Better Travel Photos: What to Shoot in the Rain

By Efrain M. Padro in Leiden, the Netherlands

It was cool, and the skies were battleship gray... and drizzling.

For most people, these are lousy weather conditions. But as our group returned from Holland’s world-famous Keukenhof Gardens yesterday, I was confident I’d see some stunning shots in the photo reviews. And, I was right.

Believe it or not, overcast, drizzly conditions are perfect for photographing flowers.

Here’s why:

** 1. Overcast skies create very soft, diffused light, which is flattering to everything from flowers to faces. Soft light allows us to see details, unlike harsh, contrasty light, which produces detail-less shadows.

** 2. Although it seems counterintuitive, soft light also produces richer colors than direct sunlight.

** 3. In drizzling conditions, close-ups of flowers could be covered in small droplets, adding an extra touch to your pictures.

But photographing under gray skies also has its challenges. Here are some tips to take your very best flower photos on overcast and rainy days:

** 1. Try not to include any, or much, of the sky. Overcast skies provide the perfect light, but they do not make a good subject, themselves. Avoid the sky altogether by taking close-ups of a single flower or a collection of flowers, or include very little of the sky through the trees here and there, or as just a sliver at the top of the frame.

** 2. Use a polarizing filter to knock down reflections and add contrast and saturation.

** 3. Use knee pads (the gardening ones) to comfortably get flower-level-low for that intimate view of your subjects.

** 4. To protect your camera, cover it with a shower cap (some hotels still provide free ones).

** 5. If you want to try something different, here’s an exception to my first tip: Photograph upward through the flowers, exposing your shot for the flowers (not the sky), and watch the sky turn completely white. This technique yields a simple and elegant backdrop to the colorful flowers, as in this shot:

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5 responses to “Better Travel Photos: What to Shoot in the Rain”

  1. Isabelita B Casibang

    Interesting. I always thought that I would always need bright light. And complex camera

    1. dweinstein

      Nice work! Keep it up – you’ll see that the focus gets easier as you go.

  2. Carol Shetler

    Thanks for the "rain" photo tips. I shot some of my first photos with my first digital camera just after a morning rainstorm, while the sky was still overcast. The raindrops on the lily leaves in my garden glowed rather than sparkled, yielding a photo that was downright thirst-quenching! Photo assessors rejected the shot for the slight out-of-focus at the edges, but this is still one of my favourite shots as I end my first year as a digital photographer. [ -- Which irks me, because 3/4 of your first photo of the flowers is "out of focus". I suppose it's not acceptable as "stock" but it is still a gorgeous shot. ]

  3. Erlinda Tom

    Hi Efrain,

    I read your previous tips for taking good photography occasionally and briefly. Now I'll track down your tips and follow them seriously.


  4. Marianne Campolongo

    Excellent article. Great tip about shooting flowers toward the sky for a white background. I've always known that overcast conditions were good for portraits but hadn't realized how well they worked for flowers. Thanks for the tips!
    I was in Russia shooting stock photos last summer with a tour group and took some wonderful photos of the other people on the trip. They were all surprised at how well the photos came out given the weather and I told them that the overcast conditions were perfect for portraits. Glad to know next time I should point my camera at the flowers too!

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