Capturing the mood of the pouring rain in camera can be difficult. Standard auto or aperture-priority modes often miss the feel of a rainy day, and leave us with unsatisfactory flat looking images.
I was recently caught out on the street in a sharp downpour with camera in hand so I decided to try two techniques to capture the mood of the situation. I ducked under cover, lowered my camera to knee level, and faced the passers by who still braved the weather.
1. Fast shutter speed
My first effort to capture the rain was simple. I decided to “freeze” the raindrops as they were in mid air. Setting my camera to “Speed priority” mode (ie. S or Tv depending on one’s camera brand), I set my shutter speed to 1/1000 second. I selected auto-ISO and exposure compensation suitable for the lighting conditions at the time and waited for passers-by to approach. As they did, I held my camera steady and clicked away.
This resulted in hyper-real images of rain drops suspended in mid air around my subject. The images have a somewhat cluttered feel, with every drop taking the viewer’s attention. This slightly uncomfortable mood can be exactly what is experienced when we are caught in a downpour, so this technique can be very useful in communicating the rainy day feeling.
2. Slow shutter speed
Next I set my shutter speed to 1/30 second, leaving the other exposure settings as per the Fast Shutter Speed method above.
As people approached from the distance, I directed my camera’s focal point at them and physically moved my camera to match their speed of movement. As I followed them with my camera, I continually pressed my shutter button.
After some practice, this technique kept the subject’s body and face reasonably sharp, whilst adding a motion blur to the background. Meanwhile, the raindrops showed up as streaks of water, showing that the rain is falling.
This resulted in slightly surreal images, with a strong emphasis on the picture’s subject. Whilst this technique may convey a less uncomfortable mood than the first method, it can also look more contrived or manipulated. This method also has the advantage of using low ISO values, so the overall image quality can be better.
Both the fast-shutter method and the slow-shutter method can be effective at capturing rain in-camera. Neither result in “realistic” images as most people see a rainy scene with their eyes. But both methods can convey a particular mood, to be used depending on the photographer’s intentions.
Which method attracts you more? And what other techniques do you use to capture the feel of rainy days?