Embrace the Weather with Your Photography

Embrace the Weather with Your Photography

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Unlike other hobbies, photographers can go out in all weathers and make the best of a bad situation. Despite what some people may think, rain doesn’t necessarily have to put a dampener on proceedings and can actually lend itself to creating some emotive landscapes or enticing abstracts. Likewise – many non-photographers may praise the bright skies as a blessing, but harsh sunlight can often be a hindrance rather than a help – especially where portraits are concerned. With that in mind we’ve put together a brief ‘how-to’ of working with the elements.

Summer Sun

Image by Landahlauts

On sunny days the best times to shoot are mornings and evenings, but there are a few ways of working with the midday light too. For starters move in closer, focus on details and if you can shade the subject in some way this will help to avoid shadows. For example if you are shooting your children on a beach – have someone hold a towel above their head to block the sun, or if you are capturing a close up of a flower turn your back on the sun and shade the subject with your body. Even your handy reflector can double as a small but useful shade. In these circumstances always remember to alter the white balance accordingly to the ‘shade’ or ‘cloudy’ options to warm images and remove cooler tones.

If shade isn’t an option in your immediate surroundings consider using flash or a reflector to fill in the shadows to regain those all important details. Furthermore this effect can be particular dramatic with portraits, especially if you place your subject with their back to the sun and fire the flash towards them, this will even out contrast issues and ensure your subject isn’t lost in shadow. If you are shooting in or around water during midday a polariser filter can be of great benefit as it will neatly saturate blue skies, whiten clouds, reduce glare and eliminate unwanted reflections. Alternatively – experiment with Silhouettes.

Rain

Image by Cuba Gallery

Your environment can dramatically alter after the rain has passed and there is surely no better time to explore new and exciting opportunities when the light reappears after a downpour. Colours are saturated and textures magnified, so using a polarizer can really exaggerate the effect.

A timely rain shower can powerfully transform the mundane into the magical – especially with macro and abstract shots; for example that cobweb now dabbed with rain drops has a greater impact than before or that fresh rose bud now glittered with pearls of rain screams poetry.

Don’t be afraid to crop and sharpen the image later to add extra interest.

As with any climate – it is important to protect your gear. If you are caught off guard and find yourself in a sudden shower hide your equipment under your clothes or if possible always travel with plastic carrier bags and elastic bands; simply tear a hole for the lens to protrude through and create one at the rear for the viewfinder or LCD screen to appear, use the bands to keep everything in place. It’s not the most professional option but it works and never leave home without a lens cloth!

Dull and overcast days

Image by sant o

When confronted with a drab and dreary day consider creating an emotive black and white image, this can be especially powerful if there is a canvas of snow on the ground.

Shoot these scenes with a small aperture to keep the scene crisp throughout and of course don’t forget the tripod.

If you find yourself without one and there is nothing you can use as a substitute (e.g. wall, person, camera bag, etc) then boost the ISO to counteract the lack of light and likelihood of shake.

The monochromatic transformation within an editing suite can infuse drama and if you are feeling bold, tweak contrast to enhance it further.

Snow

Image by Gregory Bastien

Working in cold environments won’t only physical exhaust you, but will also deplete the batteries in your camera, so pack a few spare, fully-charged batteries and keep them as close to your body as possible when not in use.

Exposing a snow scene correctly can be quite a challenge; underexpose and you’ll have a grey canvas, overexpose and you’ll lose details. If you plan to edit your images your best route may be to manually white balance, shoot in RAW and bracket exposures.

Like dull and overcast days, snow scenes can look jaw-droppingly emotive in black and white, however they can look dazzling in colour too, for example at sunrise or sunset the white canvas enigmatically reflects the skies’ pink, purple, yellow, orange and red hues or even in the midday sun with wide blue skies. To inject some creativity here, switch your white balance to ‘Cloudy’ to add extra warmth to the scene or opt for ‘Sunny’ to cool it.

When you return to a warmer location there is a risk your lens will suffer with condensation, so leave the camera in the camera bag near the front door or entrance and gradually move it in to the centre of the home in stages, thus warming it back up slowly.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Rick Warren August 14, 2011 05:53 pm

    Rain ----it could be interesting--- I live in one of the wettest places on earth--my town has an average rainfall of 3 metres & ten miles away the Average is 10 metres--got any photo ideas ??

  • dave August 14, 2010 06:57 pm

    Driving home in the rain is not much fun, but it had almost stopped once there. A very fine mist was all that was left. (taken earlier this week)
    http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg67/zooloader/Random/rainyevening_2.jpg

    In contrast, a perfect sunny sunny winter day at Bribie Island the weekend before.
    http://i245.photobucket.com/albums/gg67/zooloader/20100808_0071.jpg

  • Jon Wells August 14, 2010 03:29 am

    More rain...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfjaw/4862791656/

  • Dave Hodgkinson August 13, 2010 05:04 am

    And I tried to get some landscape shots in the afternoon and ended up with this:

    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/08/channeling-ansel-or-not/

    Some lessons learned in the blog too :)

  • Jack Herrmann August 13, 2010 04:40 am

    How do I get in touch with Natalie Johnson please?

    Jack

  • Peggy Collins August 13, 2010 03:05 am

    Enjoyed this article! Living in the Pacific Northwest, we get lots of fog. It can add a touch of melancholy or drama to images...
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/peggycollins/4157332841/' title='Full Moon at Dawn' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2750/4157332841_2d47a9998e.jpg']


    Peggy

  • WILL DENNEHY August 13, 2010 02:49 am

    I always arrive early when I'm shooting a wedding, so when I was sat in my car for half an hour listening to the driving rain, I thought we may be in for a wet one. Fortunately by the time the groom arrived it had stopped and as Emilie pulled in the sun decided to bless us. When we arrived at the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Course, for the reception, the rain kept away long enough for our couples portraits (previewed below), but it gave us a sprinkle just as we were about to do our group shots. I had chosen the shade a lovely tree with nice views of the golf course behind for our groups, so once the rain had stopped we started with the brides family. Changeable weather seems to be a bit of a catch phrase in England so subsequently as the day brightened up the Sun decided to find a gap in the clouds and shine a single ray straight into my camera lens, which meant moving the family to a different location. Fortunately Emilie and Matt were having such a great time I don't think it bothered them too much that I was shunting them around.

    http://willphoto-uk.blogspot.com/2010/08/emilie-mathews-london-wedding.html

  • angad singh August 13, 2010 01:56 am

    shooting in the rain at wat arun!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/singhangad/4868642309/

  • Russel August 11, 2010 05:28 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/journey_is_the_destination/4879552143/' title='Langkawi 827_1' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4095/4879552143_0d8a63bcbe.jpg']

  • Russel August 11, 2010 05:27 am

    Sea and Rain are always a deadly combination

    Model : Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT
    ExposureTime : 1/125Sec
    FNumber : F16.0
    ExposureProgram : Shutter Priority
    ISOSpeedRatings : 100
    Flash : Not fired(Compulsory)
    FocalLength : 18.00(mm)

  • Andy Merrett August 11, 2010 05:16 am

    Also, don't forget the effects the wind can have on your photographs.

    It can be seen as a negative if you're trying to photo something, particularly in macro, because it will often blow, causing blur on slower shutter speeds, or even causing the object to go out of frame.

    However, it can also add some interesting effect particularly to landscapes or anything that's affected by breeze (flags, for example). Look at how the wind affects expanses of water, trees and grasses, and even animals and other wildlife. Either capture the action as a freeze frame with a fast shutter speed or introduce some motion blur with a slightly slower shutter speed.

  • Kirstine Vergara August 11, 2010 02:39 am

    I especially like doing photography in the evening and early morning, whether it's raining or not, because these are the times when people are either at their best and worst mood. I get to capture the extremities of one's personality. It also helps that I use an old slr fim camera from the 70s - moments are captured at its truest form.

  • Scott August 11, 2010 02:23 am

    A sunburst, from a stopped down aperture, shining on cobblestone patterns.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4760615570/

  • Peeatch August 10, 2010 11:38 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/puhwai/4178389819/

    Rain is my favourite weather for photos

  • Jason Collin Photography August 10, 2010 03:59 pm

    I worked the approaching thunderstorm and resulting rainbow into hits couple's wedding photographs:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/6/26/stormy-rainbow-sunset-beach-florida-wedding.html

    I now think I prefer a stormy evening sky to a clear sunset sky for beach wedding photograph backgrounds.

  • Scott August 10, 2010 01:22 pm

    Don't forget the effects of stopping the aperture down and putting the Sun in your photo.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4760620688/

  • Mark August 10, 2010 08:53 am

    It is amazing how much the weatehr can change a scene or image. It's just about using the weather you are dealt and optimising your picture for the best results for the conditions that you have to work with.

  • Mary c. August 10, 2010 08:19 am

    I love cloudy weather for 'soft' shots of people's faces. It's like airbrushing.

  • fortunato_uno August 10, 2010 07:03 am

    Not having the weather proof full frame camera (all i have is a canon Xsi and a T2i) I try not to shoot in the rain. If it's just a sprinkle, I'll continue shooting.
    More often then not, I'll either shoot before (trying to get shots in while the light is more even) or shoot soon after. every once in a while, I'll get that happy medium.

    http://lafango.com/fortunato_uno/media/812852-dpp-1043-old-floral-city#/media/734972-dpp-0922

  • Chris August 10, 2010 06:58 am

    Sorry, meant to share an example with the above post.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cwbates/4173887743/in/set-72157622849365639/

  • Chris August 10, 2010 06:57 am

    Being from Canada (The Great White North) I have plenty of practice in the snow. Also the position of the sun in the northern hemisphere allows for great shadows on freshly fallen snow.

  • Stephen August 10, 2010 06:47 am

    After spending Saturday outside shooting in heat and humidity creating a heat index topping 100 what a timely post!!! way to go--we simply got to go with the flow and adapt!!

  • Dave Hodgkinson August 10, 2010 06:37 am

    Rain you say?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davehodg/4631070843/

  • Rob August 10, 2010 06:30 am

    Generally, I dislike the rain, but now I'm feelin inspired and can't wait for the next storm!