Shooting in the Rain, at Night

Let me first begin by saying hello to 2015 and what a blast 2014 was last year.  I had my first newborn session, bought my first set of studio strobes and met some very wonderful and talented artists along the way.  I have no doubts that 2015 will be just as exciting.

Now, I live in Vancouver, where it tends to rain a heck of a lot.  Not quite monsoon, but it's not exactly the type of rain that you can wait out.  With weather like that, it means that if I want to still shoot outside, I'll have to be flexible and creative to try and make use of it.  Hence, I've always had an idea to shoot outside, in the rain, but never an opportunity.  Well, I just got one.

The Prep Work

Before I began this particular shoot, I went around looking for resources but there weren't too many.  I found a few websites and there were no shortages of example photos so I'd thought I'd share my own experience.  First of all, I discovered that you need 2 things for rain to show up in your photograph:

  1. There has to be something lighting the rain.
  2. The rain will only show up over black areas.

Because I was planning to shoot at night, item 1 means I'll need to light the rain with something.  That's when I decided to go outside and test the effect of using a speedlight in the rain.  Here I realized something else, for the rain to really show up, you need it to be raining quite hard and the flash needs to be pointing almost at the camera or essentially behind the subject to really light the rain.

With that lesson in mind, it means we need the following items:

  1. A speedlight mounted on a tripod, covered by a Ziploc bag or any transparent plastic bag - place this behind the subject.
  2. A second speedlight, mounted inside a modifier on a lightstand.  I used one of my favorite umbrella softbox, this allows the speedlight to be inside the umbrella and fully protected from the rain.
  3. A somewhat weather resistant camera and lens.  Augment this with a plastic bag cover it, and count a hole for the lens to pass through.
  4. Some way to trigger the flashes.  Radio triggers are highly recommended as you may not have line of sight.  I used a set of Pixel Kings radio triggers which also allows me to control the flash power.  Because working fast in a cold damp environment is the name of the game.
  5. A raincoat for the photographer, cause it sucks to be wet and cold.

With all that, I met up with a talented model named Meryl Noelle, whom I've shot with before in a vintage styled studio shoot.  Now, we were going to bring that alive outside and in the rain.

The Shoot

As is always the case with Mother Nature, when you plan to do something, it just doesn't go your way.  So since we're all prepared for the rain, that's when it doesn't.  Oh well, might as well make the best out of it.  In each of these photos, the second flash was either use as rim light (pointed at the back of the model) or to light the background:

After about half an hour into the shoot, we finally caught some luck and it actually started to rain!

Here's one of the first shots as it started to drizzle:

Do you see the rain? No? Well I don't blame you.  Remember the earlier lesson? It has to actually rain pretty hard for it to show up.  No matter, lady luck was on our side and the rain started to hit harder and I was not disappointed with this shot:


So in summary here's what I learnt about what's needed for a successful shoot in the rain:

  1. An awesome model who doesn't mind being in the cold and rain
  2. Something to light the rain with, from behind
  3. Some way to protect your gear in the rain
  4. Some way to keep the photographer somewhat dry.

Happy shooting folks!