7 practical rain photography tips for shooting images in stormy weather

Louise Coghill
Louise Coghill

When the storm clouds roll in, most people tend to curl up inside and enjoy a hot cup of tea—but photographers are not “most people”.

ShootInTheRain1
Photo by Joshua K. Jackson

For most photographers, the desire to capture the world in a unique way outweighs the need to stay comfortable and warm. If you’re new to the rain game, here are some handy tips to help you get the most out of a stormy day.

1.Protect your gear

Most DSLRs are weatherproof these days and can handle a light mist or a few drops of water. However, if you’re out and about in a torrential downpour, make sure to protect your camera.

ShootInTheRain2
Photo by Izzy Gerosa

You don’t have to bring out the bulky protective gear for every shoot. An easy way to waterproof your gear is to buy a rain sleeve, or go for a practical DIY solution. Grab a plastic bag, place it over your lens, screw on the lens hood, cut a hole in the bag, and voilà! You have your own rain sleeve.

ShootInTheRain3
Photo by Tristan Gassert

If you don’t have access to these things, simply grab an umbrella and find a dry area where you can take photos. You can also stay in your car or indoors and shoot through a window. When you’re done, just remember to use a lens cloth to dry off any rain drops on the lens and to towel dry the rest of your gear.

2. Look for water reflections  

Once the rain clouds have cleared and the streets are slick with puddles, you can play around with the reflections that are left on the ground.

ShootInTheRain4
Photo by Redd Angelo

Filmmakers and photographers often recreate this effect by tossing water on the ground to capture striking reflections. Utilize nature’s gift and get outside in between showers.

ShootInTheRain5
Photo by Steve Roe

You can get that futuristic Blade Runner look by exploring wet city streets at night...

ShootInTheRain6
Photo by Oliver Hihn

Or get creative by composing shots of subjects against their reflections. The possibilities are endless.

3. Backlight the rain

Unless it’s absolutely pouring, it can be difficult to see visible raindrops in an image. An easy technique to make raindrops pop in a shot is by adding some back lighting.

ShootInTheRain7
Image by Jonathan Suckling

Create your own back lighting by setting up an off camera flash behind your subject like wedding photographer, Jonathan Suckling.

ShootInTheRain8
Photo by Dominik Schröder

Find lamp posts to light up the rain droplets like Dominik Schroder.

ShootInTheRain9
Photo by David East

Use the bright light in the sky like David East.

ShootInTheRain10
Photo by Thomas Tucker

Or get creative with car headlights like Thomas Tucker. Experiment with different sources of back lighting to transform every image.

4. Watch a scene transform

Sometimes you don’t need to capture the rain itself, but the clues that indicate that it’s raining. A good way to shoot a street scene in the rain is to capture the umbrellas, the rain jackets, the puddles, and the reflections of raindrops on the ground.

ShootInTheRain11
Photo by Yiran Ding

A normal, everyday intersection tells a completely different story once the frame is littered with umbrellas.

ShootInTheRain12
Photo by Jack Finnigan

A dark, wet figure crossing an empty London street is perfectly contrasted by bright, red telephone boxes.

ShootInTheRain13
Photo by Redd Angelo

A gloomy market scene is transformed when a bright purple umbrella pops up.

5. Find beauty in bad weather

ShootInTheRain14
Photo by Gabriel

Don’t be afraid to capture a portrait in the rain. The cold, wet atmosphere can make for a beautifully moody image with some very soft lighting.

ShootInTheRain15
Photo by Louise Coghill

If you’re heading out on a photo shoot and the weather turns, don’t pack up and go home. By shifting the mood of the shoot, you have the chance to take away an even more powerful image. Just make sure to stay safe and dry up afterwards.

6. Keep an eye out for rainbows

If the sun begins to come out while there’s still moisture in the air, you might be able to spot a rainbow. A rainbow is formed when light is refracted and dispersed through water droplets in the air, creating a faint, colorful arc.

ShootInTheRain16
Photo by Calvin Chou

If the rain is coming down and the sun comes out, be on the lookout for potential rainbows.

7. Capture a high contrast storm

Mother nature is beautiful, but there’s nothing quite as eye-catching as a dramatic storm front.

ShootInTheRain17
Photo by Madhu Shesharam

If there’s a lightning storm approaching, get to safety first, and capture the storm only after it’s moved past you. 

To do this, simply get your tripod out and set your camera’s aperture between f8 and f14 so that the entire scene is in focus.

ShootInTheRain18
Photo by Will Eades

To capture lightning in your image, set a longer exposure time between five to 10 seconds. Any longer and a fast moving storm will start to become soft and blurry.

ShootInTheRain19
Photo by Ian Froome

You can also invest in a lightning trigger (a camera attachment which is triggered by the lightning) to capture the image.

ShootInTheRain20
Photo by Steve Roe

Whether you intend to become a storm chaser or simply a professional photographer committed to a project no matter what the weather conditions are, understanding how to get the most out of shooting in the rain will definitely help take your photography skills to the next level.