Sunday, 14 October 2012

How to Photograph Rain

This article is primarily about rain photography in general, how to protect your gear, what to shoot, how best to show the effect of rain etc. If you are looking for specific instructions and camera settings to capture rain drops in photography, refer How to Photograph Rain Drops.

Photographing rain seems simple enough, but when you actually try to achieve a specific effect, you will realize that it is actually a little bit tricky. The low lighting conditions of an overcast day when combined with the presence of water and strong winds can create a unique set of challenges for any photographer, both professional and amateur. In this article we will discuss about challenges faced while photographing rain and how to overcome them.


rain photography
Photo By Samson P Samuel


First thing any photographer should think of while attempting to photograph rain is;

How do I protect my camera and gear during rain?


1. Carry a Raincoat


There are raincoats available from many different manufacturers specifically designed for cameras. They have adjustable bands that hold on to the front of the lens (hood) and also at the rear allowing your hands access to the camera controls. It is not the availability of rain protection gear that is the real problem but having it with you when it rains is. Real professional rain covers that could effectively protect your camera even from heavy rains and storms could be too bulky and not practical to carry with you at all times, so go for something that is light weight, could be easily folded and takes up only a little amount of space in your camera bag.

2. Carry an Umbrella


It is always a good idea to carry an umbrella with you, it could be a standard sized one or a smaller version just for the camera; fold-able umbrellas are very compact and are not very heavy too. The problem with umbrellas is that they are not much help if there are strong winds, and it is also not very safe to use during thunderstorms.

3. Carry a Plastic Bag


Always carry a couple of plastic bags in your camera bag. It should be big enough to fit your camera and lens comfortably inside. Better if it is made of clear plastic. It would do a reasonably good job at keeping your camera dry during rains. Pull the bag over your camera, punch a hole for the lens, and use a rubber band at the tip of the lens hood to tightly hold the cover in place.

4. Shoot from Your Car


The easiest and most practical solution is to sit in your car, roll down the window (preferably the one opposite to you) and shoot. This technique works flawlessly when the wind is at your back. You might want to use a longer focal length lens while shooting from your vehicle.

rain photography tips
Photo By Sinu S Kumar

5. Look around for Available Shelters


Look around you for a place where you could stay dry and also have reasonably good chances of getting the desired shots, places like porches, awnings, etc make good shelter during rains.

No matter how well you tried to protect your gear, there will be certain amount of water or moisture present in your equipment, so make sure that you dry your equipment well as soon as you get back home. A hair dryer is a very handy tool to dry your equipment well.

What to Shoot during Rains?


Rain has the ability to change scenes dramatically; first of all it clears the streets of people, creating a feeling of abandon or isolation. It could make very familiar landscapes look completely unfamiliar. There are a number of things that a photographer could aim to capture during rains.

1. Capture candid shots of people trying to protect themselves from the rain, children playing in puddles, etc.
2. Capture Reflections especially of street lights, lights from shop windows etc, also look out for entire city scapes reflected in small puddle of water.
3. Capture the rain itself, and the changes it has on the landscapes.
4. Capture flowing water, water dripping from roofs, leaves etc, and reflections from water drops hanging on leaves, capture wildlife during rains.
5. Capture Emotions of people, rain has a mysterious effect on people, it brings joy to some and sorrow to others, it all completely depends on the mindset of the people and the situation they are in. try to capture people’s reactions, expressions, and emotions towards rain.

photographing rain
Photo By Saji Jayamohan

How to Photograph Rain?


The major reason why rain is difficult to photograph is because of the fact that it is a moving object and if not captured correctly it tends to turn your picture into a dull grey effect which is very boring.

Shutter Speed


The first thing to realize is that raindrops are actually moving fast, during heavy downpours it could be as fast as 9 meters per second and during slight drizzles it could be around 2 meters per second.  So the key to capturing rain is to determine the exact amount of blur you would like to be present in your rain drops and set your shutter speed accordingly. A good starting point will be 1/60 and see how much blur it causes, if you need more, further reduce the speed and if you need less increase your shutter speed.

Aperture


While photographing rains you would also like to convey the environment, the subject as well as the immediate environment (that includes rain) should be in relative focus, so it is recommended not to use too shallow depth of fields. Start somewhere around f/8 and work your way from there.


how to photograph rain
Photo By Sinu S Kumar

ISO


It is preferable to shoot at ISO 100. It would not be a problem if you have a tripod or anything else to stabilize your camera. Since capturing rains require the deliberate use of slow shutter it is not recommended to raise your ISO.

Use Flash


Yes using the flash with suitable flash exposure compensation could produce very nice results. It should only be used at very low power, only providing a little glimmer to the rain drops.

Shooting Mode


I recommend shooting in manual mode for predictable results. The falling rain and the complicated un-even low light situation across the frame could often fool the cameras light meter. And more than anything else you are not trying to capture a perfectly exposed picture, but you are trying to capture the mood of the scene and on many occasions that means deliberately underexposing or overexposing your scenes. Also if you are using flash you will be able to control the effect precisely.

Focal Length


Longer focal length lenses compresses the scenes and also has the effect of magnifying rain drops, experiment with different focal lengths for your scene and select the one which gives the best effect.

Lighting Conditions


Rain becomes more visible when it is backlit. But if you shoot too directly into the light and it could cause flares and the shots will not turn up well. So find the best angle by changing your shooting position. The best possible scenario to shoot rain is when it is lit from the side and you have a dark background for your subject.

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