Although we’ve seen a cluster of beautiful wedding images in the rain and snow, not many wedding photographers look forward to getting soaked for the shot. We asked a selection of our Apex award-winning photographers what techniques they love to use when faced with bad weather and what gear they rely on to make these shots happen.
The first thing you’ll need is a couple of Ziploc bags for your off-camera flashes, so if you’ve got a wedding coming up and bad weather in the forecast, we’ve got you (and your flashes) covered!
“My best technique is simply planning ahead & creating a game plan! For this rainy day wedding, we brought umbrellas (clear ones so that the subjects faces wouldn’t be too heavily shaded). After strategizing with the bridal party under the cover of a tent, we ran out to grab the shot, with my 2nd shooter holding another umbrella over my film camera. It took planning prior to the wedding and in real-time with the bridal party, but it was all worth it!”
Jared Gant – Website | Instagram | Wedding Maps Profile
“Who defines what is good and bad weather? Okay, maybe if a hurricane is coming in we should all duck for cover, but all too often, I see both photographers and clients unnecessarily hiding from a little bit of snow or rain. When the weather is starting to look different than expected, I try to remind my clients to go with the flow and be playful. One of my favorite techniques is to back-light the couple with a MagSphere. This throws light in all directions and exaggerates the appearance of the weather. I always keep a few large zip-lock bags in my bag to cover up and protect the flashes.”
“As a primarily documentary photographer, I absolutely love the challenges that I’m faced with when the weather isn’t considered to be “ideal.” The weather 100% affects a couple’s emotions on their wedding day so that part of the story NEEDS to be documented and told through photographs. Accomplishing that is the hard part as a couple will only spend a few moments out in the weather. To make sure I am able to tell the entire story in these brief moments, I am always using either my 24-70mm f/2.8 or 35mm f/1.4. Both of these lenses are wide enough to allow me to include the environment, or the weather, in the composition.
This photograph is a bride getting ready to head into the church and her feelings about the weather are written all over her face as she prepares to be escorted in by the umbrella-toting driver. I needed every bit of a 35mm to make sure I was close enough to be in the moment with her but also include the umbrella in the frame to show why she is having the reaction she is.”
“Shooting predominantly in the UK means that I’m often faced with wet weather; it’s something I used to worry about a lot, but as I’ve grown with experience, I’ve learned to go with it. The way I think about it is if I’m anxious, then it’s likely that will rub off on my couple and that will affect their day (and photos). In the photo above, I went out beforehand to set everything up and wrapped my flash in a clear plastic bag (I keep a few handy, just in case). I found an usher to help me out in getting the right settings, and once I was set, I invited the couple out with umbrellas. We were out for a matter of seconds – this is the result made with a Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, one Yongnuo 600 EX-RT Flash in a Ziploc bag and Op/Tech Rain Sleeve for the camera and lens.”
Dave Shay – Website | Instagram
“Backlighting rain or snow with bad weather isn’t a new trick by any means (I used a MagSphere for this), but the most important part about shooting in bad weather is to get your clients excited about it. If you can convince your clients that you’re the expert and that they should trust you, you have so many more opportunities to make something incredible. Once your clients are on board, the only thing you’ll need is a weather-sealed camera (thanks, Nikon!), a few Ziploc bags to throw your flashes in, and a horrible pun to make some magic.”
“Last year I had a wedding I’ll never forget, it was raining the entire day… Although there wasn’t a real couples session planned, they did want a few nice images at these different locations. At times the rain was coming sideways so I had to come up with a solution. Thanks to the SLR Lounge flash courses I had the knowledge and confidence to pull this off. I just left the couple dry inside and got soaking wet myself. For both shots, I used a gridded flash, underexposed the ambient light by 1-2 stops and set the flash power accordingly.”
“Group composites are one of my favorite tricks when the weather isn’t ideal. The bride and groom wanted an “epic group photo” in this one space of their venue but they wanted to be able to see all of the greenery in the background. My assistant held a Godox AD200 with a MagGrid, MagSphere, and 1/4 CTO MagGel on it and lit each member of the wedding party one at a time, and I snapped a photo each time they moved. I ended up using 13 different frames to put this composite together.”
“Sometimes a couple is really adventurous, but more often than not you want to get photos outside without having them soaking wet afterward (or holding umbrellas for every photo). Many venues will have some sort of awning or covered valet area somewhere on the property. I love to place the couple under the awning and use a telephoto lens to get beautiful bokeh and compression. Mix in just a small amount of flash to blend in with the ambient light behind them and no one will have any idea it was even raining at all.”
“I improvise a lot, but mainly try to take advantage of the bad weather and create beautiful memories no matter what. I always encourage my couples to enjoy the rain and be brave, they need to live the moment. I tend to use the water on the ground to create beautiful reflections, use umbrellas to help compose the frame, or just have the couple dancing in the rain if they are willing to. I always try to capture the day how it really was.”
Shannon Cain – Website | Instagram
“How do I convince my clients to step out into the rain and wind for some beautiful portraits? Before I ever pull them outside, I completely set up the shot so that when I do ask my bride & groom to step outside, it only requires them to be in the elements for a fraction of the time. And when particles of any sort are in the air, choose to backlight! I always carry ziplock bags with me to cover my Godox AD200s from the elements as well as two clear umbrellas.”
“During inclement weather, I always encourage my couples to embrace it. I mention that during perfect days, there are dozens of couples fighting for the same spot at the same time. I remind them that all relationships are different and that having non-cliche engagement and wedding portraits is a pretty awesome thing. For Brian and Maryanne’s portrait session, it was sub-zero temperatures in Boston. Brian recreated one of their early dates and gave Mary Anne special mittens that had been crafted specifically to allow two people to hold hands while wearing the mittens.”
“I actually see bad weather as a fantastic opportunity to create spontaneous photos with a different feel and sometimes gorgeous light like before a storm. From a gear point of view, you still want to make sure your camera remains safe and sound in dry conditions. I always carry an emergency rain cover in my bag.”
Christi Chambers – Website | Instagram
“I always get excited when there’s a little precipitation in the forecast (hopefully late in the day). My go-to is a simple backlit shot to catch whatever’s in the air (rain/snow/fog). Of course this works best with lower ambient light (if you don’t have a super powerful flash with you). My couples are always blown away by the results!”
Abul Shah – Website | Instagram
“I consider myself lucky to live in one of the most amazing countries in the world. But, as I’m sure many of you know, or will have experienced first-hand if you’ve ever visited the UK, good weather is not what we are known for! Grey is an all too familiar colour to us, and the stats say that we only see the sun for about one third of an average year. Yes, that’s right. The rest of the time, it’s overcast, raining, or we get what we Brits like to call ‘drizzle.’
So, achieving creative or dramatic photos requires direction and a plan, and keeping the bride and groom dry at the same time can be a challenge. The majority of brides don’t want to ruin their hair in the rain, and some won’t even consider stepping outside. At times, we are expected to deliver maximum results with minimum effort from our client.
When I want something dramatic, with soft light and good contrast, a good option that I come back to now and then is one of the simplest. I look for a window with good light and little distractions in the frame, so I don’t lead the viewer away from the subject.
There’s no need for umbrellas, no need to light the scene or zip lock your speed lights, no wet wedding dress and most importantly, the couple stays warm and happy.
I use prime lenses on my Nikon D800 bodies 90% of the time, namely the Sigma Art 35mm and the 50mm f/1.4 lenses, because I like to shoot wide open and they are incredibly fast lenses. The window light (in the above scenario) may not be strong, and as I like to make an effort to keep my ISO as low as possible, my choice of prime lens always responds perfectly.”
Bonus tip from the editor! Show your clients you know what you’re doing; and put them at ease by having resources on your website such as the video below.
Showing things like this to clients who call in a panic when they see rain in the forecast will help them prepare their mindset, help them plan accordingly, and make them appreciate your overall service even more.
Tips For Rainy Day Wedding Photography | Summary
- Make sure your gear is weather sealed and if not invest in plastic covers to protect it from getting ruined.
- Always have an umbrella on hand (this can just be a regular white lighting umbrella) because you never know when you’ll need it.
- Always test the shot before bringing your couple into the scene to prevent them from getting cold or wet.
- Use flashes to backlight the particles in the air and compression lenses to yield better bokeh results.
You can find additional tips for shooting in the rain here in our guest post on Adorama’s blog. Happy shooting!