Many people mistakenly believe that the best photos are taken on sunny days with clear blue skies. They couldn’t be more wrong. Bright overhead lighting creates terribly overexposed shots with washed-out colors. In fact, many professional photographers are willing to wait for hours for the sun to go behind clouds.
The cloud cover filters out a lot of the blue and ultraviolet radiations in daylight, making other colors appear more vivid. Most of all, photographers love dramatic climate: dark, stormy skies create a sense of excitement and depth that can hardly be found in clear, sunny skies.
When the heavens finally open and the rain starts pouring in, magic opportunities suddenly appear from everywhere, from sweeping views, flower petals and puddles to the water drops themselves. And when the storm has finally passed, everything sparkles – offering further picture-taking enjoyment. In many aspects, rain photography is a form of art as it requires skill and patience to create remarkable compositions.
One of the best parts about shooting in the rain are the various textures you can find in flowers, reflections and the exciting ways you can capture colors. Often, people are afraid of getting their camera wet – or even themselves – but with proper preparation the results are worth the adventure.
Here are some things to consider when taking photos in the rain:
Rain is a moving subject so you’ll need to adjust your shutter speed (Exposure Time) accordingly – use too slow a speed and the raindrops will vanish.
When to increase the shutter speed:
In order to stop the rain in action and “freeze” the droplets, increase the shutter speed up to 1/1000sec and you’ll get more sharpness in your raindrops.
When to lower the shutter speed:
A slower speed of around 1/60sec will help you capture the falling rain with a sense of movement and some nice long streaks. Usually, rain drops can hardly be seen with the naked eye, unless there is a dark or color background to highlight them, so try shooting against trees, architecture or even dark empty streets.
Try experimenting with different shutter speeds until you get optimum results. You can follow this simple rule:
– Hard rain = faster speed
– Soft rain = slower speed
Depending on the lighting, you may not be able to increase the shutter speed without also boosting your ISO. But that’s alright – it’s better to have a slightly noisy image than to miss out on a great shot.
Set the camera to Aperture Priority mode to add more depth and light to your photos. Ideally, you should use a large aperture (the small F number, e.g. f/1.4 – f/4) when shooting in the rain. Also, switching to Macro mode is a great way to get amazing shots in the rain, such as capturing rain drops falling on tree leaves.
Rainy days often come with mist, fog and heavy clouds, which means you’ll have less natural light available. In order to compensate for less light you will need to use slower shutter speeds to capture more light into the camera. A tripod or monopod will help you avoid that ugly camera shake and get properly exposed images.
Raindrops become more visible when they are backlit. The light coming through the raindrops brightens the entire scene, whether it’s a streetlight or the sun coming out of the clouds. Whatever the case, remember the rule: the more directly you shoot into the light, the better defined the droplets will be. But, aim too directly and the light source will ruin your exposure.
Include your umbrella in the picture
If you’re taking an umbrella with you, include it in your shot. It can be a nice compositional framing tool. Place it into the upper part of the image to create a nice visual cue that it’s indeed raining. If the street is full of people carrying umbrellas, yours will fit in with the crowd and also block the light from the bright clouds and improve the exposure and colors.
Shoot through a window
Photographing through windows during a storm can yield some interesting results. Whether you’re in a car or at home, you can press the camera to the glass to avoid any reflections and capture what’s on the other side through a veil of raindrops. The image below is very interesting because it almost looks like a painting.
Ideas for a rainy day
There is so much you can explore during the rain, things that most people would otherwise take for granted in an ordinary day:
- Your backyard
You don’t have to go far to find great subjects to photograph during the rain. Start looking around your house and you’ll find plenty of colorful flowers and plants covered in raindrops. Overcast weather is a great time to snap some good shots – the colors seem more vivid, interesting patterns pop out and there are lots going on everywhere.
Puddles, during and after the rain, are excellent subjects. Notice how they reflect things and create interesting frames for different subjects that would otherwise pass unnoticed.
There is so much you can explore just by watching people in a rainy day as they react in the strangest ways, from the awful dread of rain-drenched commuters getting out from work to the delight of young children. Capture these unique emotions and you’re guaranteed to have a great shot.
- Urban scenery
Rain doesn’t only make things and people look different during the rain, but it can also add an interesting spin on an isolated place. When it rains there are less people outside and this is a great time to capture some great shots of spots that are usually jammed with people.
Imagine a crowded street in your area: that same street will be nearly empty on a rainy day, which will give you the chance to see it in a different light and probably notice something that you didn’t notice before.
- A rainbow
Rainbows always make great subjects. Move fast when you see a rainbow, as rain can stop quickly and the moisture that creates it can disappear in a moment. Rainbow images are especially remarkable with other elements in the frame, such as mountains, streams of water, architecture and more.
You’ll need a tripod to keep the camera stable and ideally wider angle lens so you can cover a larger area of the sky. Set the camera to a long shutter speed (a speed of 30 seconds is perfect) and you’ll have a great chance to capture lighting in full flow. Select the smallest aperture (e.g. f/16 or f/22) which is great for deep landscape shots. If your camera is fully automatic and you have no control over exposure, just make sure that it’s set to Flash Off mode.
- Bouncing droplets
Raindrops create beautiful patterns especially when they hit the soil and splash, whether it’s in puddles or any other object. Capturing bouncing droplets can be fun and rewarding. Set the camera to Macro mode to get a close-range composition of your subject and select a wide aperture or slow shutter speed for extra light and proper exposure.
What’s left after the rain
Waiting until after the rain gives you new opportunities for great compositions. Sometimes reflections in a puddle or a raindrop itself can give you tremendous inspiration for more creative work.
Dark clouds add even more tension in a rain shot as they create a dark background that throws everything else in deep contrast and enhance the photo. Watch the clouds as they open up and create a window to the sky: the sun is just coming out of the clouds, the colors seem deeper and everything sparkles under the emerging sun rays.
Today’s cameras are surprisingly weather-resistant and they dry out pretty well. Other than that, here are some items you should take with you when you go out shooting:
- Proper outwear.Before anything else, protect yourself with the right gear. Keep your feet warm with a good pair of and you’ll be outside for hours.
- A lens hood.Hoods not only protect the lens against sun glare or accidental scratches, but they also keep water from touching the lens during rain.
- A raincoat for your camera.Options range from the simple plastic bag with a hole cut in it to fancier products like the OP/Tech rainsleeve. Or you can get a simple camera cover with adaptable elastic bands to put around the front and back of the camera. If you’re on a budget, a simple Ziploc bag will also work.
- A cloth.Water might touch the lens so bring a cloth with you to wipe it off from time to time. Just don’t try to change out your lenses!
Don’t be discouraged by the rain. You’ll find there are so many ways to explore your creativity when the clouds are dark and the rain starts pouring in. Plus, most cameras today are more weather resistant than you’d think, so shooting in the rain won’t jeopardize your equipment, and if you put on the right gear, you’ll have a lot of fun.