How to Stay Warm & Fashionable on a Winter Hike Photo Shoot

Outdoor photo shoots are my absolute favourite thing to do. They combine my two loves: spending time outside and making photographs. But in order to make sure I enjoy my time, I must make sure I’m prepared, especially in the winter.

Women in a red coat hiking through a snowy forest in the winter in London, Ontario.


I’m sure you’ve heard this tip before but I think it’s the most important trick to remember: layer! When being active outside in the winter months, layering your clothing is key. It’s important to stay dry while out in the snow by using waterproof outer layers and sweat whisking bottom layers. I move around a lot during an outdoor photo shoot and in the winter, it’s pretty tough going if the snow is deep. I’m setting up lights, carrying my camera and tripod, and moving around to get the perfect angle. I need to layer if I’m going to be working up a sweat.

Base Layer

For my base layer I always wear my Helly Hansen Warms. It’s a two piece set: long pants and a long sleeved shirt. This base set is made up of two layers. One uses ‘Lifa Stay Dry Technology‘ which is based on a fiber that when exposed to moisture (aka sweat), it whisks it away into the air or your next layer, keeping you dry and warm. The outer layer of the HH Warms is made from 57% merino wool and 43% polypropylene. The merino wool keeps you warm and feeling slim, while the polypropylene lets you breath.

Woman in Helly Hansen Warm long underwear used as a base layer for winter activities.

I also have a layer system for my socks to keep my toes warm. In the photo above, I’m wearing the GX Merino Wool Hiking Socks with the Wigwam Gobi Liner Socks. I like to go out in my hiking boots which are water proof but not insulated for warmth, so matching them with this sock set is the perfect combination to keep my feet dry and warm.

The GX Merino Wool Hiking Socks are made of 74% merino wool, 20% nylon, and 6% LYCRA®. These socks will keep you warm while still being durable and stretchy. They’re very comfortable and I find myself wearing them on a lot of my winter outings, not just for hiking or photo shoots. Wearing a liner below a wool sock is the same idea as a base layer of long underwear: it whisks moisture off your feet and moves it to the outer layer, keeping your feet dryer and warmer. Liners are also supposed to help reduce blistering on your feet because of the friction between the liner and the outer sock. The idea is the liner rubs up against the outer wool sock, instead of your foot.

Outer Layers

I’ve owned a lot of winter clothes in my day and in the past, I’ve had to go for function over fashion when it came to winter coats and pants because staying warm has always been my chief concern. But nowadays, you can get high performance winter clothing made specifically for being active outside that keeps you dry, warm, and looking good.

Women in a red coat standing in a snowy forest in the winter in London, Ontario.

My jacket is the Canada Weather Gear Jacket. It’s a knock off of the popular Canada Goose Coat, so it’s a fraction of the price and I can still keep stylish. I love the bright red colour, and because it’s filled with 50% down and 50% feathers, it’s warm and super comfortable. Kinda like bringing your duvet with you on winter hikes and photo shoots! The outer layer is made of polyester so I can throw it in the washing machine or hand wash it in the tub. It also dries really quickly which is a plus after a wash or being out in the rain and snow. The hood is lined with faux fur and is big enough to cover most winter hats. I should mention, however, because I didn’t pay the high prices for this puffy coat, I also didn’t get the highest quality. The stitching on the inside is no match for the feathers and I often get poked while out on a shoot. It can be distracting, itchy, and the feathers stay on my fleece until I wash it.

Julie Whelan on a winter photo shoot of the sunrise over Lake Erie in Port Stanley, Ontario.

Speaking of my fleece, I also wear my Columbia Glacial Fleece when I’m outside for hikes and photo shoots. It’s made out of 100% polyester featherweight microfleece and has a slim fit and lacks bulk, which works nicely with my layering system. It has a half zip at the neck so when zipped all the way up, it covers my entire neck so I don’t have to wear a bulky scarf, and if I get too warm, I can let in some air with the half zip. To see a picture of it, check out my post 3 Best Fashions to Keep Cold Hockey Moms Warm.

As I mentioned earlier, I like to wear my Vasque Breeze Hiking Boots out for my winter hikes and photo shoots. These boots are made from GORE-TEX® and have vents in the toe and heel which allow for more breathability (which is great for sweaty feet!) and are waterproof to help keep the snow and rain out. They are quite light compared to some other brands of hiking boot I’ve tried which is perfect on an outdoor photo shoot because I’m already carrying heavy camera gear. I wear these boots all year round and highly recommend them.

Women standing on a stump in Vasque Breeze Hiking Boots in the winter snow.

My Freehands Women’s Stretch Gloves are the perfect accessory for winter photo shoots. The outer layer is waterproof and has a windproof back, while the inside of the gloves are lined with Thinsulate for warmth. They’re stretchy enough to be warn with liners for extra warmth but I often don’t need the added warmth on a shoot. These gloves are key when I’m out shooting because as you can see in the image below, they have flip down, fold back finger tips that are magnetically secured so they don’t flop around when you have them folded down. There’s also a rubber patch on the palm that helps to grip your gear; fantastic because dropping gear in the winter could be fatal for your equipment. Some cons are, because I wear these gloves so often, the rubber has started to peel off in places. Also, I normally have the thumb and forefinger tips folded back, so when I try to cover my fingers back up, the gloves have a hard time staying in place. I’m sure if I stored them closed, they would stay over my fingers, but as of right now, I have to wrestle with the finger tip to get it to stay.

Gloves with flip down finger tips for outdoor photography in the winter.

One thing my winter outfit is lacking is a light weight and trim set of snow pants. My ‘MC Hammer’ looking snow pants are really old and bulky and I just haven’t gotten around to getting new ones. I’m looking to purchase either the Burton Aero Gore-Tex Snowboard Pants or the North Face Freedom Insulated Women’s Ski Pants.

Winter Camera Gear

Now that you have yourself fitted for the cold winter weather, you have to also protect your camera gear. An essentially free way to protect your camera and lens from taking too much precipitation is to wrap it in a plastic bag. I’ve tried the expensive rain covers from camera stores and haven’t been happy with how rigid and hard to use they are. A plastic bag is malleable, easy to come by, and waterproof as long as it’s not full of holes. With the camera on a tripod, I cover the camera and lens with the bag to figure out where my lens will go, then make a hole in which the end of the lens can poke through. While shooting, I just lift up the back of the plastic to look through the viewfinder or change my settings, then set my camera to a 2 second timer so I have enough time to pull the bag back over the camera without shaking it. I always have a few plastic grocery bags in my camera bag.

Julie Whelan selfie out on a winter photo shoot with a plastic grocery bag to protect gear from rain and snow.

You may have noticed in my previous pictures that I’m carrying a camera bag. Most of the time, I just carry my camera around either in my hands or strapped over me, but when it’s really snowing or raining outside, it’s important to protect my camera. The Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 30i has held up really well so far. It’s a rigid walled bag with enough room to fit my Canon 5D Mark III with the f/4 24-105mm kit lens attached, filters, my iPhone, keys, and any extra little tidbits I may need.

Gerald Undone did a comprehensive unboxing and review of the bag which will help you decide if this is the right bag for you:

Outdoor Adventures with Julie

For more tips and tricks on being active outside and outdoor photo shoots, or to keep up with Julie on all her outdoor adventures, follow us on Instgram, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

About Julie Whelan

Julie Whelan, professional photographer of over fifteen years, has had the opportunity to shoot all over the globe--from capturing portraits in Vanuatu to shooting off rooftops in Maui to photographing products in Calgary. She now finds herself in Ontario photographing outdoor adventures and the active lifestyles of athletic individuals and athletes in competition & training. Julie has also worked with professional athletes such as Don Cherry, Darryl Sittler, and Roberto Alomar. When not behind the lens, Julie likes to unwind with a good book or spending time in the garden.

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