“Weather” or not to Shoot in the Rain

by Leila S Posted on June 06, 2011

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The scenario: the day starts out nice and sunny – no rain in the forecast. Oops, they’re wrong again! Clouds roll in and drops begin to fall, so you hurry to put your camera away and get everyone in, right? Well, why not let them splash it up instead?

You know how much fun they have jumping in puddles and getting messy, so tell yourself it’s okay and just expect to soak them all in the tub afterward.

Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate for us pros either. Freezing rain almost derailed one of my shoots set around two adorable sisters skiing. The weather kept us off the slopes but not from shooting. Since we spent the night at a picturesque historical inn, it quickly became our new backdrop. Lucky for me the inn also had plenty of shower caps that I could use to protect my camera (read on for related tips). We braved the elements outside and of course we topped it off with some hot chocolate to warm our bones!

Rain was just what Jo-Ann and I ran into last week when we set out to illustrate some sunny-day lighting scenarios. We had some super cute kids and a spacious backyard to play with. The only problem was that rain was in the forecast all week – and rain it did! We had a few tried and true options: cancel, delay or move the shoot inside. Instead, we did not to let the rain deter us and we all had a blast!

Here are some of our favorite rainy day shooting tips:

1. Keep your equipment dry from the get go whether it’s an SLR, a point-and-shoot or even a cell phone. If you have a helping hand around, ask them to hold an umbrella over you. Cover your camera with a small plastic bag or Ziploc, only leaving your lens glass bare. Those disposable shower caps I mentioned will work great here! A UV filter, if your lens takes one, will keep water off the glass too. Be doubly sure that no water gets near any of your camera’s ports or contacts for your battery, memory card, external flash or lens. Wipe off any moisture that does make it to your camera or lens right away and dry everything off again meticulously when you get inside. Use appropriate materials like lens tissue and microfiber cloths. Underwater cameras can be put to good use in the rain too and will eliminate all your equipment worry. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) to get all kids and gear inside when it’s coming down hard or during a thunderstorm.

2. Get great light even under cloudy conditions. Cloudy days can actually be great for outdoor portraits, offering really soft, flattering light. You don’t have to worry about “raccoon eyes” which are typical under harsh midday sun. Umbrellas, covered porches and even party tents will all keep you dry (bonus!) while offering their own unique photo opportunities – plus the lighting can be really gorgeous. Notice what happens to the light on your kids’ faces and have them shift around until you love it. When they’re running or jumping, a fast shutter speed (or your camera’s sports mode) will help grab them in motion. Try adding flash too even when the camera says you don’t need it (set your flash to always on instead of auto). Kids are fast, especially when you’re actually asking them to move around. Since the sun is not out, you’re probably going to need that flash to capture them without too much blur. It will also add a little contrast and a sparkle in their eyes.

3. Dress your kids in vibrant colors and fun patterns to keep a drab day looking fun and lively! When the sun is hiding behind clouds our world becomes a bit more muted, lacking vibrancy and punch. Use that to your advantage for a moody shot or turn the volume up on their wardrobe. Let them get involved too. Kids are always dressing themselves in mismatched patterns, colors and styles anyway and here is where it really works. They’ll have almost as much fun picking out their outfits beforehand as they will after they run out the door. Think about adding some cute hats and ponytails or braids to the mix so their hair doesn’t become “a hot mess”. Your shots will be as unique as their funky look.

So the next time it rains, there’s no need to blast Mother Nature. Let the kids celebrate her with a little rain dance and go shoot your heart out. Your kids will be surprised and it will show in their faces. You’ll probably wind up with some funny memories too. Tell us yours!

Leila and Jo-Ann are a photographer and make-up/stylist team who write a monthly blog
called Foto Shui – make your photos flow. leilasutton.com and jo-anndilorenzo.com.

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  1. Joey Says:

    This is a great article and I love all the photos. Great jumping shots and such adorable kiddos.When you put a plastic bag over your camera, do you just cover it enough so you can still see out of the view finder? I recently participated in this years marathon in our area and did the 5k, my aunt came along and took pictures. I had my lens hood on – not sure if that was necessary now after reading your article. It was drizzling at the beginning – my aunt had my camera around her neck and wrapped it in her poncho and the rain later ended. These are great tips, thanks for sharing.

  2. Leila Sutton Says:

    @ Joey. Thanks! You could make a little hole for your viewfinder. Personally, I looked through the plastic even though it obscured my view a bit (I relied on auto focus in this situation). I love that your aunt used her poncho. Any precautions that you take to keep things dry are good ones. A lens hood will help ward off some of the rain depending on the direction of the wind, but I would not rely on that exclusively. I used one in the freezing rain shoot at the inn along with the shower cap, and I still had to wipe off droplets that made it to the front of my lens. Happy shooting! :)

  3. Joey Says:

    Thank you very much Leila!! I learned something new because i didn’t even think of it ruining the memory card, battery etc. Good thing my aunt was smart enough to wrap in poncho until rain went away. Do rain drops hurt the lens? I have a lens protector on mine. So in situations like this again where its raining and i still want to take picture of kids running around, will the droplets effect how the picture turns out. I suppose it would now that i think of it. I’ll put a plastic bag in my camera bag so I’m prepared. Thanks again!

  4. BarbaraJ Says:

    I love shooting in the rain or snow. This is a great idea and I am so glad you shared this for others to see how adorable the photos can be.

  5. AnnAbbott Says:

    Great suggestion…. It seems my kids would have more fun if it is rain out… Some of my best pictures have been drab days with bright colored clothing. Giant zip lock great for cameas in action….thanks… :)

  6. Leila Sutton Says:

    Hi Joey, The rain won’t hurt the glass, but water has the potential damage the electronics of the lens with enough quantity or time. Plus you’ll want to take care that drops are not left to dry on the lens because they may leave a residue. Since you use a lens protector, you’ll want to wipe the drops off that instead and unscrew it when you’re inside putting everything away to make sure there’s no moisture trapped between it and the lens. When you’re shooting, droplets may affect to varying degrees how the shot turns out with out of focus blotches. So just be mindful and wipe them carefully away as necessary, especially if they will be in front of people’s key features. Thanks kindly BarbaraJ and AnnAbbott!

    Best, Leila
    http://www.leilasutton.com

more about Leila S

My name is Leila (l-eye-la) and I'm a NYC kids lifestyle photographer. I shoot kids and families for advertising and editorial clients, and everyday moms & dads from all over the world. I'm always aiming for that perfect balance of expression, action and environment to come together and tell a story. In my case, that story is most often honest and joyful. When I'm not out shooting with clients, you'll find me toting around my gear whenever I have the opportunity to travel or in my own neck of the woods at family parties. I just can't get enough. Parents, friends and family (even my own mom!) often ask me how I get them and their kids to look so amazing. Some of it is technical and some of it is just learning to notice the right details. I'm thrilled to be able share with my fellow Shutterfly enthusiasts my professional advice on how to "make your photos flow". And yes, I use Shutterfly too for my personal snapshots! I've made beautiful photo greeting cards and love their share sites for giving my friends & family insider access to the gazillion shots they're always seeing me take. Visit my website at leilasutton.com, follow me on facebook.com/leilasuttonphotography, or peruse my blog fotoshui.com - make your photos flow.

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