Rain photography is one of the most unique ways to showcase a particular street photography scene.
Despite being incredibly demanding, and posing a number of challenges to even the most experienced photographers, rain photography helps convey a poetic message that is rarely possible with other types of photography.
Every good street photographer’s portfolio contains numerous rain shots. The ability of rain to transform its subjects and entire photos is what makes it so interesting to shoot.
If you are looking to improve your rain photography skills, this article has all the details you need to know!
Use the Right Gear for Rain Photography
Certain camera equipment can be very useful for capturing high-quality rain photography. Here are a few of them.
Weather Sealed Gear
As you would expect, you need to use waterproof cases, covers, or lens hoods. If you don’t have a weather-sealed camera, just a simple transparent plastic bag will suffice.
In case your camera and lenses are not waterproof you need to make sure they remain dry, to avoid any sort of damage, and also to get clearer shots. Ensure that you are also covered from head to toe in rain gear to avoid getting wet and shivering as a result. This can help you stay more focused and take better pictures.
Camera for Rain Photography
A camera that works well in low light conditions is your best bet for rain photography. A DSLR or Mirrorless camera with a high dynamic range and the ability to shoot at a high ISO setting without introducing digital noise is ideal.
You Might Need a Tripod
To create a more dramatic effect, certain rain photography may require long exposure shots. This greatly increases the occurrence of blurred shots. Even if you aren’t using particularly long shutter speeds, tripods can help eliminate camera shakes and blurred shots which can save you a lot of effort as well as time. Be sure to bring a tripod along with you especially if your camera and lenses don’t have good image stabilization.
If your camera or lens does end up getting wet, you will need to wipe them to get clear shots. A microfiber cloth is ideal to wipe away any water from your equipment without leaving any lint fibers, but make sure you go gentle on the lens and don’t scratch your glass.
Camera Settings For Rain Photography
Keeping your camera on certain specific settings can go a long way in making raindrops and rain more or less visible in your photos. What you want is to obtain full control over your image. Experimenting and seeing what works well is always the ideal way to get the best out of your shots.
Use a fast shutter speed. It is necessary for subjects in motion, such as rain. If you are focusing on capturing raindrops, or even splashing water, and you want to freeze motion you need to be sure that your exposure is fast. To obtain smooth and blurry effects you can use a long exposure instead. However, make sure that it isn’t too slow since it will appear very blurred.
ISO: A higher ISO can help compensate for the comparatively low light. It will also allow you to catch raindrops. I wouldn’t recommend increasing the ISO too much or you’ll introduce digital noise in your image. Depending on the lighting condition of your scene, and how good is your camera, select an ISO value that allows you to have a fast shutter speed and a good exposure.
Aperture for Rain Photography
Having a large aperture will allow more light to enter into the camera, which also makes faster shutter speeds feasible. A large aperture will give you a shallow depth of field which might not always be what you desire. For a deeper depth, try with smaller apertures. Use something between f/8 and f/16 and adjust it until you find the right balance between depth of field and exposure.
Letting the camera focus automatically can potentially cause you to lose a large part of your scene. Manual focus can help ensure you have complete control over your scene and get sharp images.
While I almost always use auto-focus, what shooting rain photography manual is the way to go.
Use a Flash for Your Rain Photography
A flash can play a crucial role when you want to highlight rain. Auto flash is most likely going to be too powerful and you are going to end up blowing out the highlights.
Instead, choose manual flash and set the intensity to what you require. Using flash will also help you use a smaller aperture and a fast shutter speed.
Other Light Sources
When capturing rain photos, take advantage of traffic lights, billboards, lit-up windows, and other light sources around you.
Urban environments can wonderfully illuminate rain and give off a sci-fi vibe to your photos. A light source will also help bring the rain to focus since it is nearly invisible in low light conditions.
Rain Photography Composition
Compared to other types of photography, rain photography requires you to think a bit more and be more creative when deciding your compositions. It’s not a bad thing though.
First up, it is important to be inspired by the weather itself, and then decide what sort of story you want to tell. Once the mood for your photo has been decided, you can decide on which type of composition to use.
Following rain, streets are often filled with puddles. You can use reflections off these puddles to capture some brilliant photographs.
In some cases, with reflections, you can make your photo look like it was taken out of a Blade Runner set. You can also set up some wonderfully creative shots of subjects placed against their reflections.
Street photography consists in capturing unspoiled moments in public spaces. Some of those moments can benefit from a rainfall to become more interesting. Too often, when trying to capture beautiful photos in the rain, photographers forget to chase those pure moments. The rain can help you tell a story and add some magic to candid shots.
Compositions featuring water splashes are quite popular with rain photography. Naturally, having studio-level control and lighting is nearly impossible. You must make the best use of your surroundings.
Cars will be splashing around water, people may be playing in the rain, or some heavy items may be falling into the water. Look around for inspiration, and make sure that you are always ready to quickly take a picture.
This creative composition is more artistic, with the focal point being framed inside a naturally occurring frame. For instance, the natural frame could be a roof, a bridge, the branches of a tree, or perhaps even a pane of glass. When trying to highlight rain, using such a compositional style can add an element of intrigue and mystery to your photo, and help it stand out.
Unlike the other types of rain photography, water drop photography is typically done in controlled environments such as a studio.
Heavy rain, however, makes it the perfect environment for capturing such compositions naturally.
Juxtaposition in Rain Photography
One of the most powerful compositional rules for rain photography is juxtaposition. Placing a subject that doesn’t seem to fit with rain is a great way to catch attention. For instance, putting rain together with fire can make for a powerful photograph. .
Rain Photography Tips
Let’s see some tips you can follow to improve your rain photos.
Raindrops are difficult to see unless there is heavy rain. The best way to make them pop is to use backlighting.
Use an off-camera flash placed behind the subject. You can also use light sources such as lamps to highlight the droplets. But remember that cars too can make for the perfect light source in this scenario.
Transform the Scene
In many cases, you need not capture photos of the rain itself. Instead, you can capture the various clues that indicate that there is rain. This could be umbrellas, puddles, rain jackets, and so on. For example, a single bright umbrella in a gloomy market can transform the scene and tell a story, despite there being no raindrops in the shot.
Dramatic storms are incredibly eye-catching. If you see a storm approaching you, just ensure that you get to safety and wait for it to pass over you. Once it has gone past, you can shoot some stunning photos. Be sure to use a tripod and set your camera between f/14 and f/8 to get clear pictures of the whole scene.
A Longer exposure time will work best, but ensure that it isn’t too long. Anywhere between 5 and 10 seconds will work best. You can also invest in a lightning trigger to capture photos automatically whenever there is lightning.
Look Out For Rainbows
If the sun is out while there is still some moisture lingering in the air, you will be able to see a rainbow. There’s nothing like capturing a rainbow out in the wild. Keep your eyes open on the days when the sun comes out while there is a bit of rain.
Take Advantage of Bad Weather
Cold and wet weather can make for surprisingly good photographs. It can impart a moody sense to the image along with some soft and pleasant lighting. If you ever go for a photo shoot and the weather quickly changes, don’t pack your bags up and leave. You can use it to your advantage to capture a more powerful shot.
Rain is the perfect subject for abstract photography. For example, you can try to photograph traffic lights through the raindrops on your car window to see the fascinating shapes that appear. Alternatively, you can use a wide aperture to capture an interesting mix of colors and textures in your shot.
If you are looking to step up your rain photography skills to the next level, these simple tips and techniques guarantee to help out a ton. Soon, you too will be able to capture those incredible photos that you see online and in magazines!
Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.