Photograpy in the rain has it's downsides - The wet gear, the wrinkled fingers, and the almost uninhabitable devastation you leave behind when you walk through the front door. All of that is worth it though, because some of the absolute best photography opportunities arise in rainy weather.
I don't hide the fact that the so-called 'bad weather' is when I get most of my favourite shots, but it's not just landscape photography this applies to. The rain can be utilised in creative ways across all manner of photography genres, so it pays to wrap up warm and brave the elements!
Preparing for Rainy Day Photography
Let's not kid ourselves and say that being out in the rain is a pleasant experience. Generally speaking it can be miserable, but there are ways to all but eliminate the discomfort and actually start enjoying yourself out there. Preparation is the key.
A lot of the more modern camera bodies are pretty resistant to getting wet. In fact, many years ago I dropped my Nikon D3200 in a lake and it lived to tell the tale (not recommended.)
However, it's generally better to be safe than sorry, especially with cameras and lenses that don't specifically say that they are weather sealed. The rain cover shown here made it onto our top budget friendly photography accessories list and is a must-have if you're heading out in the rain.
Add a camera bag that's either waterproof or has a removable rain cover, such as the Lowepro reviewed here, and a good selection of lens cleaning cloths and you're all set to take your camera out in the rain!
One reason that many photographers shy away from heading out in the rain is simply because they don't like getting wet. It's understandable, especially when it's a cold winters day and it chills you through to your bones.
Again, it's a problem that's easily solved with a few items. Get yourself a set of waterproofs like these if you don't already have some waterproof clothing. Add some warm clothing underneath the waterproofs and your comfort levels will rise dramatically.
Next up is some gloves. Nobody likes getting wrinkly, wet fingers so bag yourself a pair of waterproof gloves. I've found cycling gloves to be fantastic for photography, because they're manoeuvrable enough to operate a camera without taking them off. If the weather is cold them you can always add a pair of ski gloves over the top to keep you warm too.
All that's left to protect is your feet now! I like to use SealSkinz waterproof socks for all my outings (I have a nasty habit of going ankle deep in rivers when trying to get a shot) and I've not returned home with wet feet since I got them. Waterproof boots are helpful acquisitions too, but not necessary if you have some SealSkinz.
Photographing in the Rain
Now that you're all set to enjoy your time in the rain, it's time to think of something to actually photograph out there. The opportunities that rainy days present cover the majority of photography genres, and with most other photographers staying indoors you have the chance to get a truly unique shot.
Landscape Photography in the Rain
Vivid sunsets and misty dawns are great, don't get me wrong, but nothing sets you apart from the crowd in landscape photography like shooting in the rain. Not many photographers are willing to hike up a mountain in inclement weather to possibly come away empty handed.
And that will happen. Sometimes, the conditions just don't work and you'll come away empty handed. Other times you'll hit the jackpot though. Golden light breaking through a gap in the clouds to illuminate a rain squall, a gorgeous rainbow, or simply some incredibly dramatic clouds.
Tips for Landscape Photography in the Rain
- Try to get away from a passing storm to photograph the weather sweeping across the landscape.
- Look for a break in the clouds on the horizon before sunrise or sunset for the chance at some incredible light.
- Figure out where the sun is, turn around, and pray for a rainbow.
- Don't give up - Grin and bear the rain and you'll eventually be rewarded.
- Experiment with shutter speed and try freezing the raindrops motion.
- Use a telephoto lens and experiment with both depth of field and shutter speed. This works particularly well with trees as your subject.
- Find a waterfall near you - Waterfalls are the perfect subject for rainy days.
Macro Photography in the Rain
So, you've got an itch for macro photography that needs scratching, but you look out the window and it's raining. You could stay indoors and find some interesting subjects there, but there's absolutely nothing stopping you from finding the fresh opportunities outdoors too.
Honestly, combine a macro lens and a raindrop and a world of opportunity opens up. You can capture the reflections in the water droplets themselves, or you can use the diffracted light along with a wide aperture to create some beautiful depth of field effects. It's not just the raindrops themselves though - Add a polariser into the mix and the wet foliage's colour bursts into life.
Tips for Macro Photography in the Rain
- Take a lens hood to keep the rain off the front element of your lens.
- Try using a polarising filter to bring the colours in the wet vegetation to life.
- Experiment with depth of field - Raindrops can be wonderful when thrown completely out of focus.
- Remember to try out every possible angle you can think of. Sometimes this will reveal surprising reflections and diffraction in the raindrops.
- Try using raindrops for scale - For instance, if you're photographing a tiny insect and shoot it next to a raindrop it will provide a great sense of scale, because everybody knows how small a raindrop is.
Portrait Photography in the Rain
You've booked a model for a portrait shoot, but when the day of the session comes around it's raining. Do you book a last minute studio to try and salvage something? No, you do everything you can to convince your model that a rainy day is actually the best thing that could happen!
You wouldn't be lying either. Some of the very best portraits I've ever seen or taken have been in the rain. It lends a fantastic atmosphere to the images, and the things you can do with just a single light source will blow your mind! I urge you to experiment with this - Just wait until it's raining at night and then move a light into various locations, just to observe the differing effects of backlight, frontlight, and sidelight.
Tips for Portrait Photography in the Rain
- Try out different shutter speeds to try and freeze the raindrops in motion - Start off at 1/250 second and experiment from there.
- Go out at night - Take a single light source and try placing it behind your subject, in front of them, or to the side of them. Capturing a beautiful portrait surrounded by illuminated, falling rain is a combination that's hard to beat.
- An umbrella can be perfect for framing your subject and bringing all the attention to their face.
- If you're shooting in nature, try going for a more muted colour palette in the environment. It will focus the viewer on your model.
Street Photography in the Rain
Street photography really comes into it's own when the rain is falling. Honestly, I find it really difficult to get a good street shot in fine weather, but when it's raining it's like the opportunities just fall in your lap.
Think about it: The colourful umbrellas brighten up the concrete jungle of grey and white, the surface water opens up a world of reflections, and the city lights hitting the wet streets make the entire scene glow. I implore you to get out and try street photography in the rain - Get down low for reflections, get up high to capture patterns, and try everything in between.
Tips for Street Photography in the Rain
- Get up high and look for patterns - The sea of umbrellas looks incredible from above, but even better is when there's a single standout colour in a mass of greys and blacks.
- Crouch down and capture the reflections of people, buildings, and cars.
- As always, experiment with shutter speed and aperture to change how the rain appears in your photos.
- Go out at night and to capture the bright city lights reflected off the wet streets.
- Isolate a single interesting subject from the crowd. Does somebody have a red umbrella? Or no umbrella? Or are they the only person smiling in an ocean of grimaces? Find them and capture them.
Wedding Photography in the Rain
It can feel like one of the most disastrous things to happen to a wedding photographer. You wake up on the morning of the big day and it's pouring down outside, but it really isn't the end of the world. The happy couple won't let it dampen their spirits, so why should you?
Get yourself a few props on standby in the event of rain and you've got the perfect recipe for a great shot of the bride and groom. I'm talking umbrellas again, obviously. White and clear ones work best at a wedding, and if the guests bring their own too you can capture a really unique group shot of everybody!
Tips for Wedding Photography in the Rain
- Find a nice view, give the bride and groom a big umbrella (or one each) and get them to pose under it. I like going for a wide-angle, environmental portrait here and placing the happy couple dead centre of the frame.
- Get all the guests outside with their umbrellas and ask them all to hold them over their heads.
- Shoot through rainy windows for some beautiful candid portraiture.
- Use the umbrella over the bride and groom to put them in their own little bubble. Try doing this in a crowded area and having only them in focus.
As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities for all types of photographer when the raindrops start falling. You don't have to batten down the hatches and wait for it to pass - Instead, you can embrace it as a fresh creative tool!
Hopefully this article has given you some inspiration, and next time it's raining you'll actually think about picking up the camera and heading outdoors.