Don’t let a rainstorm keep you from having a fantastic photoshoot. While it may seem like a rainy day would spoil your opportunities for snagging some great photos, a lot of photographers are eagerly heading out into the storm in order to capture remarkable shots. With the right preparation, you, too, can have a successful photoshoot in the rain.
The main keys to successfully shooting photographs in the rain are to keep your camera dry and to fully embrace the rain. Rather than attempting to wait for the rain to lessen or take photographs that minimize the appearance of the rain, try to capture the raindrops, emphasize the rain, or look for opportunities to play with reflections and reactions.
You may feel your heart drop when the first few raindrops start to fall during a planned photography outing. Rain can truly transform a scene, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be worse for it. A lot of the time, rain can make a setting more interesting and bring out a hidden natural beauty. If you are photographing people, rain can result in remarkable human reactions, and these emotions can make for great photos.
If you want to learn how to take the best photos in the rain so that you don’t find yourself retreating indoors at the first sign of a raindrop, read on below. By taking just a few extra steps and keeping some tips in mind, you’ll soon be excitedly grabbing your camera and rushing out whenever you hear the pitter-patter of rain so you can capture your next great shot.
Rain Photography Is an Important Feature of any Photography Portfolio
Perhaps you are thinking to yourself: why bother with rain photography? Is it worth the hassle? The truth is, rain photography makes a great addition to any photographer’s portfolio. It can be moody, mysterious, and artistic, and it truly lets you flex your creative prowess as a photographer.
Rain adds an element of unpredictability to your photographs. It can completely transform a scene, giving you unique points of interest to capture. A grey sky and drizzle can instantly change the mood of your photographs and allow your pictures to convey an emotion and evoke a particular reaction from viewers. Rain photography can result in remarkable works of art.
Photoshoots in the rain can be utilized by all sorts of photographers. If you prefer to take landscape or nature photos, rain can give a dramatic, mercurial feeling to your shots. Blooms can glitter with rain droplets and the colors can dramatically pop against the grey atmosphere. Valleys can disappear in murky mist and feel mysterious and other-worldly.
If you specialize in taking photographs of people, rain can be a great time to capture some honest, natural reactions. Rain brings out many emotions in people. You may photograph the joy of a toddler in galoshes jumping in a puddle, or the cold disdain of a businessman hunching his shoulders and dashing through a morning shower to catch a cab.
Whatever the case, photographing in the rain allows you the opportunity to capture artistic scenes and test your skills. While it may take a little bit of extra effort, photoshoots in the rain can be incredibly rewarding and you may find yourself loving the experience.
With Preparation, You Can Do a Photoshoot in the Rain
Taking photographs in the rain isn’t always easy. Compared to a clear, sunny day, having a photoshoot in the rain often requires more preparation and planning, as well as a certain level of skill. However, with just a little bit of patience and motivation, you can learn the process and it will become second nature.
Keep Your Camera and Equipment Dry With Accessories
Perhaps the most important step when preparing for a photoshoot in the rain is to ensure that your camera and equipment will stay dry. A wet camera is a serious problem (which will be discussed in further detail later in this post) so it behooves you to take precautions to keep it from getting damp.
All-weather camera bags can be a worthwhile investment, especially if you shoot outdoors regularly. Ideally, these bags would be capable of fitting all of your equipment and keeping it dry and protected when you’re not using it. For example, this bag by CADeN has room for a camera, multiple lenses, a tablet, a flash, and a tripod within its high-density waterproof polyester nylon covering.
But what about when you are actually taking photos? A camera bag only keeps your gear dry while it is being stored, so when you start snapping photos you need another layer of protection. For this, a rain sleeve like this one from Altura, this one from REI, or these disposable ones by OP/TECH USA cover your camera and your hands while you work.
These sleeves feature an opening at the lens allows for unimpeded photographing while protecting the body of the camera from water. Most have adjustable openings so you can hold the camera and adjust control settings, but there are also modifications to allow you to mount the camera to a tripod and still be protected from the elements.
If you are in a pinch, you can always grab a disposable plastic bag, like those used for carrying groceries, and poke a hole at the end to fit your lens, with your hands at the other opening. Holding an umbrella while photographing is always an option, but keep in mind that you’ll have to use one hand to hold the umbrella, which will limit your stability when taking photos. The umbrella also isn’t too helpful if there is any strong wind involved.
Look for Dry Areas to Photograph From
Just because you are having a photoshoot in the rain, it doesn’t mean you have to actually be standing in the downpour. You can still take amazing rain photographs while remaining in a dry, protected location.
For example, scout out any overhangs such as awnings or porches or a covered stoop. This allows you to remain dry but you will still have an excellent vantage point for capturing photos. The key to this strategy, however, is patience. You’ll likely have to bide your time and wait for opportune photos to present themselves, or else you’ll end up with a mess of very similar-looking shots.
Another option is to take photographs while sitting in a vehicle. If you’re too impatient to camp out under an awning, a car allows you the mobility to move to different vantage points without getting wet.
To take photos from a vehicle, simply roll down the window and point your lens outside. Depending on the direction of the wind, you can remain fairly dry while still capturing unobstructed photographs. For the best results, you can position your car so that the wind is at your back, with the rain hitting the opposite side of the car. This will ensure that rain won’t be blowing into your open window while you’re trying to shoot out of it.
Utilize Rain Gear to Make More Visually Interesting Photos
If you plan to shoot photos while standing in the rain, it’s important to not only protect your equipment but also make sure you remain dry. It’s hard to have the patience to capture good photographs when you’re soaking wet and miserable. Wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella can help you stay focused and healthy, but they can also add a unique point of interest to your photos.
Using an umbrella while taking photographs can be a little awkward and you may need a little practice to get the hang of it, but sometimes an umbrella is necessary if it’s the only protection between you and the rain.
In addition to being protective, however, an umbrella can add flair to your photos. Dip the edge of the umbrella down into the top of the picture and you’ve now got a framing element that can help you compositionally balance your photograph. Depending on the color and style of your umbrella, this can completely change the mood of your photos.
If you are having difficulty capturing the rain in your pictures, the inclusion of the umbrella in the shot can give the perfect visual cue that confirms to viewers that it is raining, even if it’s a little hard to tell.
Finally, umbrellas can also help you achieve better exposure. Although it may seem contradictory, during a rainstorm the sky is often the source of light in photographs, even if it is cloudy. If the clouds above are a little too bright, the umbrella can help shield your lens and give a more balanced exposure to the dark scene below.
Reflections Are a Great Creative Element in Rain Photography
One fun aspect of photoshoots in the rain is looking for the way reflections can play with our perception and create beautiful, vivid scenes. As long as it isn’t a downpour, you will likely find shimmering reflections almost anywhere there is relatively still standing water. A puddle can give a pop of a reflection, while a glistening, slick street can mirror an entire scene.
Using reflections can create symmetry, giving a rich, impressionistic replication of a scene that is visually intriguing. Reflections can also give a sense of spaciousness, making a compact scene feel visually larger and more expansive.
Taking photographs of reflections is all about finding the right angle. You want to capture the angle that gives the best reflection for what you are trying to capture within the photograph, so that may involve you shifting your position or location several times in order to get the best result.
You can also experiment with your focus and exposure when taking photographs involving reflections. It may be more visually appealing to apply a crisp focus to the actual reflection, giving a surreal mood to the shot, rather than on the physical object or scene being reflected. It can be helpful to take a few different approaches, varying what you focus upon in the scene.
Depending on the subject, the reflection tends to have a similar light intensity to whatever is being reflected. However, on a rainy day, your angle may result in the reflection being much brighter if you are reflecting the light grey sky above. This can give an interesting artistic spin on the scene, or you can choose to adjust your exposure levels to achieve a more balanced result.
Use a Tripod for any Long Exposure Rain Photography
Sometimes, the best way to photograph in the rain is to use long exposures. This often means using a slower shutter speed. When you use a slower shutter speed, the aperture of the camera remains open longer and it is very easy to get a blurry photo if you don’t have a perfectly steady hand.
Taking photographs in the rain is already challenging enough, so don’t make the process any harder than it needs to be. Using a tripod gives a quick and simple way to stabilize your camera, allowing you the ability to pull off long exposure shots.
Long exposure shots can be helpful for rain photography because it can help give a fluid, smooth scene. Raindrops will look like streaks rather than isolated droplets, giving a sense of action. The long exposure will also allow the camera to take in more light, which can help lighten scenes.
For long exposure to work best, it’s important to keep the camera as still as possible so that only the elements in motion will be blurred. In the case of rain photography, the raindrops will be blurred, while everything else in the photo will remain crisp and focused. This is usually best accomplished using a tripod.
A tripod lets you stabilize the camera, as well as have a hand free to hold an umbrella or other equipment. While having a tripod isn’t absolutely necessary for rain photoshoots, it helps you capture scenes that would otherwise be near impossible to accomplish.
Backlight Rain to Bring the Raindrops into Focus
One of the biggest problems with rain photography is that the rain itself can seem nearly invisible in the photographs. If you aren’t able to see the actual rain, photos can just look dull and grey rather than visually stimulating.
Rain can be emphasized by adjusting certain settings on your camera (more on that later,) but it can also be captured by utilizing light to your advantage. If you are able to backlight the rain, the droplets will become more visible in the photographs.
In order to accomplish this, search for any source of light in the scene. This could be a traffic light, a restaurant sign, a bit of sun peeking through a cloud, or even a headlight on a car. Aim to shoot towards the light source and you will be able to better visualize the raindrops.
Be careful, however, and keep in mind that if you shoot directly at a light source it can overwhelm your exposure and lead to an unbalanced photo. For the best results, it is key to angle yourself to be slightly off-axis from the light source but with the rain still falling in front of the light. It may take a little trial and error to accomplish this. If nothing else, you can use your trusty umbrella to try to shade your lens and soften the intensity of the light.
Use Manual Flash and Manual Focus Settings to Capture Rain Droplets
It may seem crazy to think about using a flash during a rainstorm, and in some situations, it is a little ill-advised. The automatic flash on most cameras is way too harsh and will illuminate all the raindrops too much. Instead, opt for a manual flash setting.
The goal when using a flash for rain photoshoots is to just give a little bit of pop to the raindrops to make them stand out from the background. It’s another way to try to keep rain from making the photos just look dull and grey. Using a bit of flash will also let you get away with higher shutter speeds, which can be helpful for certain scenes.
Rain can also confuse a camera’s automatic focus setting. If you leave the focusing up to your camera, you may be missing out on the most interesting aspects of your scene or failing to capture some creative artistic interpretations.
Instead, switch to a manual focus and experiment with your scene. You can vary the point of interest by isolating certain aspects, such as a reflection in a puddle or an expression of weariness in a rain-soaked commuter.
Consider Macro Photography to Convey a Rainy Environment
Rain droplets make for fantastic macro photography, and with a little patience, you will find yourself capturing beautiful close-up shots. Rain has a mystical way of transforming the everyday into something unique and different, so don’t miss the opportunity to document these seemingly mundane minutiae.
For example, leaves and flowers may collect individual droplets that show up beautifully with macro photography. The detail in the droplets can give miniature reflections of the surrounding world and give a visually stunning effect.
If you prefer to photograph people, you can still experiment with macro photography in the rain. With a steady model, you can capture a close up of the skin, really embracing the sense of moisture and the slick sheen of the rain. Or perhaps the texture of someone’s hair, completely transformed by the humidity and clinging to a face in thick wet clumps.
Even a single, isolated raindrop can look stunning in the hands of a good macro photographer. With a fast shutter speed and detailed focus, the splash of the drop can be frozen in time, with every rivulet and splatter playing with the reflected light.
Feel free to experiment with macro photography, but keep in mind it requires good attention to detail and a fair amount of patience, so come prepared with plenty of rain protection and get ready to scour a rainy scene for the best subject matter.
When Photographing, Embrace the Spontaneous Aspect of Rain
The best rain photographers understand that in order to take great photographs in rainy weather, you need to have a certain level of engagement with the scene and a creative mindset. Rain requires you to frequently adapt and change your approach, so you need to be flexible and open to experimentation.
In order to achieve the best compositions and overall feel, it is important to consider the mood you are trying to convey and interpret the setting. If a downpour is making a morning commute miserable for passersby, emphasize the gloom and embrace a darker scene to fit the narrative.
If the scene is more joyful, such as a toddler dancing in puddles after a summer rain shower or a rainbow peeking out at the end of a storm, play around with the exposure and the settings to embrace the proper mood and develop your artistic intent.
Rain is a great way to be pushed out of your comfort zone and learn how to adapt to a scene and take better photographs. It can help stimulate you to be more creative and explore artistic inclinations. By keeping an open mind and being willing to adapt to the conditions, rain photoshoots can be productive and enjoyable sessions.
Certain Camera Specifications Lend Themselves to Better Rain Photoshoots
While you can perform rain photography with any sort of camera, there are certain features that will allow you more versatility and a higher likelihood of being able to capture the perfect photo. If you’re thinking you would like to spend a decent amount of time taking photos in the rain, it might be worthwhile to consider the settings that will help you take better photographs.
First of all, a higher ISO value will allow you to take in more light when you are photographing in a low light setting, such as a rainstorm. By turning up your ISO, you will allow for a brighter image. Keep in mind, however, that using high ISO levels involves a balance. The higher the ISO, the higher the likelihood of inducing noise into the photograph. Experiment to find the perfect balance for your intended scene so as to be bright enough but not degraded in quality.
If you’re looking to freeze the action of raindrops, a fast shutter speed is critical. Just as a long exposure will capture the fluidity of motion with a blur effect, a fast shutter can isolate a moving object and freeze it in place. In rain photography, this may mean capturing the splashing droplets of a puddle as someone stomps in it, or the bounce of a drop off the surface of an umbrella.
The fast shutter speed can also help eliminate the dull, hazy effect that rain can create in photographs. It will isolate the droplets in the air for a “frozen in time” impression that can help keep rain photos from looking muddy or dull.
Finally, a large aperture will be beneficial in rain photography, as well. The large aperture makes a fast shutter more possible because a large aperture allows for more light to enter the camera during the super brief period of time the shutter is open. However, remember that a large aperture will decrease your depth of field, so you will need to find a balance that allows you to capture the best depth of field for the scene.
Can Cameras and Lenses Get Wet?
Keep in mind, if you are planning to attempt to take photos in the rain, you need to keep your camera and lenses dry. Even a small amount of water can wreak havoc on your camera and damage its delicate inner components. Unless your camera is specifically designed to perform underwater, you need to be careful when exposing it to any water.
If you are shooting in a dry location but there’s a risk that water might drip or splash on your lens or camera (like if it is rainy but you are under an overhang or you are photographing kids jumping into a swimming pool,) be prepared with some clean, dry lens clothes so you can immediately wipe off any water or condensation.
If you happen to get your camera and/or lenses wet, you need to act fast and protect your equipment with a few quick steps.
What to Do if Your Camera or Lenses Get Wet
If your camera or lenses get wet, the first step is to turn off your camera and remove the memory card and any batteries, as long as you are in a dry area. If your camera happens to be off, leave it off, as turning it on can expose sensitive elements to be damaged by the water.
Next, wipe off any visible water. This should be done using a clean, dry microfiber cloth. You can use a large towel to protect the camera if the threat of water is still present, but try to avoid rubbing the camera or its lens with anything other than a microfiber camera cloth. Trying to use a towel or your t-shirt to dry your camera can result in scratches on the lens and cause further damage.
Place your camera in front of a fan or vent, preferably with a dehydrated air source like an air-conditioning vent. If you are in a pinch, you can use a hairdryer or a hand dryer but avoid using any compressed air, as this can force water further into the camera.
If available, put your camera into a bag filled with silica gel crystals or rice and let it sit at least overnight, but longer if necessary depending on the extent of the damage. Be careful using rice, as dust from the grains can get inside the camera and damage it. Placing silica gel packs into your camera bag can also help absorb any moisture that may be lingering on your gear. They can also prevent condensation from forming.
Water might still damage your camera, even if you’ve done your best to dry off your equipment. Mold can develop within the camera and lenses can become cloudy long after the initial incident occurs. If all else fails, take your camera to a qualified repair shop and see if it can be salvaged. If the damage is extensive, it may be worth considering a new camera instead of paying for costly repairs.
Saltwater Can Be Especially Damaging to Cameras
If your camera happens to be exposed to saltwater, the odds are not in your favor. Salt is extremely corrosive and it goes to work right away to damage the internal components of your camera.
Although it may seem strange, you need to rinse off any salt contamination with salt-free water. This obviously is exposing your camera to potentially further water damage but if you don’t get the salt out of it you will have no chance of saving the device. Take a damp cloth and wipe down your camera or quickly rinse it off with clean water, but be careful to limit the exposure to water as much as possible.
If worse comes to worst, you can always reach out to the customer support line of your camera’s manufacturers. Some cameras come with a factory warranty that may include accidents, including water-related mishaps.
While some photographers might pack up and call it quits at the first sign of a raindrop, you can rest assured that there are plenty of opportunities for fantastic photography in inclement weather. Don’t let a little water keep you from capturing great photographs and utilizing nature to give a creative spin to your work.
With just a little bit of knowledge and the right rain protection, you can get outside your comfort zone and start taking spectacular photographs in the rain.