. I don’t skimp on quality when it comes to filters, though. A B+W filter that’s made of glass (not plastic) and has metal threads (also not plastic) is the best way to protect your front element from rain, snow and is a good barrier from scratches without decreasing image quality.

Moving on to snow… Ugh. There. I said it.

A lot of the same rules apply, but there is something vital that comes into play when dealing with winter: The cold.

Cameras are built tough; most can handle weather below zero degrees for a long time.

Although, you have to be careful here.

Camera batteries (and any batteries for that matter) die quickly in cold weather. Plan for that by bringing along extra batteries or a car charger.

You’ll also have to be careful if you leave your equipment out in your car overnight — which I don’t recommend during winter — because, just like bringing a can of pop into a warmer climate, bringing your cold camera indoors after a cold night out in the car can introduce condensation to the vital inner workings of your camera.

That’s bad.

Use Ziploc bags (the big ones, obviously) to wrap your camera equipment in before bringing it indoors. Let the camera reach room temperature before opening the bag to avoid a moisture issue.

Always consider the weather outdoors before venturing outside to shoot photos. It might save you some money in the long run.


Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

About Karin

Journalist, singer, reader, movie fanatic, photography buff, GVSU alum, wanna-be-Brit, Crohn's fighter, Coca-Cola addict, animal lover, not a kid person, hater of winter, Michigander
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One Response to Protecting Your Camera from the Elements

  1. Linda Whitehead says:

    Really, really helpful and good information. Thanks, Justin.

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