Simple Tips for Shooting in the Rain

Rainy weather tends to keep most people inside, but for dedicated photographers, it’s a great opportunity for beautiful shots. Shooting in the rain can seem unappealing when you’re warm and dry inside, but going out is worth the discomfort, especially when you nail a perfect rainy-day shot.

Before you head out, make sure your camera is water-tight. You can get a nice rain cover for your camera or cut a hole into a plastic bag for a low-budget rain cover. In any case, you’ll need to thoroughly dry off your gear after the shoot, as it’s difficult to keep your camera totally dry in the rain.

Another option is to go out after the rain stops. While you won’t get any shots of falling rain with this strategy, you’ll still be able to capture the mood of a rainy day. We’ll cover both strategies in this post, starting with shooting in the rain.

julia turnau – After the rain
julia turnau - tree branch After the rain

Shooting in the Rain

If you’re shooting in the rain, one thing to consider is: do you want to see the individual raindrops, you do you want the rain be a blur, like a semi-opaque curtain? For both options, you’ll need fairly heavy rainfall.

Raindrops

To see the raindrops, you’ll need to have the shutter speed cranked up fairly high (at least 1/250, and that might not be enough). At this shutter speed, considering that your main light source is reduced by the cloud cover, you’ll need to set the aperture for a somewhat deep depth of field. Otherwise, only your subject will be in sharp focus, and you’ll no longer capture the surrounding rain.

Otacílio Rodrigues – Golden rain
Otacílio Rodrigues - Golden rain

Lucia Ramos – 22/365 Sudden downpour
Lucia Ramos - Sudden downpour

Curtain of Rain

If you want to use the falling rain as a type of curtain, this is easy to achieve as well. All you need to do is drop the shutter speed to around 1/30 or 1/15. (At these lower shutter speeds, you might need a tripod, unless you can still your body enough to avoid camera shake.) Then, open up the aperture to a fairly wide f-stop, where the DOF is shallow.

Otacílio Rodrigues – Riding in the rain
Otacílio Rodrigues - Riding in the rain

James Drury – the wall
James Drury - Hadrian's Wall National Trail

Once you’ve decided on how you want to portray the rain while it’s raining, you can fire away with reckless abandon or careful calculation. Either way, controlling the DOF is critical for creatively using the falling rain in your photos. Adjusting your shutter speed and aperture to effectively manipulate the DOF requires practice, practice, practice. 

When you’re done shooting in the rain, be sure to wipe down your camera, dab the lens dry with lens cleaner cloth, and detach the lens from the camera during the drying process. 

Shooting After a Rainfall

The beauty of shooting just after the rain stops is that most objects are still wet and glistening, reflecting the light. Something as simple as a wet pavement can have a glowing sheen, elevating a mundane photo into a beautiful one.

The sheen of rain water also increases the apparent depth of any image. That’s because the water reflects the light in multiple directions and intensities. This optical phenomenon gives shape to whatever happens to be wet within your line of sight. With this in mind, when angling yourself for a photo, see if you can have the light reflecting off the wet surface(s), going directly into your lens.

Bryon Lippincott – She Wore Red
Bryon Lippincott - red dress beijing

Ilovetodig0044 – Pavement Rain with Feet 3 (Salisbury 2013)
Ilovetodig0044 - Pavement Rain with Feet

Rain Photography Inspiration

If you dread going out in the rain, one way to find motivation is to be inspired by other photographers who braved the rainstorm and came out with gorgeous images. Here are some sources of inspiration for your rainy day shoot.

25 Wonderful Photographs of Rain
With this post, you can compare shots of individual raindrops versus a curtain of rain, and see what’s possible after the rain stops.

42 Awe-Inspiring Photos of Extreme Weather
Want to take your rainy shoot to the next level? Check out these incredible photos of extreme weather, including tips on surviving a stormy photo shoot.

35 Rainy Day Window Pictures
Still can’t bring yourself to go outside? No worries – you can photograph your rain-covered windows instead!

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