7 Things To Do For Photographers When The Weather Is Bad

7 Things To Do For Photographers When The Weather Is Bad


What should a Photographer do when bad weather strikes? Peter Carey suggests 7 options and invites you to add your own.

I live in Washington State and it’s winter, which means it rainy and dreary most of the time, with some sun breaks. Right now the weather is telling me it’s a good day to build a fire and stay indoors. It’s a day where I just don’t feel like getting out to photograph, yet I still want to do something productive in the realm of photography. If the weather has you down and you just don’t feel like taking more pictures of your cat indoors, try out some of these suggestions to help when the sun starts to shine again.

1. Clean Your Gear

Admit it, you’re either a constant clean freak or you let things lapse. Most people fall into one of those general categories. If you are the former, then you may joyfully skip on to the next suggestion, but if you don’t clean your gear that often, now is a good time to give it the once and twice over.

For a once over, just take any old clean, damp rag and run it over your camera body, external parts of lenses, camera bag, tripod, flash gear, etc…. Get the dust and grime of what is likely the past year off most major surfaces. Then it’s time for the twice over, a more intense cleaning. For this you will need an array of cleaning tools such as cotton tip swabs, a toothbrush and some form of diluted soapy water. Now take a slow look over that camera body (with lens or body cap firmly in place) and get the dirt out of all the little cracks and grooves. You’ll be amazed at how dirty the toothbrush gets (and please make sure it’s an old toothbrush). A small buffing rag will help with the LCD. The swabs will clear up your eye piece and in general your camera will be much happier.

Continue on to the other gear, remembering to put some grease in the joints of your tripod if need be and especially so if you work around salt water. When done, let it all dry out before repacking. If you’re feeling adventurous, keep the camera body out for a sensor cleaning.


Caption: Do you think this sensor needs a cleaning?

2. Clean Your Sensor

This task isn’t for the faint of heart. Be forewarned, this suggestion is best left to a professional camera shop if you have ANY trepidation at all about what is to be performed. The task itself is pretty straight forward, however, the risk is real that you can cause damage to your camera’s sensor.

This topic can get fairly long winded and luckily there is a great site describing all manner of equipment, techniques and troubleshooting tips on cleaning your sensor. That site is http://www.cleaningdigitalcameras.com . Personally, I’ve cleaned my sensors myself and have also handed the camera over to a pro. I was happier with my results than a pro’s and in a sense it didn’t matter as a month later the camera was getting dust again from constant lens changes. Learning to do simple brush cleanings yourself does have its benefits. With proper knowledge in hand you can quickly clean your sensor in the field when you may be more than a few days away from a professional camera shop. (learn more on how to avoid dirty sensors here)

3. Clean Out Your Photo Storage

Chances are you have more than a few gigabytes of images stored on your computer or on disc some place. All unneeded images not only take up space, they cost money. The more you store, the more discs you will have to buy over time (or an external storage array) and the more you’ll have to backup. Keeping your image storage lean and mean also helps in the amount of time searches are performed as well as how fast indexing operations run. More data always equals more time.

So use a bit of time now to save time later. Organize your images and cut out the bad, sorta bad and “eh, maybe I can do something with that” images. If you actually go back often and use that last category, then let them be. But if that pile has only gotten bigger over time, it’s time to let it go. It’s hard to do, I know. But deleting all those near duplicates and semi-blurred images will save you time, frustration and money down the road. Be ruthless. If you don’t have a specific project or a proper manner in which to keyword or tag a particular image, dump it. I have about 350GB of images stored and I’m sure by the time Spring rolls around I’ll be down to at least 250GB from a much needed cleaning.

It does take time so pace yourself. But the time you spend does pay back a little. In my case, it’s the same as buying 2 100GB discs (one for the storage and one for the backup) from all that freed space. It also sharpens my eye for what is and what isn’t going to make a good photograph, and I’ll be less likely to let that amount of clutter build up in the future.

4. Ask For Some Critiques

We have some wonderful here.

5. Research Your Next Shoot

Since you’re not outside right now shooting, where WOULD you like to be right now? Start planning your next shooting trip, whether it is to a neighbor’s garden or a three week trip across the world. Now is the best time to plan and start the research. Flickr.com is always a great place to start image searches. Just type in your anticipated locale and see what inspiration jumps off the screen. Smugmug.com also offers a wide variety of images with great keywording to help you find what you’re looking for.

With the location in mind, make a budget to get you there. Research shows you are far more likely to obtain a goal if you take the time to write it out and keep it where you are constantly reminded. Maybe take one of the images you found and print it out with a simple budget below so you know your goal. Whatever you need to keep yourself reminded of where you’d really love to be shooting right now, do it. Don’t envy other photographers for where they have traveled, follow what you want to do and find a way to make it a reality.

6. Service Your Car

Now this one might not seem the least bit photography related, but it is. If you depend on a car to get you to where you photograph, or to the airport so you can get to where you want to be, then you owe it to yourself to keep your car running well. And it’s easy. Just check your vital fluids; brake, engine oil, engine coolant, automatic transmission, washer fluid. Then check your tire pressure, tire wear (this is as simple as looking at the tire for any obvious damage) and air filter. When you have a bit more time, take your car into a shop to have the oil changed, brakes checked and your battery tested. Most people forget the battery in their car is not exactly the same as the AA batteries in some cameras. It needs maintenance like other car parts otherwise it will leave you stranded.

7. Do some Photography Anyway

Don’t let a rainy day slow you down. Even if you don’t feel like trudging through the rain, umbrella in hand, to take some pictures, there are still plenty of things you can do to advance your digital photography skills. I’d love to hear any additional ideas you may have in the comments section below.

Peter and his wife Kim are avid photographers who enjoy travel, portraiture and wildlife photography. They are slowly getting the bulk of their images online which can be viewed at Hidden Creek Photo. A travel related blog of their past and current shenanigans can be found at The Carey Adventures.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Sandris October 2, 2011 10:06 pm

    I have over 6gb of photos in 6 months, since I started photography, using p&s. These tips are very useful as I always sit at home, when sun is hiding.

  • k&n filter February 19, 2009 02:59 am

    When it is time for you to choose your k&n air filter it really does pay to do lots of research

  • Haltz April 5, 2008 08:06 am

    I prefer the bad weather's days to take photos. They are more expressive.

  • Dawn Thomson March 21, 2008 07:33 am

    Another good photography tip is to buy already potted plants and work on your macro photography skills. I bought a macro lens last year. It is a prime lens. I found it was a lot easier to learn to use it with still life. I bought nice potted plants from Costco in Tacoma, WA and used for my practice. I was able to get lots of wonderful shots in my opinion.

  • div^ March 18, 2008 08:54 pm

    What´s bad weather for a fotographer ? - There is no bad weather in my opinion :)

    Every shoot is an expression , especially if it rains or if it´s windy !

  • Nick Velvet March 14, 2008 04:44 pm

    It would be great to see a blog written about each of these items to go deeper. Good stuff.

  • Matias March 14, 2008 02:51 am

    The best photos get shot in the worst weather.

  • Peter Carey March 13, 2008 03:37 pm

    Thank you for all the additional suggestions. Staying in shape is an excellent point.
    It's good to see people getting out even when the weather is bad.
    Marketing or coming up with a marketing plan is something I'm doing right now as well. While not everyone wants to go that route, it's good to work on it in the off season especially if you run the art festival circuits.

  • C. Diane March 13, 2008 04:08 am

    "Clean Out Your Photo Storage" When I was reading that comments and say that we had to delete the old photo from the blah blah. Anyway, to my point as I always drag those pictures into my hard drive. I know it wont take up much space but the most important thing is to do put them into the CD and write down what the images was for. I have done that alot while working with my job site. There not enough space to save them into hard drive. My suggest to all for those who are a beginner to advance to put all of those images into the CD and you will keep them as your memories. Dont be sorry if you delete them and want them back. Cant get it back.

  • xxpinballxx March 12, 2008 11:28 am

    I think there are a few more but one that has gotten me through this winter is honing up on my post processing skills. Learning to correctly use a program like photoshop or GIMP is a huge advantage in getting the best results and perhaps saving a few shots you otherwise would have to file under "trash" due to bad lighting or WB off or in need of sharpening.

  • Beth March 12, 2008 07:06 am

    #7 made me smile, because one of my favorite photographers/biggest influences is Edward Weston, who did much of his famous still life work when landscape wasn't an available option - either because of bad weather (as reflected in his journals) or when he was living in places he hated, aesthetically.

  • Eric March 12, 2008 06:14 am

    Some of the very best photos I have were taken on cloudy days, cold days, and in the pouring rain. Just sayin'

  • Patrick March 12, 2008 05:48 am

    Ahh.. the benefits of a weather-sealed camera. I'm building up a whole series of photos taken at night in bad weather. I love the way the sodium streetlamps and lights from store interiors and signs reflect and smear in the rain and grit of the street.

  • Damien Franco March 12, 2008 04:03 am

    How about market your photography?

  • Tyler Robbins March 12, 2008 03:35 am

    You should see the accumulation of data on my 500 GB raid!

    Another good activity is update your website.


    Catalog your photos, I spent a good chunk of winter really getting my photos search-able in lightroom (or whatever program you use) Keywords are fantastic!

    I will second getting some exercise. Keep your abs and lower back strong and that bag of gear will feel lighter, longer. I run about 10 miles a week and do light weight training.

  • MIchael Zahora March 12, 2008 02:57 am

    This should be number 8 - Exercise, go to the gym, do something that will make you stronger for your next outing. Nothing ruins a great day out shooting than getting tired too easily. The other benefit is, after you exercise you feel great and doing any of the others on the list seem easier.

  • david March 12, 2008 02:33 am

    Great list! I think my favorite is #7. Bad weather can spur some creativity and give you a shot you never would have thought of. Last week we had bad weather and my wife called an ice cream shop to setup a shoot. the shop said yes and off we went.

  • Ding March 12, 2008 02:29 am

    I recently spent a rainy day building a DIY lightbox. There's some good info on how to create one in the DPS forums, and Google helped a lot, too. I spent a total of $5 (for some tracing paper) and and hour putting it together. Then I spent a couple more hours finding lamps to light it, and searching for treasures around my house to photograph.

  • AC March 12, 2008 01:18 am

    Good stuff. I follow the last rule for the most part - bad weather sometimes makes for good snaps.

  • Jill March 12, 2008 12:43 am

    Some great tips! Thanks!

  • Smitty March 12, 2008 12:39 am

    350GB! And here I was proud of the 6GB of photos that I've accumulated during my (brief) time as a hobbyist!