You don’t have to wait for clear, sunny days and good weather to take photos. In fact, going out in a rainstorm is a great way to get really interesting shots—as long as you look after your camera. Here’s how to do it successfully.
Shooting in the rain is the easiest way to get wet while practicing photography, but it’s not the only one. All the techniques, tips, and tricks I discuss in this article also apply if you’re shooting breaking waves, taking long-exposures of running streams or waterfalls, or otherwise just getting soaked with your camera in hand.
Why Wet Situations Are Great for Photos
But it’s also pretty easy to take original, creative photos. Just shoot where other people don’t, or when they don’t—this is why rainy days can be good for photography. If everyone else is hunkering down indoors or avoiding getting too close to the water spray, it’s an opportunity for you to get a shot they won’t.
Wet days also make for more interesting photos. The rain and wet ground add different elements to your shots. The reflections in puddles can give you new perspectives and angles to play with, and often create a moodier atmosphere.
Now, let’s look at how you can do it effectively.
Keeping Your Camera Safe and Useable
Water is hell on photography gear. Not only can it get inside and damage the fragile electronics in your camera, but just a few water droplets on your lens can make taking photos impossible. If you want to take photos in the rain, you have to pay serious attention to keeping your gear safe, dry, and usable.
Here are some tips:
- Keep your camera sheltered: Keep your camera safe inside a weather-resistant bag when you’re not using it. A plastic garbage bag will work in a pinch, but a proper backpack with a rain cover is your best option. Speaking of rain covers . . .
- Get a rain jacket for your camera: Some professional cameras are weather-sealed but most consumer models aren’t. They won’t break if you get a few drops of water on them, but you still shouldn’t let them get soaked. A camera rain cover (like the Shell from Peak Design) will keep the worst of the weather off your camera as you use it.
- Stand under shelter: When you can, stand under an awning or ledge. This will keep you and your camera happier. You can also shoot out windows or from your car if you want to stay really dry. Umbrellas work, but they’re an extra hassle, especially if it’s windy. Just because you’re shooting photos of rain doesn’t mean you have to get drenched.
- Keep the front of your lens clean: If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to take decent photos. Even a few droplets are enough to ruin your shots, so do everything you can to keep it out of the weather. Leave the lens cap on and, when you take it off, point your camera away from the rain unless you’re shooting. Also, use your lens hood.
- Bring lens cleaning gear: A few microfiber cloths will come in handy to wipe small droplets off your lens. For bigger droplets or smudges, you’ll need a lens cleaning spray or lens wipes.
- Work quickly: Unless you’re properly sheltered, take a shot, and then cover your camera or point it away from the rain ASAP. If you take too much time framing shots, your camera will likely get wet.
- Let your camera dry out: When you get home, don’t just put your gear away in a bag or cupboard. The lingering damp can damage it just as much as the rain. You can even end up with fungus growing in your lenses.
Taking Good Photos
With your camera adequately protected, you can get down to the fun part—shooting great photos! Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Just being there is enough: Seriously, just by getting out in more interesting weather, you’re doing most of the hard work. Play around and trust your eye, and you’re sure to come away with something good.
- Use a higher ISO than normal: When dark rain clouds are around, there’s less light to work with. Check out our other tips for working in low light, like using a wider aperture.
- Find ways to show raindrops: Water droplets are tricky to capture, so look for situations in which you can highlight them. Strong backlighting, panes of glass, and just getting closer to your subjects will allow you to capture raindrops in your photos. You can even use a small amount of flash to light the droplets in front of you.
- Experiment with shutter speed: If they’re visible, faster shutter speeds can freeze rain droplets in place, while slower speeds allow them to blur as they move through the frame.
- Look for reflections: These offer a way to explore things from different angles. Be careful, though: they can also reflect things that detract from your image.
- Lean into the mood: It’s often dark and gray when it’s raining, so take advantage of it! It’s a great time to try shooting in black and white, too.
- Stick around after the rain: Wet ground offers a wonderful texture and color to shoot in, and cloudy days often have the best light. So, keep shooting as people and the sunlight reemerge.
There’s no such thing as bad weather for photography, only unprepared photographers. Whether it’s a nice sunny day or raining buckets, there are interesting and original photos to be taken.
Hopefully, you now appreciate that the worse the weather is, the easier it is to find more creative shots. So, don’t let a bit of rain put you off taking photos—just protect your camera and you’ll have fun.
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