How Photographers Should Handle Shooting in Bad Weather

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Weather can be maddeningly fickle; this simple statement might be more or less accurate depending on where you live, but I’m quite certain that photographers in virtually every part of the world have had their plans foiled by unexpected and unwelcome changes in weather. What should you do if you ever find yourself confronted by bad weather? Here are a few ideas.

Protect Your Gear

A no-brainer, right? But you might be wondering how far you have to go, considering most camera manufacturers have made weather sealed cameras commonplace. Most people aren’t willing to test the limits of their camera’s weather sealing; despite manufacturers’ claims, you’re probably going to still feel a bit apprehensive about venturing out in the rain with your camera. The affordable (free) safeguard against rain is to cover your camera/lens barrel with a plastic bag. It’s an inelegant solution but it’s better than nothing. You can buy fancier versions of rain and dust protection for anywhere between $10USD to upwards of $100USD; this may be preferable under harsher conditions.

Soaked K-5
Photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Don’t forget about your camera bag. There are weatherproof bags and bags that come with waterproof covers. I’ve actually heard people complain about the cost of some of these bags; whatever you spend on a nice weatherproof bag will certainly be less than you spent on your camera and lenses. Remember that.

Use a filter or lens hood. Admittedly, I’m loathe to use either of these on a daily basis, but when you’re in an environment with lots of flying water or dust, a simple UV filter and/or lens hood provide an extra measure of protection.

Photographing the Storm
Photo by Susanne Nilsson

Use a Tripod

A cloudy, rainy day means less available light; lower light levels mean longer exposure times. If you don’t have an image stabilizing camera or lens, you’ll need to bring along a tripod to avoid camera shake.

Choose the Right Lens

Related to the point above, your choice of lens can play a major role in how successful you are shooting in situations where the weather conditions have compromised light levels. If you find yourself neglecting your wide angle lens or the wide end of your zoom lens, this is the perfect situation to put it to use, as wider focal lengths will allow you to successfully achieve slower shutter speeds. You might not need the tripod!

Storm Brewing
Photo by Anne Worner

Process Images in Black & White

Dreary conditions can result in drab colors, so try converting your shots to black and white to emphasize mood, tone and texture.

Black Rain
Photo by Jason Devaun

Dress Accordingly

Rain soaked clothing is just going to make you miserable and you won’t want to spend hours in such a soggy state, thus bringing your day of photography to a halt. Dress to stay as dry as possible. If you’re in cold weather, stay warm; in dusty/sandy conditions, keep your eyes protected. It’s really all a matter of common sense.

This is Dave
Photo by Sean McGrath



Don’t Let Bad Weather Keep You Indoors

Bad weather doesn’t have to put a damper on your photography. Why let a little wind, rain or snow stop you? You might even see unfavorable weather conditions as the perfect opportunity to go out and capture some unique images. Keep the ideas above in mind, but don’t overthink them; your camera won’t fall to bits if it gets a few raindrops or snowflakes on it; you will live if you have to slosh through a puddle or two. If it is truly your goal to make some potentially great shots, you can’t let anything stand in your way — not even bad weather.

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Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), writer, and music lover. You can see Jason’s photography on Flickr, his Website or his Blog.

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