Photographing When It's Wet
Tips on taking great pictures even in the rain
In most areas of the country, wet days are part of the weather throughout the year. If you only photograph during the sunny days, you will miss some interesting and beautiful images from nature. Rain, mist and other precipitation can make it more challenging to photograph, but such conditions can also give you really nice photographs of nature.
The challenge is in keeping you and the camera dry. Actually, it is more important to keep the camera dry! We can dry off quite easily, and water won’t ruin our electronics. Water on and inside a camera is a serious problem.
I photograph in the rain all the time. When I am down in Costa Rica (a great place for photography), there is often rain in the rainforest. That is, after all, why it is called a rainforest! And I have photographed in rainy conditions all over the U.S. When I am at a location, I don’t have weeks to spend there, so if it rains, I need to still find photos. But also I find that rain gives totally unique possibilities for images, allowing me to get photos of an area not possible without it.
So how do you photograph in the rain and keep your camera from harm? Here are some tips:
1. Use a small umbrella. I know that seems obvious, but I find a lot of photographers don’t think about photographing from under an umbrella. This can be tricky if you are handholding your camera (though it can be done), so it can help to put your camera on a tripod or other support.
2. Keep your camera protected from the rain until you are ready to shoot. Put it in a water repellent camera bag or keep it in a pocket in your raincoat. Avoid keeping it inside your raincoat if it is hot or you are sweating at all. Those conditions will build up the humidity inside your camera so that you can get water condensing inside your lens – not a good thing.
3. Save the shower caps from your next stay at a hotel or motel. The shower caps that hotels leave for guests in the bathroom are just about the perfect size for covering a camera. The elastic helps keep the cover on your camera. Be sure it does not cover your lens or your images will get pretty blurry.
4. Work from your car. I have been to many locations where there is a great scene near where you can park your car. A hatchback type of door can really help – put it up while you sit in the back of the vehicle taking pictures. I have shot this way during pouring rain.
Now here are some ideas for working with the rain.
1. Light levels will be low.
Don’t be afraid to set your camera to higher ISO settings so you can use faster shutter speeds. Rainy conditions can get dark so shutter speeds go slow. Slow shutter speeds can mean blurry photos unless you are shooting from a tripod.
2. Avoid dull gray sky.
Just keep it out of your image. Emphasize what the rain is doing to the land and the vegetation.
3. Look for breaking clouds.
Often, as a storm goes through, you will get some phenomenal clouds. These often happen just at the edge of a storm. When you get these clouds, use them in your composition.
4. Photograph the rain.
Look for a dark background to help it show up. Shoot at 1/60 sec. or slower and the rain will show up as blurred streaks in the photo. And remember to use a tripod or brace your camera when shutter speeds get slow.
5. Photograph the effects of the rain.
Look for puddles and the pattern of rain falling onto the water. Look for water dripping from flowers, branches, fruit.
6. Turn your flash on.
The flash can brighten dull colors and create some sparkle on a cloudy, rainy day.
I am leading a photo tour to Costa Rica again later this year, in the quiet time just after Thanksgiving, which is also just after the main rainy season, so there is not so much rain. The tour will include a day of specific instruction on getting the most from photographing in places like the rainforest. For more information, see the Holbrook Travel website >>
Rob Sheppard is a photographer, writer and photography teacher in southern California. He is the former editor of Outdoor Photographer and PC Photo magazines. Visit his blog Nature and Photography for more photography tips.
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