Bad weather has the potential to make great photos–you just have to be willing to brave the elements to get the shot. And knowing a thing or two about photographing in bad weather doesn't hurt, either. Keeping your gear dry, warm, and protected is just the start–photographing in less than perfect weather can also present technical problems that we don't always run into in our everyday shooting. Here are 16 quick and easy tips to keep you shooting when the weather doesn't just want to cooperate!
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Equipment Performance And Protection
- Lens Hood – They're great for keeping out unwanted light and glares when it's sunny, but they're also handy to keep rain from dropping onto the front glass of your lens.
- Rain Jacket – Keep your gear dry with a plastic sleeve or housing that was designed for your camera, or whip up a quick DIY version using plastic bags, a shower cap, or even by sharing your own rain jacket with your gear.
- UV Filter – A UV filter is an expensive way to protect your lens from a variety of potential problems, including protecting the lens from dust, dirt, and grime that may be a result of windy and/or wet weather.
- Towels – Be sure to keep a small towel or chamois in your gear bag to wipe off any rain or moisture that my accumulate on the body of your camera. If you forgot your lens hood and a drop of water fell onto the glass elements of your lens, blot (not wipe!) the glass with the chamois to avoid soaking your microfiber lens cloth, then use the microfiber lens cloth to wipe the lens free of spots.
- Silica Gel – Moisture is one of the digital photographers worst enemies as it can wreak havoc on your gear and render it useless in a blink of the eye. Keeping a few silica gel packs in your gear bag will help wick the moisture out of the air and, most importantly, out of your camera. You can reuse the silica gel packs that came in your shoes, or pick up a box of them from Amazon so you always have them handy. (Bonus tip: The gel packs also work great to protect your prints from humidity and moisture in the air–just drop a few of them into the bin where you store your photos.)
- Hand Warmers – You know those wonderful (and inexpensive) little packets that produce a cozy level of warmth for our hands when they're exposed to air? Turns out they are also really useful for keeping your gear warm, too. Cold weather can cause the LCD screen on your camera to temporarily stop working and also drastically shorten battery life. You can wrap one around the outside of your camera near the battery to help combat the effects of cold weather. You can also drop one or two in a separate bag with your extra batteries.
Capturing The Elements
- As objects become farther from the camera, the fog will tend to really wash them out. Try to keep your subject close to the camera so you don't lose too much contrast and your photo retains some depth.
- It's generally foggy late at night or early in the morning when the natural light isn't very bright. You can combat the low light issue by bringing out your tripod and adjusting your shutter speed or ISO; however, use caution when shooting with a slower shutter speed if the fog is moving–using too slow of a shutter speed could cause the fog to loose it's texture in the photograph.
- Expose for the fog and, when in doubt, take a second image which was exposed for your subject. Compare the two shots to see which one you like best, or use a little blending wizardry in Photoshop to make the perfect combination of the two.
- If the rain has made everything look like a muddy mess that's not very photogenic, try getting in a little closer and photograph the fallen raindrops that you'll find beaded up on leaves, flowers, benches, glass, etc…
- Use those puddles of water to capture reflections of your subject.
- Be aware of shadows if you or you're subject will be carrying an umbrella to keep dry. Position yourself so the umbrella's shadow falls out of frame or try to incorporate the shadow into your composition in a creative way.
- Remember to let your camera bag dry out before you put all your gear back into and put it away!
- To avoid the snow appearing blue or gray in your photos, try using an exposure compensation of about +1/3 or +2/3. This will let in a touch more light and help whiten up the snow. Being able to capture the finer texture of the snow is usually not an issue, so if the snow is a little over exposed, don't worry too much about it.
- Be mindful of where you're walking so you don't leave behind any footprints that may become a distraction in your composition.
- Avoid sticking your camera under your coat to keep it warm–while it may seem like a good idea, it will may actually cause your lens to fog up when you take it out. Not to mention, the condensation that may occur inside and outside of your camera when the it enters a warm location after being exposed to the cold!
If all else fails and the weather is just too insufferable and not worth the risk, there's no need to despair–just set up shop indoors and think of it as an opportunity to practice different techniques!