Bad Weather Photography

Waves crashing against rocks on the shore under a stormy sky
Copyright Ruvim

Bad weather often deters photographers from venturing outdoors. Yet, it’s precisely these conditions that can create the most dramatic and emotionally evocative imagery.

From the subdued tones of a foggy morning to the raw power of a thunderstorm, bad weather photos can transform the mundane into the magnificent. This comprehensive guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and skills to capture the beauty of adverse conditions.

Understanding Light and Shadow in Bad Weather

Bad weather brings with it unique lighting conditions. Unlike the harsh shadows and high contrast of sunny days, overcast skies offer soft, diffused light.

This soft lighting minimises harsh shadows and evenly illuminates your scene, making it ideal for capturing rich details and subtle tones.

However, working with low light levels in bad weather requires a good understanding of your camera’s settings. Increasing the ISO can help, but be mindful of the grain it introduces.

Opening up your aperture and slowing down the shutter speed are also viable options, especially when aiming for creative effects like the silky motion of rain or fog.

Stormy sea under a dark sky
Copyright Ray Bilcliff

The Right Gear for the Challenge

Capturing bad weather photos demands not just skill and creativity, but also the right equipment.

Weather-sealed cameras and lenses are invaluable, offering protection against the elements. For those without weather-sealed gear, a simple plastic cover can provide sufficient protection.

Tripods are essential in bad weather, particularly in low light conditions. They stabilise your camera, preventing camera shake and ensuring sharp images.

Additionally, consider using a lens hood to protect your lens from raindrops and a remote shutter release to minimise camera movement when shooting long exposures.

Sony Mirrorless camera in the rain
Copyright Lachlan Ross

Composition and Perspective: Finding Beauty in Gloom

Bad weather conditions offer a unique palette for composition.

The key is to look for contrasts, such as the vibrant colours of a landscape against a stormy sky, or the intricate patterns of raindrops on a window. These elements can add depth and interest to your photos.

Changing your perspective can also reveal unexpected beauty. Shooting from a low angle can make puddles seem like vast lakes reflecting the sky, while a high vantage point can capture the sweeping drama of a stormy landscape.

Experiment with different angles and compositions to find the most compelling way to tell the story of the weather.

A couple stood in a field with a lighting strike behind them
Copyright Michelle Olanski (iPhotography Student)

The Virtues of Weather Photography

Timing is everything in bad weather photography. The moments before a storm breaks or right after can produce the most dramatic light and sky formations. Keeping an eye on weather forecasts and being ready to shoot at a moment’s notice is crucial.

Patience is equally important. Bad weather is unpredictable, and waiting for the right moment can make all the difference. Whether it’s the perfect lighting strike or the moment the fog lifts to reveal the landscape, patience pays off in stunning imagery.

Country road under a stormy sky
Copyright Carol Fourie (iPhotography Student)

Post-Processing: Enhancing the Mood of Bad Weather Photos

Post-processing plays a significant role in bad weather photography.

It allows you to enhance the mood and drama of your images. Adjusting the contrast, clarity, and saturation can bring out the textures and colours of a stormy scene.

Converting your images to black and white can also emphasise the dramatic interplay of light and shadow, adding a timeless quality to your photos.

However, it’s important to maintain the balance and avoid over-processing. The aim should be to enhance the natural beauty and drama of the scene, not to overshadow it with heavy-handed edits.

stormy waves in black and white
Copyright Andrea Gully (iPhotography Student)

Ideal Camera Settings for Rain Photography

Taking photos in the rain can lead to some of the most atmospheric and compelling images, but it also presents unique challenges, particularly regarding camera settings and the necessity for weather-sealed gear.

Here’s a deeper dive into optimising your camera settings for rainy conditions and the importance of using weather-sealed cameras, along with some examples.

Shutter Speed: The choice of shutter speed can dramatically affect the appearance of rain in your photos. A fast shutter speed (1/500th of a second or faster) will freeze the raindrops in mid-air, capturing them as sharp, clear droplets.

This technique is excellent for emphasising the rain itself, perhaps against a dark background for contrast.

Conversely, a slower shutter speed (1/60th of a second or slower) can turn the rain into streaks, conveying a sense of movement and atmosphere. This setting works well for creating a moody or ethereal effect.

three retro cars in the rain
Copyright Kevin Pamphlion (iPhotography Student)

Aperture: A wider aperture (a lower f-number) lets in more light, which is beneficial in the often dim light of rainy conditions.

It also allows for a shallow depth of field, focusing on your subject while rendering the rain softly in the background or foreground, adding depth to the image. In contrast, a smaller aperture (a higher f-number) will keep more of the scene in focus, which can be useful for capturing detailed landscapes or cityscapes in the rain.

ISO: Rainy conditions often mean lower light, tempting photographers to increase their ISO setting. A higher ISO can compensate for the lack of light, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds to freeze raindrops or maintain a smaller aperture for depth. However, be cautious as increasing ISO also increases the noise or grain in the image.

Modern cameras have improved high ISO performance, so you can often push the ISO higher than you might expect before noise becomes detrimental.

Manual Focus: Autofocus can sometimes struggle in the rain, especially if the camera mistakenly focuses on raindrops rather than your intended subject.

Switching to manual focus gives you complete control, ensuring your subject is sharp.

Waves crashing against sea wall in stormy weather
Copyright Ray Bilcliff

Top Weather-Sealed Cameras

Weather-sealed cameras are specifically designed to resist moisture and dust, making them ideal for shooting in the rain or other challenging conditions.

These cameras have seals and gaskets at all potential entry points, providing an extra layer of protection against the elements.


Best Weather-Sealed Cameras

Canon EOS R5: A high-resolution, full-frame mirrorless camera known for its robust weather sealing. It’s suitable for professional use in challenging conditions, offering excellent image quality and autofocus performance.

Nikon Z7 II: This full-frame mirrorless camera offers a solid build quality with comprehensive weather sealing. It’s designed to handle adverse weather conditions, making it a great choice for outdoor and nature photographers.

Sony A7R IV: Sony’s full-frame mirrorless camera boasts impressive weather sealing, high resolution, and exceptional autofocus capabilities. It’s versatile and reliable for shooting in varied weather conditions.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III: A smaller Micro Four Thirds system known for its compact size and significant weather sealing. It’s particularly favoured by outdoor and wildlife photographers who need a lightweight, rugged camera system.

Fujifilm X-T4: This APS-C mirrorless camera combines a retro design with modern features, including comprehensive weather sealing. It’s well-suited for street, travel, and outdoor photography in unpredictable weather.

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Shutter Speed in Windy Conditions

In windy and stormy conditions, choosing the right shutter speed becomes a critical decision in the photographer’s toolkit, impacting not just exposure but the very storytelling aspect of the image. The interplay between shutter speed and motion blur can transform a photograph from a simple snapshot into a powerful narrative of nature’s forces.

In windy conditions, objects and elements like trees, grass, water, and even debris are moving. The shutter speed determines how these elements appear in the final image:


Fast Shutter Speeds (1/500th of a second or faster) can freeze motion, capturing individual droplets of water splashing against the shore or leaves suspended in air. This setting is ideal for highlighting the raw power and precise details of a stormy scene.

Rain drops with fast shutter speed
Image: Rain drops with fast shutter speed

Slow Shutter Speeds (1/60th of a second or slower) introduce motion blur, which can convey movement and chaos, adding a sense of dynamism and fluidity to the image.

For example, using a slow shutter speed can turn waves into misty veils and tree branches into soft whisps, evoking the relentless force of the wind.

Adjusting the shutter speed allows photographers to creatively interpret a scene, deciding whether to crystallise a moment in absolute clarity or to embrace the blur of motion for dramatic effect.

Rain drops with slow shutter speed
Image: Rain drops with slow shutter speed

Motion Blur in Stormy Photography

Motion blur occurs when the subject or the camera moves during the exposure, resulting in a streaking or blurring effect in the direction of the movement.

In windy conditions, this can be used to great artistic effect or combated with stabilisation techniques and faster shutter speeds, depending on the photographer’s intention.

Intentional motion blur can impart a sense of the surreal, the powerful, or the ethereal to an image, conveying the unseen forces of wind and weather. It’s a tool that, when wielded with skill, can elevate a photograph to a work of art.

A stormy beach scene
Copyright Kian Lütke

Top Stormy Weather Photographers

Several photographers have made names for themselves by capturing the awe-inspiring power of stormy seas, tempestuous skies, and the eerie calm before the storm. Their work exemplifies how shutter speed and motion blur can be used to convey the essence of a storm.


Rachael Talibart

Rachael Talibart is renowned for her dramatic seascapes that often seem to capture mythical creatures rising from the depths of the ocean. Her series “Sirens” features towering waves frozen at high shutter speeds, each named after mythological beings, encapsulating the chaotic beauty of the sea in stormy conditions.

Talibart’s ability to freeze such moments in time invites viewers to ponder the ephemeral nature of these powerful natural phenomena.

Maelstrom by Rachael Talibart
Copyright 'Maelstrom' by Rachael Talibart

Mitch Dobrowner

Mitch Dobrowner captures stormscapes with a surreal, almost apocalyptic beauty. Dobrowner’s work in the American midwest chasing storms brings him face-to-face with some of the most dramatic weather conditions on earth.

His use of black and white photography, combined with strategic shutter speeds, emphasises the contrast and drama of these moments, from the sharply defined supercell storms to the soft blurring of rain and hail.

Copyright Mammatus by Mitch Dobrowner
Copyright 'Mammatus' by Mitch Dobrowner

Camille Seaman

Camille Seaman focuses on the majestic and often terrifying beauty of supercell thunderstorms. Her work, particularly in the project “The Big Cloud,” showcases the monumental scale and power of storms.

Seaman’s use of varying shutter speeds allows her to capture both the static and dynamic elements of these tempests, from crisp, ominous cloud formations to the blurred fury of a tornado’s path.

Copyright Supercell with Windmill by Camille Seaman
Copyright Supercell with Windmill by Camille Seaman

Bad Weather Photography: Summary

The choice of shutter speed in windy and stormy conditions is a powerful creative decision that can significantly impact the narrative and emotional resonance of a photograph.

Whether opting for clarity and detail with fast speeds or embracing the abstract and dynamic with slower speeds, photographers like Rachel Talibart, Mitch Dobrowner, and Camille Seaman show us the vast potential of storm photography.

Their work exemplifies how mastering technical aspects, such as shutter speed and motion blur, can turn the chaotic beauty of storms into compelling visual stories.

(iPhotography may make small commissions from links in this article.) 


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