When it starts to rain, good photographers head out to make pictures
You’ve spent hours researching the location, all the final preparations are in place and you know exactly the type of shots you want to get.
Then you wake up the next day, pull back the curtains and see that the heavens have opened. Yep, it’s happened to the best of us and we’ve all been there.
Still, you shouldn’t let a wash out get in the way of taking some amazing photos, especially if you’re in a once-in-a-lifetime location you’ll never be in again.
Once that initial shock has gone, take stock of the situation, reassess, and remember – taking photos in the rain is a unique challenge, but one that can be even more rewarding than taking photos on a bright and sunny day.
National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson says: “When it starts to rain, good photographers head out to make pictures.”
So, instead of being down that your plans have changed here are some top tips for taking photos in the rain.
1# Protect your camera
This one almost goes without saying, but before you even step out into the rain make sure you’ve got something to protect your camera and your lenses. I use dslr rain sleeves – these are protective waterproof bags for your camera. Not very attractive but very effective. Also, using your lens hood is a good way of protecting the glass from those pesky raindrops. And finally, a rain cover for your camera bag is a must too!
2# Pack moisture absorbent packets
If you know your camera is going to get wet regardless of what you to do to protect it (and let’s be honest, no matter what you do your camera always finds a way of getting wet), then make sure you have some moisture absorbent silica gel packets in your camera bag. These will help to prevent condensation building up on your gear allowing you to still shoot all day.
3# Add a bit of colour
One of the major drawbacks of shooting in the rain is the only colours you’ll see are different shades of grey and white. That’s why you should add a bit of colour yourself. If you’re taking photos of someone, make sure they’re wearing brightly coloured clothes. One item I always have with me is a very colourful umbrella. Not only does this protect my camera but it makes a great object and focus point to add into shots too.
4# Think in black and white
Alternatively, instead of adding colour, think in black & white; really imagine what a photo would look like in monochrome. When I’m taking photos in the rain I’ll think in black & white but I won’t shoot in black & white. It’s actually easier to shoot RAW in colour and convert to black & white post production as you’ll be able to capture a wider range of data to edit with (as opposed to a converted black & white jpeg image).
5# Find puddles for reflections
Unless it’s raining sideways, it’s very difficult to capture the rain (as in visibly show the rain drops). So, to highlight the fact that it is actually raining find puddles. This will show small ripples of water hitting the puddle, give reflections of the subject matter and will break up the image to give a nice effect too. When it’s raining it’s all about the puddles!
6# Use a flashgun
Another way of showing raindrops is to use a flashgun. Don’t have it turned up to the max otherwise it’ll just over expose your photo, but if you experiment with the levels you’ll get a really nice effect where the raindrops are golden orbs suspended mid-air. Even using something like the Manfrotto LED lightbox would give the desired effect and add a lot of definition to a shot.
7# Look up to the skies
When it’s raining one of the most dramatic shots you can get is of the sky. With dark angry clouds, every now and again the sun will break through giving a gorgeous scene that you just wouldn’t be able to get if it wasn’t raining. These are some of my favourite shots to capture whether it’s raining or not.
8# Try a few long exposure shots
Another thing I like to do when it’s raining is to use my super steady Manfrotto 190 tripod and try a few long exposure shots. When there’s a lot of rain running off a building, you can really capture that smooth flow of water much like you would do with a long exposure of a waterfall.
9# Take photos of people
The weather changes all of us (trust me when I say that, I’m British). If you’re looking for something to take a photo of, just look around you. Watch people scurrying from one shop to the other avoiding the rain, take a photo of that guy who’s just looked up to the sky and frowned, capture the moment an umbrella turns inside-out. Everyone reacts differently to the weather – document that.
When you’re shooting in the rain it is pretty easy to get frustrated – I know I certainly do – but don’t forget to smile. When all other photographers think it’s pointless being outside, you’re the one getting some amazing photos. That’s something to feel good about.
There you have it, some top tips for taking photos in the rain.
Next time you pull back those curtains and see that the heavens have opened, don’t panic. Just remember the words of Jim Richardson: “When it starts to rain, good photographers head out to make pictures.”