One of the reasons we love Arizona? Sunshine. Vitamin D, baby! It’s good for the skin, the soul and shooting too –– and we get lots of it. In fact, when people ask us how we deal with the summer heat (which basically feels like living in an oven), we tell them, “Some places get blizzards of snow. We get blizzards of sunshine. You just have to pick your poison.” We mean it. But… a few times every year, we still get rain on a wedding day. A sentence we can’t say without channeling our inner Alanis Morrissette. Raaaiiinnn on a wedding day! And even though it’s more challenging than shooting a wedding day with predictable weather, it can still be great as long as you’re prepared. So, to help you at your next rainy wedding, here are some tips for shooting weddings in the rain.
A wise friend told us once, “Don’t fight the battle twice.” In other words, Don’t worry about things you can’t control until you have to confront them. If your Weather.com is as accurate as ours, it’ll change every day leading up to the event anyways, and as long as you have the right gear in your bag, there’s really nothing else you can do!
— We purchased eight clear plastic umbrellas a few years ago and we put them in our trunk every time we shoot a wedding. Why eight? Because we usually have 4-6 bridesmaids (and they can each share with a groomsman) and then we still have a few for the bride and groom to have their own.
— Also, your cameras and lenses are water resistant but NOT waterproof. We learned that one the hard way. So unless you’re just getting a light drizzle, if you’re going to be in the rain for an extended period of time, cover your camera and lens with a Storm Jacket. We bought the biggest one because it’s long enough to cover a camera body and 70-200mm lens. Click here to read more about our experience with the Storm Jacket. It’s been worth every penny.
— Most rolling camera bags are made from cloth material and can soak through. You don’t want to leave your bag (with all you lenses in it!) sitting in the rain, but you also need them close by, among the MANY reasons why we purchased a Think Tank bag that comes with a rain jacket that covers the top and sides of the entire bag, so it can sit out in the rain without any problems.
— Lastly, keep lens hoods on your lenses to keep drops of rain from hitting the glass, and keep a microfiber cloth to help keep drops off of it!
Rain slows everything down a little bit because it takes longer to move people from one place to the next (think puddles, wet grass, etc.) and if you get an intense microburst of precipitation, sometimes you have to wait it out for 5-10 minutes (or longer) before you can run out an shoot again. The morning of a wedding, if it’s raining or the weather confirms it’s going to be raining, we arrive an hour early to give ourselves more leeway with the timeline. If we have to stop multiple times for really big downpours, the extra few hours can make all the difference between us finishing all the photos before the ceremony (as planned) and having to move bridal party or family photos to cocktail hour.
Even though there are great apps (like Dark Skies) that can tell you when the rain will start and stop, with pretty good accuracy, we never assume we’ll get clear skies back once it goes dark. So, for example, at Lindsey and Charles’s wedding (below) we got hammered just as we were starting bridesmaids photos. Instead of assuming it’d let up, we went under a white tent covering the ceremony location and kept shooting. Our logic: if it doesn’t stop raining, these are shots we have to get, no matter what. If it does stop raining, we’ll try and go back outside and shoot them again. But right now we have two choices (shoot or do nothing) so we’re going to shoot. It did stop raining with just enough time to get a full bridesmaids shot outside before the ceremony started, but if we hadn’t taken individual shots with the bride and each bridesmaid under the tent, they wouldn’t exist –– and we know our clients would rather have those than nothing at all. We have to constantly keep in check our inner-photography divas, who would only shoot in perfect lighting conditions, and remember that our clients and their memories are more important than anything else.
Just in case there’s not enough time, we ask our bride and groom to quickly tell us which family shots on their list are the absolute most important (if they haven’t already) and which ones can be done at the reception if needed. That way, we can help set a realistic expectation for them of which ones we think we can get while we’re outside (with the venue/property in the background) and which ones will have to be inside or wait until later.
With rain, we always prioritize people over details. So, even though we typically give ourselves 30 minutes during cocktail hour to shoot reception details, when it rains, we have to assume the worst: that the timeline will get behind and we’ll be doing all the bridal party, family and couple photos during cocktail hour. With that assumption in place, we shoot through transitions. So, for example, at Lindsey and Charles’s wedding, we had a 15-minute drive, from the hotel where the couple was getting ready, to the venue. We always get there a little faster than them, so as soon as we arrived at the venue, we knew we’d have at least five minutes to shoot any reception or ceremony decor that was already up before our couple arrived for their first look. So we ran around like crazy people photographing every small detail we could, even though the whole thing wasn’t finished being set yet, just in case that was the only chance we’d get. It turned out not to be, but you can never be too careful.
You’re going to get soaked. Your hair might make you look like a drowned rat. You’ll have mud all over your shoes and maybe even on your wool suit. You’ll be sore and tired and hungry, because it’s just a lot more work than a normal wedding. You might even be jealous, because your photographer friends across the country are shooting in golden hour light while you’re praying for the rain to stop. But we have to be alert, and leave it all on the field, giving 100% of our physical and mental (just as important) energy every second we’re on the clock. Going above and beyond is the name of the game for two reasons.
First, your client and everyone else will notice that you’ve given your absolute best –– which is what they deserve.
Second, you’ll know in your heart of hearts that, despite the obstacles, you did everything in your power to give your bride her dream day.
The third (and final) is a bonus: if you do the first two (and everything else above) you’ll actually still get to deliver a gallery of images that your bride and groom will love; and even though they’ll always remember the rain on their wedding day, when she looks at her photos, she’ll forget for a second, because all of your hard work will shine through.
One of our most important jobs as photographers is making sure we’re adding joy, and not extra stress, to an already stressful situation. The more we can focus on encouraging, smiling and reaffirming our clients and everyone around us, the better experience our clients are going to have, which is just important (if not more!) than the images themselves.
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