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How to Photograph in Bad Weather

Updated on March 16, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years. Hope you enjoy my hubs!

Plan your shots for the right moment

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Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source

Bad weather, structures & people make interesting shots

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CC BY 3.0 | Source
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CC BY 2.0) | Source

Bad weather does not mean that you can't take photos

Photography does not have to stop if the weather turns ugly. There are many occasions when your photos may turn out to be quite good, and photographing during inclement weather may just be one of those occasions.

However there are tips which one should follow as well as some techniques which can make your photo adventure quite enjoyable.

First, you should arrive at your destination with an idea of what it is you want to photograph. Once there visualize your shot and have your equipment ready to go. You should shoot quickly once you have decided on what your subject is.

Your gear should be enclosed within a protective enclosure such as a plastic bag or even better a specialty cover typically used in underwater photography such as those made by Aquatech. If not using one of these specialty covers, then a plastic bag held in place by a rubber band can do the job.

The camera itself should be kept from getting wet, the lenses can take a little bit of water, with a quick dry up minimizing any ill effects.

Once the shot is taken, you should dry off your gear as quickly as possible. Use paper towels to blot out the water/moisture, better yet are chamois rags or lint free towels.

After you finish your shoot, use a compressed air canister to finally dry off the camera and lenses, and finally let it air dry at room temperature. Remember that changes in temperature can create condensation that if left alone can end up ruining your equipment.

For most inclement weather photos, especially heavy rain, snow, hail etc, you should manually set your camera as well as using the manual focusing setting. Raindrops can play havoc with your auto focus and confuse it to the point where your images will be out of focus and unusable.

A especial note when photographing in the snow; unless you want your snow photographs to come out as middle gray tones, then you should overexpose the shot by at least one f-stop. Also useful is to bracket; shoot one f stop under, one regular and one f stop over what the camera sensors tell you.

Take advantage of the twilight, many great shots of inclement weather are as a result of shooting one hour after sunset when the sky is usually bright orange or a dark blueish hue.

Do take some precautions, don't get so involved with your photography that you completely forget about the weather, be attentive if thunder clouds and lighting are present as well as paying attention to your footsteps. No photographs are worth endangering your safety.

You should always be one step ahead of the weather, so tracking it and being attentive to weather forecasts helps in allowing you to be in the right place at the right time. Always be prepared. You do not want to arrive on location and miss a shot because you are spending time arranging your gear when this should have been done ahead of time.

To add a little flare to your images, cover your flash head with a colored piece of cellophane. Due to the reflectivity of water, rain drops may catch the colored light given off by your flash burst and will show up in the final image as little colored dots. This is not always the case as this technique is more of a hit and miss occurrence, but it can work quite well during a heavy downpour.

With this said, avoid using flash for most bad weather photos as its use may overwhelm the scene and ruin the atmosphere.

Another point to consider is what mood do you want to capture in your photos. Snow filled days are often cool and gloomy, rain can offer the same mood as so too can storm clouds. Planning and visualizing the shot then becomes even more important

Look for new angles and perspectives

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

Take what nature has to offer

Don't overlook including people or structures in your shots, they often add charm, mystery or perspective to the scene. Props should also be considered such as a potted plant being drenched by rain.

Do close ups for more interesting photos such as water drops bouncing off the sidewalk or from the surface of a leaf. Pay attention to reflections, during and after the weather clears. The sky is still saturated by moisture and this has the effect of filtering light for a more natural effect on your photographs.

Sometimes the project can be done right around the corner. Reflections and water beads that form on top of surfaces are great to photograph in macros and close ups. Look for car hoods that are brightly colored, they can render great examples.

Nature can give you great images too. Water drops barely hanging from a plant leaf, if taken at close range, can portray a mood of serenity and tranquility as well as invoking the life giving property of water. Good subjects are droplets on flower petals, birds patiently waiting for the storm to pass while huddled together and water soaked spider webs.

Bad weather happens at any time night or day. Night shots can not only give you the opportunity of capturing a bad weather scene but can add charm to the shot. Remember that for low light situations there is more equipment needed such as a tripod.

If you feel adventurous and are sort of a risk taker, then consider following storm formations where the possibility of tornado formation abounds. These photos can often by breathtaking and the trill of following and being there when a tornado forms is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Inclement weather photos can often be used in inspirational work such as the poster industry, for general photography publications and for many other uses. Images that are accompanied by a certain mood make the best examples and there is no shortage of clients that will purchase them from you.

Above all be safe, plan, be ready and be creative. If everything falls into place, then you may find yourself in possession of images that can be exceptional. You will get wet, cold or uncomfortable during this photo project, but overcoming one's comfort zone and realizing that some sacrifices may need to be taken in order to capture great shots is only part of the adventure, and you may even find a rainbow at the end of the journey.

Compose creatively

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CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Bad weather photographic ideas

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Don't be afraid to get a little wet

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • deepateresa profile image

      DEEPA JOHN 5 years ago from Trivandrum, Kerala,India

      Simply luv those photos and it has inspired me a lot..

      Thanks for the hub; voted up.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Can't believe I've only just stumbled onto your hubs. Fabulous photos. OK. It's going to take me a while to read all this, but it couldn't be a better time. Stuck in a hotel room in D.C. for the next four days. Except for visiting the Newseum for two of those days, I'm reading!

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 6 years ago from Indiana

      That rainbow shot is simply awesome.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      mailxpress: Thank you, glad you found it

    • mailxpress profile image

      Michelle Cesare 6 years ago from New York

      I found this Hub through your StumbleUpon Account. Great topic and the images are wild. Good interesting topic.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      ishadi: Thank you

    • ishadi profile image

      ishadi 6 years ago from Bojonegoro

      Science is very useful. To produce a quality photograph, required: preparation, technique, equipment, planning, the right moment, creativity and inspiration. Your experience is very useful. Thanks.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: just don't catch a cold while doing

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      I just love weather shots, especially water drops on petals or leaves. I also love dark stormy skies.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      travel_man1974: Thank you for your kinds comments, you are right, sometimes there is a rainbow even before the rain.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I also featured some of my shots on my Photography series-After The Rain photo essay and more.

      Yes, there's always a rainbow after the rain. Or even before it starts raining.

      Thanks for sharing your ideas, Sir Luis.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Why thank you Marellen, glad that you liked them.

      Keep in mind that they are not my pics. I still use film and have not had the opportunity to scan them into my computer.

    • profile image

      marellen 6 years ago

      Luis...great and informative hub. I love the your pics....These photos are so intriguing.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Thanks Peggy W4. Rainy day shots produced better lighting because the light is "filtered", this has the effect of making subjects appear more natural, without harsh shadows.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have found that often on cloudy days one can get great shots instead of on the brightest of days. I'm no expert and just have a simple camera, but love taking photos. You offer good advice in this hub. Thanks!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Lynn: Actually the most fun I've had was with an inclement weather photo shoot. It can really test your skills.

      freecampingaussie: Thank you, glad you enjoy it

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 6 years ago

      Great article and great points. I just encountered this recently and had to decide, since I couldn't control mother nature, how to just roll with it.

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 6 years ago from Southern Spain

      Love your photos !