Rain—it messes up your freshly washed car. Puts a damper on picnics or weddings. A game may even be postponed because of it.
But when you live in the Pacific NW rain is just a fact of life. If we waited until it quit raining to go outside, we’d be cooped up inside for months. What do we do? We learn to live with it. We put on our rain gear, then we head out to enjoy all of the fresh air and greenery that the rain provides. The simple rain gear idea goes for your camera too.
Rainfall provides a great opportunity for creativity ideas; reflections, active waterfalls, moisture, texture, drops and more.
Shooting In The Rain—Where Do You Start Shooting?
If It Is Raining Really Hard — Look for shelter.
Locate an awning to stand under while you shoot. Parking garages provide nice shelter. Any overhang will do, you just need something to help keep the rain off of you and your gear.
Sometimes, shooting from inside your car may be your only option. Just park in a good location, then simply roll down a window—point, shoot. You may find the need to switch to a longer focal length lens, which provides a different perspective in your composition.
Some Ideas To Inspire You When Shooting In The Raining
Photographing in the rain starts with an open mind. Rain makes for an interesting subject of itself, and it provides some interesting phenomenons to the world around you. For example, once familiar landscapes are transformed into something new to in which to capture.
For Street Shooters—look for a new range of emotions from the people caught in the rain; disgruntled commuters standing at the bus stop, people working in the rain, umbrellas, and delighted kids jumping in puddles. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy jumping in puddles! Go ahead, slip on your boots and be a kid, you know you want too!
When it’s raining, nothing goes untouched, or unaltered. Open your eyes to all of the new photographic possibilities in front of you.
The most obvious are the amazing reflections in puddles of water. They can be smooth as glass or provide texture with the ripples. Get low to the ground and those same reflections take on a whole new perspective. The subject in the reflection becomes the whole composition.
As I mentioned before, landscapes are quickly transformed by rain. Colors are more saturated. Plant life is now adorned with interesting droplets of water. Poke around foliage to find interesting droplet patterns.
Animals are fun, pets and in the wild. Puppies playing in the rain, cats trying to protect themselves, or wild animals who seem to not notice the wet weather. Make sure you keep your distance, a big, happy, wet dog shaking off, might be laughable but it may not be good for your camera!
Buildings and unique architecture, with water flowing from roofs, drains and backlit streaked windows—provide a unique shot. Street lights at the Blue Hour are even better in the rain.
Then there is the rain itself.
Which Brings Us To — How to Capture Rain
Surprisingly, rain can be tricky to capture. Here’s a few quick tips…
Lens Choices/Focal length
The same effects of compression and magnifying due to different focal lengths still applies. You can use any focal length you want to capture rain, it is all dependent on the backdrop. With the rain becoming your focal point, you will have new challenges to play with in your compositions.
Since I am predominately a landscape photographer, I am in Aperture Priority most of the time. Your style of photography may dictate your preference. Try to change things up from how you normally shoot — capture the rainfall itself as part of the environment. You may discover a way to add something extra to your images.
Unless you are going for a great backlit bokeh, you may want to refrain from settings, such as, f2-f4, normally used for shallow depth of field. The magical sweet spot of f8, still makes for a great starting point. This will keep both the rain and its nearby scene in relative focus, while allowing for faster shutter speeds to freeze the action.
Again, the general rules of Shutter speed still apply, but now the motion is the rain. What may surprise you, rain can sometimes be moving faster than you think.
Use shutter speeds which will change the effects of capturing rain movement. Experiment, there is no right setting when it comes to capturing the motion of the rain. Freeze the rain for some unique shots with a faster shutter speed, or use slower settings to create streaks or blurs. Luckily, with digital and instant feedback, you can quickly readjust as needed.
With camera’s stupendous ISO capacities today, ISO is no longer as much of an issue. Still, to keep noise down, I try to have my ISO as low as possible, and when possible, shoot with a tripod. To have one less thing to concentrate, I leave it set to Auto ISO, with a maximum of 1600. This allows me to concentrate on composition and the effects I can produce with Shutter and Aperture settings. In Auto ISO, the camera will work out what is needed for the existing lighting conditions. If you want full control, make sure to keep track of your ISO also.
Experiment with your flash. A little can go a long ways. With an external flash, start at a lower power to produce a little bit of a nice “pop” to the raindrops. Don’t blow-out the highlights. Move your external flash to a different angle as the camera, this will produce some unique effects.
Which leads us to our next tip…
The Fun Of Backlighting And Bokeh
Raindrops will become more clearly defined, as well as more interesting, when they are backlit with interesting patterns. Try to find a suitable light and something with interesting patterns and color, then shoot into it. Streetlights, lighted signs, lighted windows of buildings, holiday lights, traffic, or the sun peeking through trees or clouds make for interesting images.
The trick is to find “that perfect shooting angle.” It is best to shoot with the light directly behind, but not so direct of an angle, as you will run into the possibility of causing the raindrops to appear overexposed. Slight angles also produce some unique effects, while opening up your aperture will add in some dreamy bokeh.
Next time it rains, don’t let it get you down. Grab your camera and enjoy the downpour.
Photography and photographers... A look at both. Blame it on the light.