How to Take Rain Pictures

rain pictures

There is something special about shooting in the rain and something special about rain pictures. The water and the quality of light work together to change the look of nearly everything — colors are more saturated without the glare of a sunny day, and wet surfaces can shimmer with light and color. Leaves and blossoms take on a fresh, clean look and show off their strong, rich colors to good advantage in the lower light of a rainy day. City streets come alive with color, and rain pictures of open spaces take on a subtle moodiness.

People don’t look the same, either. If you study rain pictures you’ll notice that their postures and movements are different and wet rain wear and umbrellas take on a new vibrancy.

Here are some things to consider if you decide to capture the subtle beauties of a rainy day.

White Balance

There are three choices for setting white balance:

  • Automatic – the camera makes a decision for each and every picture. This works well in some cameras and not so well in others. I don’t have the data to prove this, but it seems to me that newer cameras generally do a better job than older ones.
  • “Cloudy” preset – you tell the camera to use its default profile for cloudy days. Usually this will work nicely and it is my first choice for non-critical work. People are used to things looking a little different in rain, and a small error in white balance might be OK.
  • Custom setting – you and the camera measure the color of the light and it uses that information until you change it. A custom setting based on a measurement made under the current conditions will give very accurate color renditions.
  • If you use any setting other than “automatic” remember to reset to an appropriate white balance the next time you shoot under different conditions.

    Keep Gear Dry

    Water can cause considerable damage to cameras, lenses, and lighting gear. Precautions range from using an umbrella if wind permits to fully covering equipment with protective housings. I will shelter an SLR next to my chest under a waterproof windbreaker during mist or very light rain, taking it out to shoot when under cover of an awning or open doorway. Remember that wet hands can make for slippery adventures with lenses, and changing them in rain can admit water to a camera’s interior. A compact camera is another option, and they are easier to shelter next to your body or in a pocket. No matter what option you choose you must keep the lens or filter dry to avoid blurry rain pictures due to rain drops.

    In heavier rain you can shoot from inside a vehicle. Your range of movement and field of view could be limited but you and your gear will stay dry. Photographing from the back of a station wagon or SUV with an open rear hatch is another solution, and you might try a camera designed for underwater shooting.
    rain photos

    Shoot from a car or building – - rain on windshields and windows enhance the visual effects of rain pictures while keeping you dry.


    photography in rain

    After the Rain

    There’s less risk to equipment when rain stops yet the special light and wet surfaces continue to work their magic.

    pictures of rain

    Lightning Can Kill

    Do be safe! We tend to give lightning little thought unless it is very close, but every year it injures or kills people who must have thought they were not in harm’s way. The forecasters in my area say that you are in danger if outdoors and not in a vehicle if you hear thunder in fewer than 10-12 seconds after a flash.

    Composition Still Matters

    Everything discussed in the Series on Composition applies rain or shine. Leading lines still lead, color can be a focal point, patterns and repetition satisfy the eye as do negative space and graphic design. Practice using the rules and guidelines of photographic composition will help anchor the concepts so that you use them without having to give them much thought, and your rain pictures will be better for it.

    Make Your Own Rain Pictures

    For most of us there’s a good chance that it will rain in the near future. Here are two more shots to encourage you to be ready to make your own rain pictures.
    umbrella pictures rain images

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