Outdoor photographer Giles Babbidge shows you how to go beyond the golden hour with top tips on taking photographs in the damp, drizzle and muck
When the weather doesn’t go in your favour, the last thing you should do is abandon your plans to head out for spot of photography. Instead, embrace the situation and put your creativity to the test.
Here are a few suggestions for turning less than perfect conditions to your advantage.
Don’t be afraid to use high ISO settings
So often, we hear a lot of talk about how camera sensors have improved over recent years and how good they are now at producing fine, noise-free results even at high ISO settings. Put them to the test!
There are occasions where shooting at a really high ISO (in the region of ISO 6400 and above) can be beneficial. The ability to select fast shutter speeds in dull conditions is great as it allows you to freeze movement.
Once you accept that your pictures are likely to contain more noise (or, graininess), why not experiment a little by pushing things even further up the scale? Embrace high ISOs for creative effects!
Protect yourself and your camera equipment
Manfrotto Pro Light E-702 Elements Cover
It goes without saying, but if you are comfortable when you’re taking pictures, you’re likely to have more fun. You’ll be enjoying not just the results but the process much more as well.
In less than perfect conditions, make sure you adopt the layering system, which allows you to easily add or remove layers of clothing to remain at a dry, comfortable temperature throughout the day. In the wet, a sturdy pair of walking boots and good quality waterproof outer garments (jacket and trousers) are a priority. Breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex are well worth the extra investment.
Be sure to protect your photographic kit, too. A bag with generous rain flaps over its pockets and zips is a must – ideally pick a design that also features a fold-away waterproof cover.
When using your camera in the rain, do your best to keep it covered until the very last minute, or better yet use a dedicated rain cover, which allows you to protect the camera while freely operating all its controls.
Spend an hour concentrating on details
Sometimes, it can be all too easy to discount a location or a scene in front of you just because it looks uninspiring in bad weather. Maybe the colour has gone, or the light is flat – everything just looks lifeless…
Well, take this as an opportunity to hone your observational skills and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results you get.
If it’s a rainy day and you’re in town, look for interesting reflections in puddles or turn your attentions to passers-by for some quick-grab candid portraits. If you’re down by the sea, try to find interesting patterns or abstracts on the beach, or capture the waves as they crash against the rocks. Above all, be open to exploring the small-scale potential around you.
See the world in black and white
Similarly, working on the principle of removing unwanted detail from a scene, why not explore an area with a view to producing images in black and white only?
Many cameras now allow you to shoot on a dedicated b&w setting if you so wish. Whether you do this or convert in post-production, the name of the game is to concentrate on contrast and areas of shadow and highlight.
Along with this, you’ll want to look out for bold shapes and textures – subjects that don’t necessarily rely on colour in order to hold the viewer’s attention.
Experiment with flash
If you’ve never used flash outdoors, an overcast day is the perfect time to try it.
Specifically, have a play around with the technique known as fill-in (sometimes called fill flash). Whereas on a bright day, you would use a small burst of light to add illumination to shadow areas, on a grey day, it can be set at a higher output to overpower the daylight.
The effect is the darkening of an already cloudy sky, which adds drama to a picture. Perfect for portraits, especially shot from low down, or with a brightly-coloured subject such as a person wearing a waterproof coat.
There are many ways to turn poor weather to your advantage, and the above are just a few suggestions. Have fun with them, use them on their own or together, and enjoy the process.
You never know, you just might find yourself hoping for less than perfect conditions so that you can experiment further!
About the Author
Giles Babbidge is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Hampshire. He travels all around the UK and works with a wide range of clients – you can find out more about his day-to-day activities over at his website.