Rainy Day Photography

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Don’t let inclement weather deter you from breaking out your camera! Here are five tips for taking pictures in the rain.

One – Protect your equipment. If you’re taking your camera out in the rain, do your best to protect it from water damage. Waterproof cases are available for many makes and models of cameras. You can also make a home-made protective cover that only costs a few pennies. Get a Zip-Loc bag large enough to contain your camera and lens. Fit your lens with a protective filter, such as a UV filter. Cut off the corner of the bag just big enough to fit around the lens. Poke the lens through the hole, and seal around the opening by applying electrical tape around the bag and affixed to the outside of the filter. The only part of the camera that is exposed should be the glass filter. Everything else should be safe inside the sealed bag. It’s a bit harder to see through the viewfinder, sure, and you should leave a bit of give in the area sealed around the lens to allow the auto-focus to move. Still, it’s a handy solution in a pinch.

Two – Use a fast shutter speed to get photos of individual raindrops, and use a slow shutter speed to get a softer appearance to the rain. Long exposure shots in the rain at night can offer a great new take on traffic trails – reflections created by the collecting water cast colored light in unexpected directions.

Three – The Sunny 16 rule of thumb theory applies to overcast days as well. For a somewhat overcast day when the shadows are soft around the edges, set your camera to f/11, ISO 200, with a shutter speed of around 1/200 to 1/250. For an overcast where shadows are barely visible, set your camera at f/8 (same ISO and shutter speed). For a very overcast day (or rainy day!) with no shadows, set your camera at f/5.6 (same ISO and shutter speed). Alternately you can set your camera on Aperture Priority, Auto ISO.

Four – Look for surfaces where raindrops have collected. Some examples are spiderwebs, flowers, leaves, eaves, fence railings, and the like. Find fascinating reflections in puddles, or rippling circles in ponds. Photograph people standing in the rain – are they joyful, enjoying the experience? Or are they disgruntled, huddled under umbrellas and inconvenienced?

Five – Use a fill flash, but not as the primary light source. Even an overcast day provides plenty of light for exposure – it just sometimes needs a bit of direction. A light-colored umbrella works well as a light reflector. Light and color balance can often be easier to control on an overcast day, as the lighting is more consistent than it would be in bright sunlight.

Do you have any tips for taking pictures in the rain? Feel free to share them in the comments!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Raining Bokeh” by Lel4nd on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “Walking in the rain” by Clairity on Flickr Creative Commons.

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