Rain, rain, leave, come again tomorrow. Growing up in the damp Pacific Northwest, this line from a classic nursery rhyme has come to mind numerous times over the years. When I arrived in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway to take autumnal photographs and was met by gloomy clouds dropping copious amounts of moisture, I was reminded of it once more. I was initially disappointed by the drizzle because I enjoy the comfort of warm, dry weather. However, my fall photography shoot turned out better than I had planned, not just in spite of the rain, but also because of it.
This served as a wonderful reminder for me as I reflected on previous photographic outings where rain first lowered my mood but ultimately enhanced the photographic opportunities. Now that I have a newfound passion for rainy days, I’ll give ten suggestions for capturing pictures in the rain that have enabled me to take advantage of the wet weather and create some of my favorite pictures.
1. Use a Golf Umbrella
Compared to conventional, smaller umbrellas I have seen and tested, I prefer a large golf style umbrella for capturing pictures in the rain. The golf umbrellas are big enough to cover you completely and protect all of your equipment, even a greater telephoto lens. They are also more sturdy and can handle moderate wind.
I used to clamp the umbrella to my tripod in the past, but I eventually learned the hard way that any breeze causes vibrations in the open umbrella to go down through the tripod, blurring the photographs at many typical shutter speeds. Don’t ask me how I know, but there’s also a chance that a strong wind gust will rapidly knock your tripod and other priceless equipment to the ground.
In order to provide a secure hold for the umbrella without the possible issues with tripod connection, I now prefer to tuck the bottom of the umbrella under my belt or waistline and slide the shaft of the umbrella into my tightly zipped jacket. Other times, I’ve discovered that I can hold the umbrella with one hand while still using the other to operate my camera, and occasionally I’ve had a partner on the shoot who acts as the helper for carrying the umbrella.
2. Hand-Hold Using Image Stabilization
When I’m driving around looking for good landscape photography opportunities in the rain, there are times when I just want to stop and take a picture quickly to reduce my exposure to the bad weather or to save time and effort by not having to set up a tripod if the composition I want to take is near a road where vehicle traffic might be an issue for slow, methodical work. And there are moments when I just want to shoot more impulsively and freely.
The camera can be held in my hands while I’m working quickly in these scenarios. Since most mirrorless cameras now have image sensor stabilization in addition to optical image stabilization incorporated into many lenses, hand-holding is significantly more effective than it was in the past and can result in extremely clear shots. Raising ISO to permit a faster hand-held shutter speed when necessary works well because modern cameras provide pretty good image quality in the ISO 400–1600 range with less noise compared to earlier digital cameras. It may be required rather frequently when it’s raining.
3. Use a Raincoat Instead of Umbrella
Use a raincoat instead of an umbrella on occasion, tucking the camera inside when not taking a picture (or use a rain cover for the camera and lens combination for more protection). This works well with my earlier advice to hand-hold since it enables me to stop when I see a nice scene, get out to shoot a picture quickly, and then go back into the warm, dry car. I find a large rain jacket to be the best choice for shielding both me and my gear for shorter amounts of time outdoors in inclement weather, especially when wind makes using an umbrella a significant difficulty.
4. Photograph From Inside Your Vehicle
Photographing from inside the car is an option that easily keeps you and your camera equipment dry when your subject can be seen from a lookout point or the side of the road. As I discovered when traveling the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, which has more than 200 overlooks, a picturesque drive with views can be ideal for this.
One rainy evening, as night fell, I thought I was done shooting for the day. But as I headed back toward my campsite, I noticed a potential scene as a mountaintop covered in fall foliage and rain clouds slowly moved over it. I was able to pull over, roll down my driver’s window, and get images of this amazing view while remaining dry.
5. Minimize Lens Changes in the Rain
I frequently leave my photo backpack in my car when shooting in the rain and only bring the camera and one lens outside. Making your lens selection before you leave will prevent water from getting on your camera mount and rear lens element. Here, zoom lenses do incredibly well. I might put on a 24-70mm, 70-200mm, or whatever will be the most likely range needed to take that picture depending on the scene I’m getting ready to photograph. A 28-200mm zoom lens with a large zoom range would be ideal, especially if it is somewhat well sealed against moisture.
6. Small Accessories Can Make a Big Difference
A rainy day session can be improved with a few small additions to your camera bag. Each of my lenses has a matching hood that I usually attach since I think they work well to keep raindrops off the front element. When I carry the pack outside in the weather, the rain cover that comes with most picture backpacks helps keep all of my photographic equipment dry. And after every photographic session, I use a big, soft cloth (not the standard tiny microfiber cloth) to wipe off any rain that may have gotten on the camera or lens.
7. Use a Weather App to Track Storms
Your cell phone is a fantastic tool you may use to help plan your shots when it’s raining. The most recent default weather app on iPhones frequently displays an estimate of when a drizzle will cease and a lull begin. A decent weather app will allow you to watch the satellite image with animation indicating expected cloud route. You can increase your shooting opportunities by being aware of the storm’s movements. (For specific ideas, see this list of our greatest photography apps, which also contains several choices for apps that deal with the weather.)
8. Watch for Special, Photogenic Conditions
My favorite thing about rainy days is that they frequently bring with them new lighting situations that are often extremely magnificent and help photography. During and after rainfall, waterfalls that are typically modest or dry will be gorgeous and full. Deeply saturated autumn hues will contrast with the earth’s rocky terrain’s increased richness.
On a rainy day, driving up higher heights can immerse you in atmosphere-filled fog-like circumstances, or you can notice breaches in the clouds where sunbeams stream down. I’m constantly on the lookout for rainbows, lightning, hail, and the possibility of rain turning to snow. On a day that started out with only rain, these unusual weather circumstances brought the drama that we photographers seek, and they gave me some of my best pictures.
9. Optimize Your Post-Processing
Photographing in the rain can result in files that are flat, lack contrast, and punch. I like to make up for this in the processing process to give the photographs the full vitality I saw when I produced the compositions. When rainy conditions have resulted in a flatter image, I will typically add some additional contrast, clarity, and vibrance above my usual workflow, and this makes a significant impact. I choose to shoot in RAW format rather than in-camera JPEG since it gives me the most flexibility for post-processing.
Other times, the pictures taken on a wet day give me the idea to post-process them in black and white to match the moody environment. This opens up a whole new realm of inspiration and creativity for someone like myself who generally loves color, and a black & white interpretation can really make the appropriate scene sing.
10. Adopt an Attitude of Adventure
For me, this advice might be the most crucial. I tend to crave comfort and sunshine, so I’m typically not delighted when it rains. If my attitude begins to lean in the wrong direction, my photographic day does not go as well. I will always need to be reminded of this: I am better able to recognize and seize possibilities when I adopt an attitude of adventure and constructively engage with the circumstances I’ve been given.
Even while rainy days might be gloomy and occasionally make me want to stay inside, I’ve discovered that they have a lot of potential for creating stunning images. You will probably be rewarded for stepping outside of your comfort zone and interacting with the weather conditions if you use these advice and suggestions for capturing images in the rain. I hope this post provides you with ideas for your next rainy day excursion. Feel free to leave comments below with any other advice you may have that you feel would be helpful to other readers.
Learn more: How to Use a Tripod