April showers bring May flowers: How to create amazing photos in the rain

  • In my book, rain + client session = reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!

April showers bring May flowers: How to create amazing photos in the rain

I’ll admit it, if I have a session scheduled one evening I find myself staring at the skies and compulsively checking my radar apps to make sure that it’s not going to rain.

In my book, rain + client session = reschedule.

However, just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor’s kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren’t going to want an entire session in the rain!

So while most people are packing up their gear and calling it quits when the storm clouds roll in, do something different and embrace the rain. I bet you will create something truly magical!

But before you go running outside doing a rain dance, there are a few things you should keep in mind in order to keep everyone safe and create beautiful images. Listed below are my favorite tips for capturing rain images.

1. Find cover

Let’s face it, your camera is expensive. The last thing you want is to expose it to water and then face a costly repair bill.

So when I’m taking pictures of my kids in the rain I like to stay warm and dry in the garage and use my Nikon 70-200 lens to take pictures of them playing in the driveway. I do have to do a bit more directing in this scenario because I need them to move into the frame but it’s an easy option and one that keeps me the most dry!

No garage? Look for a porch roof or awning. If you’re out and about and it starts to rain you can also lift the car tailgate for instant cover or even shoot from inside the car.

If you want to be a bit more mobile when shooting and don’t want to be stuck under a roof, then bring an assistant to hold a large umbrella over you and your camera. Even if you don’t have an assistant you can hold a small umbrella in your left hand and still shoot with your right hand. It’s definitely the most cumbersome but gets the job done.

And if all else fails, if you really want to take rain images but aren’t prepared to find cover and don’t want to risk damaging your equipment then you can always fake it! Turn on the sprinkler and take fun images of the kids playing in the “rain” while you stay dry!

In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!

2. Get the right gear

Even if you’re properly positioned under cover, the rain can and does often blow around. Most DSLRs are fairly watertight but I still don’t recommend keeping them in a downpour but a little mist most likely won’t adversely affect your camera.

In order to take the most precautions, I highly recommend always having protective rain gear in your bag. Nothing will stop a shoot faster than not being prepared. There are hundreds of options that range in price but a super cheap option like this works well. Or get something reusable.

In a pinch? Grab a one gallon Ziplock bag. Just cut a hole in one end to push the lens through and then hold the camera through the open end. It’s not a perfect fit but it’ll do a decent job of keeping your camera dry.

I also use my lens hood if I’m taking rain pictures because it helps to keep some of the rain off the lens. As soon as your session is over, make sure you dry off all of your equipment. You just want to make sure you keep moisture out of the lens and camera elements.

In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!
In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!

3. Settings

ISO:

Quite often it’s very dark and overcast when it’s raining. Be prepared to start with a medium ISO and know that you may have to go higher than normal.

Shutter Speed:

Rain photos can be tricky because it’s often pretty dark out but you have to balance that with the need to actually capture the rain drops. If your shutter speed is too slow, it’ll look like everything is blurry and there’s no way to recover that with editing.

You may like this look and I do sometimes intentionally shoot for a “blur or rain”. More often though, I love to capture the look of the actual raindrops so I would then start with a relatively fast shutter speed.

Again, the speed of the rain will affect your initial starting point so make sure you evaluate that while determining your settings. I would suggest starting around 1/250th of a second and from there you can go faster or slower.

Aperture:

When shooting in the rain, keep in mind that there are more objects in front of your lens than normal (i.e. every raindrop falling in front of and behind your subject). If you want to capture all the rain then start around f/8. I like to live on the edge so I still shoot a bit open (around f/2.5) and accept that some of the rain will be blurry.

By keeping my shutter speed higher I’m able to capture enough rain drops for my liking. Experiment a bit and find out the look that you like.

4. Environment

Raindrops both pass and reflect light so they photograph best against a dark or colorful background.

Rain also becomes incredibly beautiful when it’s backlit. This isn’t always possible naturally because it doesn’t often rain while the sun is out (although when it does it’s my favorite time to shoot!)

However, you can look for artificial light sources to use as your light such as street lights or car lights (or off camera flash). The same rules apply for shooting a non-rain backlit image. If you shoot directly into the light you may get an image that’s too washed out (no pun intended!).

If you shoot at too much of an angle, you won’t be able to see the pretty light. The goal is to find that perfect angle in between. The best way to do that is to simply move left and right and up and down and check your LCD screen to see what you are getting. Some call this “chimping” but I call it using the tools you have to get the best images.

Also, don’t stop shooting when the rain ends. I love to let the kids keep playing and splashing in the puddles. I can then be more mobile and I get fantastic pictures of them throwing their hair around and looking adorable soaking wet.

In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!
In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!

5. Safety

One final thought is with regard to safety. It’s never worth risking your safety or the safety of your subjects in order to get a shot.

Lightning can strike up to 25 miles away so it’s best to use an app to determine how far away the lightning is. The Weather Channel and Radar Scope apps are really helpful in these situations.

In my book, rain + client session=reschedule. However, just because it's raining doesn't mean you can't take pictures of either your own kids, your dog, your neighbor's kids, etc! Heck, you could probably still shoot your clients but I think most clients aren't going to want an entire session in the rain!

Okay, so while April showers bring May flowers they can also bring more opportunities for you to stretch your creative muscles. Get out there and create!

About the Author:

Julie Kulbago is a lover of Nikon, Target, fountain beverages, a full night of sleep (doesn't happen often) and newborn photography. She is also a non-practicing runner, a sometimes patient mom of four and a full-time believer in working hard to get what you want. Based in Pittsburgh, she has grown a passion into a full time business now operating out of a restored barn. Her style is geared toward authentic, natural imagery that she hopes will be cherished by the generations to come. Visit Julie Kulbago online.
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3 Comments

  1. Christopher Hall Apr 03 2018 at 2:19 am - Reply

    Some great advice. I had a client session the other day, it was meant to be showers but it ended up being continuous rain. I would have carried on (I had bought umbrellas for everyone). The family though had other ideas.

    I have so many shots that I would like to do in the rain as it makes for such a different and fun session. If I could just convince my clients otherwise.

  2. lorena Apr 09 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Love this! Definitely inspired to try some rain photography.

  3. Christopher Hall May 18 2018 at 2:18 am - Reply

    So this did inspire me. I’m now working on something which just captures daily life. It’s more of a personal project though.

    Chris
    http://www.family-photographer.co.uk

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