When the rain starts falling, our natural inclination is to stay indoors where it’s toasty and warm. But rain photography is a wonderful subject to include in your street photography. And it provides fantastic opportunities to work with different light conditions and reflections.
Next time you see dark clouds looming above, embrace the idea of rainy day photography and look for the beauty it creates. Check out these rainy street photography tips for your next downpour.
Keep Dry While Taking Rain Photography
Water can be beautifully photogenic. Unfortunately it can also damage your camera gear. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about protecting your camera and lenses from the rain. Waterproofing, however, is an important part of photographing outside.
Invest in a waterproof camera case and camera bag. If you’re on a tight budget, use a plastic bag (fasten it to the lens hood with a rubber band) or shower cap around the camera and cut a hole at the lens. A lens hood will also help keep water off your lens.
While you’re protecting the camera, don’t forget to keep yourself dry too. Take an umbrella, and wear shoes that keep your feet dry and a comfortable hooded rain coat.
Rainy Day Street Shelter
To keep your gear (and yourself) dry, look for places to shelter while you photograph. I’ve taken many out-of-focus rainy day photos because I’ve been distracted by water on the camera or my glasses. Wet socks is another distraction that affects my photographs!
Rain photography from under shelter will still capture the wet weather vibe. But you’ll be more relaxed and can take time to consider composition and settings. Cars, cafes, and doorways are good places to photograph from.
Use these sheltered opportunities to change lenses, review photos on your screen, and check the lens for water drops.
Think about how you can incorporate the shelter in the frame, and what it adds to your story.
Look to the Ground
Although the clouds might be dark and dramatic above, there is loads of action happening on the ground on a rainy day. Turn the camera downward to focus on footpaths, steps, and roads (this is also a sneaky way to avoid rain drops on your lens).
The ground is where the sudden splashes and sprays of water can be captured with a fast shutter speed. It’s also where you’ll see shiny streets reflecting traffic lights, signs, and shop window mannequins.
Bundled-up children, soggy dogs, and brightly coloured boots all happen at ground level. With an umbrella above, set up your camera on your tripod, and use your street photography intuition to guide your finger on the shutter release!
Know Your Vantage Points
One of my favourite parts of street photography is walking through the city on a fine evening, soaking up the atmosphere, and exploring new spaces. In wet weather however, my priorities change!
It’s a good idea to have a few tried and tested rainy day photography locations up your sleeve that you can get to quickly – particularly if the rain isn’t going to last. Think of places that are accessible and safe, with nearby shelter (and a cafe).
Find out which artificial and natural light sources feature in these locations. Check if you’re going to be affected by traffic or strong winds.
You might not consider photographing from these sites in sunshine. But they could provide the perfect light conditions, reflections, and activity for photography in the rain.
Reflections in Rain Photography
If you’re feeling nervous about taking the camera out in wet weather, wait until the rain stops. Then go and explore some puddles. Puddles create fantastic reflections of street activity and architecture.
And without the rain falling around you, you’ll be able to calmly compose the frame and experiment with your settings. Look for water pooling on tables and benches.
Try using a prime or zoom lens to get close to the puddle or use a fast shutter speed to capture a foot splashing into the puddle. With a macro lens, you can explore a miniature scene in a droplet of water.
Rainy Day Expressions
Rainy days evoke a wide range of emotions in people. Rain can make us feel frustrated, excited, anxious, peaceful, or happy. Capturing these facial expressions on a rainy street photography shoot can be magical and provide context for your photograph.
If you feel shy photographing people’s faces, consider people’s body language, and what it’s telling you about how they’re feeling. Photograph hunched shoulders, legs running or skipping, or heads tilted up towards the sky.
Some of the best expressions can be photographed when the rainy weather has just started or stopped – especially if it’s caught people by surprise.
Rainy Night Time Magic
Night time provides unique lighting opportunities for creative rainy days street photography. Rain that is back lit by street lights or car headlights looks evocative and mysterious. Raindrops on glass sparkle in artificial light, and colours are vibrant against a dark inky night sky.
With fewer people around, it’s easier to set up your shot and more room for your umbrella and tripod too. Slow your shutter speed down very low (the tripod and shutter release cable are essential). Or you might like to experiment with a flash that will reflect off falling raindrops.