Updated: Nov 17, 2022
If you have been following what I do and the types of photos that I like to take, you would have noticed a few common themes across my images, perhaps the most prevalent of which being that I like to take photos in the rain. Shooting in the rain is a very uncomfortable thing to do, constantly having to try your best to protect your gear, battling the elements with one hand holding your umbrella while the other holds your camera, having wet socks and waterlogged shoes - so why do I do it?
Many people will notice that in the rain, city and urban environments take on an entirely new look. Light sources tend to "glow", every surface becomes reflective, colours are intensified and an entirely new atmosphere is created. These are the obvious answers as to why I like to shoot in the rain.
I would like to talk about one of the less obvious answers and that is (as a street photographer) the behaviour of my subjects. In fair weather conditions, most people go about their day on auto-pilot. One thing that I can't stand is taking photos of people looking at their phones, unaware of their surroundings and generally shut off to the world. 90% of people that I come across when I go out shooting are like this. They pretty much behave as robots, which I personally don't find all that interesting to capture.
This all changes as soon as the rain starts. The heavier the rain, the more alert people behave. When the rain is pouring, the phones go back into pockets. People will be actively looking where they are going, trying to pick out a path that will stop them from getting wet. Or if they need to cross the street and can not avoid the rain, they run! Peoples facial expressions change from bland, boring and uninspired, to gritty, determined and alert. It elevates a photo so much when your subjects are alert. I think this is one aspect of rainy photography that people often overlook, but it is one of the major reasons why I like shooting in the rain.
Another reason which is probably more obvious than the last is umbrellas. There is something about umbrellas that makes an image feel more mysterious and ominous. Each umbrella shadows a face and a life that harbours it's own intentions and mysteries. They are kind of like masks in that way.
So do I have any tips for shooting in the rain? You should bring an umbrella if the rain is very heavy. Carrying an umbrella while also trying to take photos is incredibly annoying - that being said a broken camera and the money it costs to repair/replace is even more annoying. Almost all cameras coming out these days are weather sealed, some more so than others however so it's good to know your camera. For instance I shoot with a Sony a7iii, which does have weather sealing, although it is not as good as some others in this regard. I know that on the underside of the battery there is a weak spot as well as well as around the dials above the battery - so I take extra care to protect these areas when I can. If the rain is not all that heavy, I usually leave my umbrella at home, as having an extra hand free allows me to more comfortably compose my pictures, and when I am in between shots, I tuck my camera under my shirt to keep it as dry as possible. Another tip would be to play around with your angles. As mentioned, colours and lights reflect off every surface in the rain. Simply shifting your perspective slightly lower/higher or one side to the other can make a massive difference in the image you take. I guess my biggest tip would be to embrace the discomfort. The images that can be produced are well worth the few hours of wet miserableness.
So all you photographers out there who have not tried shooting in the rain - you should really try it at least once. Maybe it isn't for everyone, but the weather forecast is something that I look at every day, and when it isn't raining, I'm planning and scouting my next locations for a rainy shoot.