Rainy days are not always the most comfortable days to shoot on.
But they can make for some of the most spectacular photos. Such days are characterized by soft lighting that can yield outstanding results.
The falling water, the occasional mist, puddles, and reflections all present great opportunities to show a scene in various exciting ways.
With preparation, you can create unique compositions and shoot photos with a dramatic touch.
So, while most people curl up inside their rooms for warmth, grab your raincoat and jump outside for a shoot.
Below are some tips to help you prepare.
1. Protect Your Camera
Today many cameras are weather sealed. But, it is still recommended that you keep your camera dry.
A wet camera can easily slip out of your hands. So, it’s best to make sure your hand and camera are both dry to avoid any unfortunate events.
Also, weather-sealed does not mean weatherproof. Water can still damage any camera from prolonged exposure to bad weather.
A rule I follow is that if I find myself putting on rain gear, I’ll need to do the same for my camera gear as well.
To protect your photography equipment, here are a few things to carry:
There are many different raincoats available on the market. They range from simple plastic to high-end durable materials like nylon.
One of my favorite brands is Ruggard; they offer camera raincoats for all sizes and budgets.
Their lower end raincoats are clear plastic bags that are made to fit your camera. The design is simple and easy to use.
You slide your camera into the raincoat, tighten the elastic bands located at the bottom of the camera and the lens mount, and you’re ready to shoot.
The cost of these raincoats will depend on the size of your camera and lens.
There are higher-end raincoats available as well. They are made from more durable materials and offer more protection against the elements.
The Ruggard DSLR Parka is one of my favorite raincoats. It is essentially a parka raincoat for your camera.
The parka has a transparent plastic portal over the viewfinder which allows you to take photos with ease.
It is also made of a water-resistant nylon exterior for extra protection.
Also, the design includes built-in hand warmers, so your hands will stay warm when you are using your camera in the rain.
Note that when using these raincoats, it’s advisable that you use your lens hood as well.
It not only serves as a mounting point for the cover but also prevents overhead raindrops from reaching the lens.
All of these coats are lightweight and take up very little space. Ensure you carry one in your camera bag or jacket pocket to use as soon as it starts to rain.
If you prefer not to pay for a rain cover, consider using a plastic bag.
A plastic bag is an easy and cost-effective method to protect your camera on rainy days.
The plastic bag should be able to keep your camera perfectly dry and allow you to shoot with minimal effort.
A large freezer bag or plastic food storage bag should be ideal.
These bags are made from durable plastic will protect your camera from the rain while still being able to use the buttons.
Consider customizing it further by cutting an opening for your lens and using an elastic band to secure it on the lens hood.
You should be able to stick your hand in the other end and operate your camera, nice and easy.
Unless you’re shooting during rainstorms or windy weather, an umbrella is great for sheltering your camera and the rest of your gear from rain.
There are numerous small folding umbrellas in the market you can buy to carry it with you wherever you go out shooting in rainy weather.
That said, I recommend investing in an umbrella mount for your tripod.
Using an umbrella mount will keep your hands free and allow you to focus on taking photos.
If you are using a heavier, larger umbrella opt for metal rather than a plastic mount. Metal mounts are more durable and steadier than plastic mounts.
If you don’t have an amount, you can hold your umbrella.
Once you mount the camera on a tripod, you’ll have one free hand to hold the umbrella while the other hand operates the camera.
With a little practice, you can continue shooting without a problem.
Be aware that using an umbrella is also not advisable if the weather is extremely windy.
The wind may break your umbrella. Or, if your umbrella is mounted, it will move your tripod and cause your images to be blurred.
Waterproof Camera Bag (or Camera Bag Cover)
Having a waterproof bag will help keep your gear dry even during heavy rain.
If you already own a camera bag that is not waterproof, consider investing in a waterproof bag cover to protect your gear against the rain.
Keep in mind, however, that waterproof covers don’t offer as much protection as a waterproof bag.
It’s not uncommon for waterproof covers to have a spot where water can get in.
If you are using a waterproof cover, remember to be extra careful around the unprotected areas, especially, when you set your bag down.
If you are looking for an inexpensive waterproof camera bag then Abonnyc DRLBP-CZ is a great option.
It extremely spacious and comes with a customizable interior making it easy to adjust to different situations.
It also comes with a waterproof cover for additional support against heavy rainfall.
If you are willing to invest in a long term backpack then the Peak Design Backpack is a great option.
This backpack is made with an outer hardcover nylon shell and water-resistant coating.
It is extremely durable and high quality. In addition, this backpack has a ton of space and is designed to make using your gear as efficient as possible.
Lens Cloth and Microfiber Towels
None of the gear mentioned will protect your lens water droplets that can spoil your images.
To avoid this, keep a cleaning cloth handy whenever you are shooting in rainy weather.
Remember to keep multiple lens cloths in your camera bag.
Having extra lens cloths will ensure that you will have something to use in case your first one gets soaked.
You can also use them to wipe down multiple gears including the camera(s), lenses and tripods during outdoor shoots.
I also recommend keeping microfiber towels in your camera bag. Microfiber towels are much more absorbent than lens cloths.
You can use them to wipe down your gear including your camera(s) and tripods during outdoor shoots.
Microfiber towels also help keep your hands dry and less slippery. You can use them to wipe the water off your hands whenever necessary, so carry a few of them too.
These are low cost and lightweight, so they should be easy to acquire and carry around. The help they offer is invaluable.
2. Use a Polarizing Filter
Polarizing filters can come in handy on rainy days.
Surfaces tend to become glossy when it rains, which can create unwanted glare and reflections on your subjects.
Using a polarizing filter is a great way to cut the glare and manage such reflections.
Polarizing filters also help colors pop on dull rainy days.
They can help make bland objects appear more vibrant and saturated.
When choosing a polarizing filter, a circular polarizer works best. This will allow you to adjust it until you reach the desired effect.
I recommend the B+W XS-Pro Digital, it is a high-quality CPL filter that has an ultra-slim design and is easy to use.
If you are using a lens that does not have threads or you have a lens hood on I suggest using a filter holder such as Lee Filters Holder.
Lee’s filters are often regarded as some of the best filters on the market so you won’t need to worry about the quality of effectiveness.
3. Use a Tripod
Keeping your tripod steady while shooting handheld is difficult. The windy, and wet conditions are not ideal for shooting handheld.
Tripods allow you to keep your camera stable during the rain.
If you’re shooting on a slippery or uneven surface, the rubber feet of a tripod will give you the traction you need.
On the other hand, if it’s windy holding your camera steady is nearly impossible. Use a tripod to eliminate this problem.
Even if your tripod moves with the wind you can add weight to balance it out.
I suggest the Vanguard SB-100 stone bag. With this bag, you can add anything you find to the bag for additional weight.
I often use rocks, wood, or my backpack for additional stability.
Remember your tripod will be exposed to the rain. To make sure your tripod lasts as long as possible, buy a carbon fiber tripod.
This will ensure that your tripod is not damaged by the rain.
I recommend you use the Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod.
This is a quality tripod made by a trusted brand. It is easy to use and lightweight so you can easily move around and adjust your composition.
4. Use Aperture Priority
When shooting in the rain, it’s essential that you are able to compose your shots and shoot quickly.
Being quick will not only protect your gear from the rain but also ensure that you don’t miss any photo opportunities.
For instance, you may want to photograph fleeting rainbows or lightning.
In such cases, it helps to have your camera ready to shoot at all times.
To improve your speed, I recommend shooting in aperture priority mode.
In aperture priority, you choose the aperture and ISO and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed for you.
This allows you to control your depth-of-field to make sure most of your frame stays in focus.
If you shoot in aperture priority and you find that your shutter speed is not fast enough, simply increase your ISO.
This will prompt the camera to automatically increase your shutter speed. Keep increasing your ISO until you reach your desired effect.
An example scenario is if you are not using a tripod (you should).
In which case, you’ll want to make sure your shutter speeds stay fast to avoid blurry photos.
5. Increase Your ISO
Because there’s less light available on rainy days, I recommend using higher ISO values.
Increasing your ISO will make your image brighter image and compensate for the lack of light.
The specific ISO value you should use will vary depending on the available light, but ISO 400 is a good place to start.
That said if you are not trying to freeze motion, a better alternative is to use the lowest ISO available (100) with a tripod.
That’s because while higher ISOs will make your image brighter, it will also increase the appearance of the noise present in your photo.
Thus it’s often best to select the lowest ISO setting.
6. Use Fast Shutter Speeds
Raindrops are generally difficult to see in a photo. Since raindrops fall fast, you’ll need to use fast shutter speed, such as 1/1000 seconds, to freeze them in place.
The result is raindrops with a defined, glasslike appearance.
But, if you’d like capture streaked raindrops, use a slightly slower shutter speed instead (around 1/125 seconds).
The slower shutter speed will allow the sensor to record each raindrop at different positions across the frame, giving you the blurry effect.
That said, remember not to slow down the shutter too much. Doing so can make the raindrops disappear altogether.
To make the raindrops more visible, you can add backlighting to your scene or use flash to illuminate them.
To do this, you can either bring your own lighting or identify a source of light, such as car headlights, and shoot directly toward it.
You can also include a middle ground subject in the scene to partially block the backlight.
Doing so will transform your subject in a silhouette with a subtle glow outlining it.
This type of composition is usually very dramatic and visually stunning.
7. Use Narrow Apertures
Use narrow apertures or lower f-stops to make sure that most of your frame stays in sharp focus.
Although shooting with a wider aperture will let in more light into your camera, it will also decrease your depth-of-field.
Meaning, the more you lower your f-stop, the larger the out-of-focus area in your image becomes.
I recommend starting at f/8 and adjusting from there.
8. Shoot Reflections
With that preparation taken care of, you need to know what to shoot and how to compose your photos when it’s raining.
All the preparation will amount to nothing if you don’t know what to shoot. Fortunately, there are plenty of subjects to capture in the rainy weather.
Puddles of water create ideal spots for capturing reflections. This works especially great for shots taken at night with street lights illuminating the reflected objects.
How you compose these shots mostly depends on the subject, direction of light, and the message you want to convey.
Look for ways to take advantage of wet surfaces to create unique compositions.
9. Explore City Lights
Building on the previous section, the city is a great place to photograph during rainy days.
The city’s buildings and people reflected on puddles make for a stunning subject when it rains.
Smooth cobblestones and street lamps also provide unique opportunities. Captured on camera, all these can be extremely dramatic and thrilling.
10. Find Mist
Sometimes the magic in your photos comes from something less obvious.
Though misty scenes can create a gloomy atmosphere, it also provides an excellent opportunity for taking pictures.
Misty scenes can often carry a moody feel, which creates evocative images.
Mist can appear in any rainy weather but are often more photogenic in the morning or evening hours.
11. Shoot Waterfalls
Waterfalls provide some fantastic photo opportunities during rainy weather. They are typically fuller and wilder when it’s raining.
When capturing waterfalls, remember to use slow shutter speeds to make the water appear silky and smooth.
Also, consider using a Neutral Density (ND) filters to avoid overexposure from slow shutter speeds.
ND filters out excess light and will allow you to use long exposures without producing overexposed images.
When shooting ND filters or during the rain, a variable ND filter is most effective. An ND filter has different intensities that you can adjust by turning it.
This will allow you to adjust your ND filter easily if the light changes.
I recommend the Tiffen Variable ND Filter, it is a high-quality ND filter that can adjust the light from 2 to 8 stops.
This is the perfect ND filter to use while your shooting in the rain and need to make quick adjustments.
12. Experiment with Raindrops on Objects
Look around for raindrops clinging on objects and shoot them up close.
You can usually find these on leaves, spider webs, grass stalks, and many other objects.
Zooming in on these droplets is provides many exciting compositions and photo opportunities.
13. Photograph Rainbows
Rainbows change rapidly. They are unpredictable and short-lived. So, to get the best shot, you’ll need to move quickly.
To find rainbows, pay attention to the sunlight. If the clouds break and rays can burst through, you may spot a rainbow forming.
It usually starts as a faint spectrum of colors and will deepen momentarily.
When you see this, be ready to take photos, as this is when the rainbow begins to form.
Your success at capturing a rainbow will depend on how swiftly you can compose the shot. So be ready, and you’ll push the odds in your favor.
14. Evoke Emotions
Read your environment. Identify the mood of the scene and capture it in your camera.
Ensure you compose the shot in a way that best brings out the emotion.
15. Incorporate Color in Your Shots
The atmosphere can be dull and gloomy when it rains. But, you can try to be creative and find ways to bring back color in your scene.
This could be as simple as including a person dressed in bright colors or photographing colorful buildings around the city.
Whatever it is you are shooting, study the scene, and find ways to brighten up the dull atmosphere of rainy weather.
16. Layer Your Shots to Add Depth
Creating layers typically requires skill, but rainy conditions can make layering easier.
On a rainy day, look for different elements you can layer such as mist, low clouds, or receding hills and shorelines.
Include these elements in your frame to add depth to your images.
17. Backlit Raindrops
Rain becomes more prominent when backlit.
Backlighting is a term used to describe a scene where the source of light is behind the subject.
In other words, the source(s) of light for your photo is pointing toward your camera, and you keep your subject between the light source and your camera.
When the light passes through the rain, it creates a stunning effect that makes the raindrops stand out in your image.
You can do this with either natural light or artificial light.
Shoot in front of a street light or sunlight.
In either case, make sure to experiment with different angles.
Even the subtlest change in composition can change your image dramatically.
18. Clean Up
Remember that your camera bag experiences bad weather with you.
At the end of your shoot, empty the contents of your bag and allow it to dry.
In this post, we’ve covered several tips on what, where, and how to take amazing images on rainy days.
Follow these tips where necessary, adapt them to meet any needs in your area of photography.