5 Tips for Shooting in the Rain
As a travel photographer, I have to be prepared to shoot in all kinds of weather. Sometimes that means a crisp, clear morning with the perfect sunrise over Istanbul but just as often I face a dark, dramatic, blustery scene. I will be the first to admit that I am frequently tempted just to hunker down in a warm hotel room rather than venture out as rain clouds roll in. While it can be a challenge to motivate myself to head out on a rainy day, it’s usually worth the effort for the resulting dramatic images.
While traveling, I’ve found myself caught in everything from a gentle midday drizzle in Hawaii to torrential downpours in New Zealand. On an assignment in Taipei, it rained 3 out of the 4 days I had to shoot. It’s taken me a bit of trial and error and a few mishaps to learn how to shoot in the rain with minimal misery. Here are the things I’ve learned to maximize my chances of getting the photos I need without also catching a cold in the process.
First and foremost, get a proper rain jacket. You want something that can handle more than a drizzle but not so heavy that you sweat through all your clothes. A proper rain jacket is step one for running around like a gleeful Gene Kelly instead of sheltering under an awning or tree. In drizzle, I often leave my raincoat open and keep my camera tucked in my jacket under my arm so I can easily access it but still keep it dry.
On a recent trip to New York City, it rained on and off for 2 days. Umbrellas are great for general day to day use but it’s really difficult to balance a camera and an umbrella. I ran around with the camera tucked under my left arm. It stayed dry under my rain coat but I was able to easily retrieve and shoot.
Bring a waterproof bag
Even with a raincoat, you’re going to want a waterproof bag or at least a bag with some waterproof compartments. In monsoon like conditions, you’ll be able to protect your gear by stashing it in your bag. Professional camera gear can take a beating but even pro-gear has its limits. Sometimes you just have to take a pause and wait for rain to lighten up a bit.
Pack a towel or two
Speaking of odds and ends, stick a travel towel, shammy, or some microfiber clothes in your bag. It is so nice to have a dry towel after an hour or two of working in drizzle or rain to be able to dry off your hands and face, or just intermittently dry off your camera.
I use a Canon 5d mk iv most of the time which is weather sealed so a little rain isn’t much of a problem but bits of drizzle hitting the lens occasionally need to be cleaned up.
You’re not the wicked witch of the west (a little rain won’t hurt you)
Now that you know to grab your raincoat, scoop up a waterproof bag and stash a couple of towels for the road, you’re ready to go out into any rainy conditions with minimal discomfort. So it’s time to talk about the photography aspect of shooting in the rain. Sometimes, no matter how much you plan or strategize your travels, you get unideal weather. It happens. It’s unfortunate. Accept it and figure out how to use it to your advantage and find a unique angle or perspective.
Look to capture images that are enhanced by rain. In cities, I look for interesting reflections and unique umbrella silhouettes. Out in the countryside, I try to look for dramatic shadows.
Know when to call it a day
As long as there aren’t severe weather warnings or dangerous conditions, I feel like it’s worth venturing out for an adventure. That said, it’s important to know when to quit and take a break. Shooting out in the rain for multiple days can wear you out and hamper your judgment and physical abilities right when you need them most.
A few years back, on a trip to Iceland I kept pushing myself to shoot in sleet, rain and slippery conditions. After several days, I was worn out but instead of taking a break to recuperate I kept venturing out. On a particularly difficult trudge through ice and snow, near the area that NASA used to simulate moon explorations in the 1960s, I lost my footing and ended up discovering that I would have been a terrible astronaut. Taking it slow can be counterintuitively more productive, you avoid injuries, exhaustion and silly mistakes. After taking an evening to recuperate, I was able to head back out refreshed. The following day, I trekked up a steep hill just in time to catch a double rainbow at the end of a storm.
Get some waterproof gear, lean into the dramatic shots, make sure to take breaks when you need them and you’re ready to take some great, rainy day photos.