September 23, 2020
All too often we associate autumn with the romantic ideas of vibrant colours and crisp autumn air but for much of the world, autumn is synonymous with one thing: rain. That’s certainly the case for us here at the Vallerret HQ in Voss, Norway where autumn means cold and damp days. It’s easy to get frustrated by the gloom weather and impossibly difficult to get motivated to go out and shoot when the weather is less than ideal but for the die-hard photographers out there, taking a whole season off just because of a little moisture is simply not an option.
We know finding motivation can be hard but this year, challenge yourself: When the clouds roll in and the rain starts to fall, grab your camera and some rain gear and enjoy the oddly satisfying joys of shooting in the rain. Here are our best tips for getting amazing shots in the rain.
Photo by Rene Bohmer.
The old saying that rings true for winter photography is also true for wet, autumn photography: you can’t capture good photos until you make sure you are protected from the elements. This means adopting a good layering system with synthetic or merino (not cotton!) base layers, insulating mid-layers and a waterproof jacket. If you want our best layering tips, check out this blog post here!
House tip: it’s nearly impossible for any waterproof fabric to stand up in a downpour for more than 10 minutes so don’t be surprised when the moisture slowly starts to soak through. The important thing is having good layers underneath that will keep you toasty warm even if they get wet. As for umbrellas, they are usually more work than they are worth. It’s not easy trying to hold an umbrella whilst also juggling your camera and adjusting your settings. Best to just leave it at home!
When layering up, don’t forget your feet. Walking around in damp cold shoes will kill your photography buzz in a jiffy so if you can wear rainbows or waterproof shoes, definitely do.
Now that you have your body protected from the elements, it’s time to think about your camera. While most modern cameras will be mostly waterproof, if you’re anticipating being out for long hours in the rain, it’s a good idea to invest in a camera rain cover. Rain covers slip over the camera body and lens and help protect your gear in heavy downpours.
When shooting in the rain, you may have to make the tough choice of leaving some kit behind. you won’t want to risk getting everything wet so be picky about the gear you bring out. Here’s what we bring on a rainy shoot:
Lenses: Changing lenses in the rain is downright challenging, if not impossible to do cleanly. I know it’s a hard thing to do as a photographer but pick your best all-rounder lens and stick with that for the shoot unless you can guarantee a dry place to change lenses.
Tripod: You’ll want to play around with the shutter speed when out in your rainy shoot. A fast shutter speed will leave you with sharper raindrops whereas a longer shutter speed will show streaky rain. The golden rule is anything under 1/60 of a second should be stabilized with a tripod.
Waterproof camera bag: A waterproof camera bag will help keep any spare batteries or SD cards dry. Most camera bags will be able to withstand some rainfall but if you're going to be out in torrential rain for long periods of time, it’s a good idea to put your valuable electronics in a dry bag (or a large plastic ziplock bag) inside of your camera bag.
Camera flash: A camera flash can highlight the rainfall if done correctly. You’ll need to experiment as the flash will add too much light to your scene but if you can bump your f-stop down a few stops and use the flash, you may come away with a dynamic picture.
Extra batteries and SD cloths: Technically these should be included in every photo shoot but just in case it needs to be repeated, you should never leave home without extra batteries and SD cards. Even when you’ve triple-checked your gear, you still might get caught out with a dying battery or a full SD card.
Lens cloths: Keeping your lens free of water spots might be a challenge. One way to minimize this is to shoot with your lens hood on which will help keep your lens dry for a bit. Either way, it’s a good idea to pack a few lens cloths for a quick wipe if you need them.
Camera Rain Cover: Like we mentioned before, most cameras will have good weather seals but to ensure your camera body is safe, you can always put a rain cover over the top. If you don’t have one of those, you can always improvise with a large plastic bag. Cut a hole in the bottom to stick your lens through and stick your hands throw the open end.
House tip:When you’re done with your shoot, your camera will dry best in a cool dry place. You know those little silica packets you receive with items you’ve ordered in the mail? Start collecting those and chuck a few of those in your camera bag to help absorb moisture build-up.
Photo by Osman Rana.
Whilst shooting outside in the rain, you’re going to have to learn to adapt to unpredictable and often dark lighting situations but with unpredictability comes the possibility of magic! You know those big dark storm clouds that roll in when the weather turns bad? Those ominous poofs act as a brilliant, giant light diffuser often creating the most perfect soft lighting a photographer can ask for. You’ll have to be patient, waiting for long periods of time only to be granted a few seconds of heavenly light but if you can hold out, you’ll be rewarded
And if you can’t get that perfect light, play to your strengths. Embrace the darkness and aim to create a moody image.
If you’re in a city, try to use the artificial lights to your advantage. Using streetlights or car lights as a backlight can really make the image of a rain pop.
Photo by Michael Podger.
Rain photography requires a little bit of extra care and effort but the same principals of photography still apply. Look for leading lines, use your rule of thirds, spend time to artfully compose your shot. Here are just a few examples of how you can portray a rain scene:
Puddle reflection: puddles will be aplenty on a city street during a rainstorm. Experiment with reflections by finding a puddle that reflects an interesting scene and trying to capture the reflection from a few different angles.
Photo by David Marcu.
Backlighting: As mentioned before, artificial city lights do a great job of providing backlight to your rainy photo. If you are well prepared and have a subject you’d like to highlight, you can always bring and use and artificial light to focus the backlight exactly where you want it.
Macro photography: Rain droplets are a beautiful thing. Challenge yourself to find a small scene and capture the small intricacies of your rainy world.
Photo by Axel Holen.
Energy: Rainstorms have a way of bringing out about a frantic energy of people in the streets. From the bustling, bouncing umbrellas to the slow jog of the man who forgot his rain cover. The rain brings out a unique energy in a city and if you can capture the spirit of a rainy day in town, you’ll have a great image.
Photo by Naseem Buras.
Keep an eye out for rainbows: while every rain cloud has its silver lining, not every rainstorm has its fairytale rainbow but if you can stick it out and wait for the weather to roll past, you’ll not only be treated to some of the best light you could ask for you but you might also get the chance to capture a rainbow. Do some planning ahead of time to find a nice backdrop and keep your fingers crossed the rainbow will frame your shot nicely.
Try different shut speeds: As we mentioned above, a fast shutter speed will give you nice crisp rain whereas a longer shutter speed will give you milky, streaky rain. Both will be good but it’s up to you to find the shutter speed the evokes the emotions you want to convey with your image so don’t be afraid to try a few different shutter speeds to get it right.
Rainstorms are, after all, all about water. In the city, rain gutters will be over flowering whereas, in nature, waterfall and rivers will be picking up speed. Try to compose a shot that shows running water as the main feature of your shot. Try using a polarizing filter to help reduce the glare you might have on a river or waterfall and again, play with your shutter speed. A longer shutter speed will help you get milky smooth waterways and will create an ethereal image.
Photo by Hamdan Ahli Khoiri.
So there you have it, rain photography 101! We will never be able to control the weather and the temperatures but as artists and photographers, we have the special ability to create beautiful images despite the conditions. If you make it out in a rainstorm this season, don’t forget to share your images with us. We’ll give you all the e-kudos in the world for finding the motivation and seizing the moment. Happy shooting!
In general, when shooting photos in the rain start by dialling in your shutter speed to create either crisp or streaky raindrops. From there, your aperture and ISO will fluctuate depending on what you’re capturing and the lighting conditions. Here are our rough guides.
Capture crisp raindrops:
Shutter speed: 1/1000sec.
Aperture: f/8 - f/11
ISO: 500+ depending on the light conditions
To show the movement of falling rain:
Shutter speed: 1/60sec
Aperture: f/5 - f/8
ISO: 400+ depending on the lighting conditions
Macro photograph settings for raindrops:
Shutter Speed: 1/100sec
ISO: 300+ depending on the lighting conditions
*Macro lenses are so specific that wider apertures such as f/1.8 are so dialled in that you won’t get an entire raindrop in focus*
Shutter speed: 1/15 second
ISO: 100 (start low and adjust depending on the lighting conditions)
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