When it’s raining, don’t forget to protect your camera! Unless you have someone who can hold an umbrella over you, keep your compact camera inside your raincoat or use a locking plastic bag as a temporary waterproof housing. You can create your own housing by putting your camera in a plastic bag, with a hole cut out for the lens. Be sure to secure the bag to the front rim of your lens with a rubber band. Take care that the bag doesn’t block your viewfinder or any auto-focusing windows on the front of your camera. It’s also a good time to try a single-use waterproof camera. There are also several splash-proof compact cameras on the market. Some even feature a built-in zoom lens for added versatility.
Gray skies don’t usually add much to a picture, so it’s best to minimize the sky or find scenes where you can crop the sky out. A gray sky can fool your cameras meter and will render the rest of your picture too dark. If the foreground in your photo is exposed properly, the sky might appear chalky and white in contrast.
In a heavy downpour the rain itself can be your subject. Most point-and-shoot cameras will automatically use shutter speeds fast enough to freeze the motion of raindrops. If your camera allows you to override the shutter speed, try slowing it down to 1/30 or slower. The rain will then become long diagonal streaks cutting through the frame of your picture. If you are taking a picture of raindrops, try using a dark background to make the rain stand out.
You might also want to take pictures of people with colorful umbrellas that provide a bright contrast to a dull day. Then try zeroing in on the umbrellas themselves for a close-up abstract design. Puddles and the wet pavement will have reflections that may provide interesting photo opportunities as well.
A storm can produce some other great photographic byproducts in addition to the rain. Lightning, for example, is a wonderful thing to capture on film. It can also be quite dangerous, so take pictures only from a distance and preferably from inside a building or a car. You can photograph lightning day or night, although night shots will be the most dramatic. If your point-and-shoot camera allows you to override the shutter speed, set your camera for a speed of several seconds. Steady it with a tripod or on a windowsill and aim it in the direction of the lightning. Open your shutter, keeping a lens cap or a piece of black cardboard over the lens until you see a flash of lightning. Uncover the lens to record the lightning and then cover it, and wait for the next flash. If several bolts of lightning appear during the time your shutter is open, you may be capture some dramatic photos indeed.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to capture a rainbow after the storm. You may not be able to predict where it will occur, but you can increase your chance of seeing one by facing away from the sun after a storm. After you capture your rain photos, try scouting around for potential compositions for rainbows (most of the time, though, rainbows take you by surprise and you just have to make do with the foreground that’s in front of you). A rainbow in an empty sky is still pretty, but if you can include an interesting foreground, you’ll get a sense of scale and place in your picture.
In terms of film choices, ISO 100 is fine in many daylight rainy situations. But if the light is dim, or you’re shooting at night, try a faster film such as 400 to 1000.
Armed with this knowledge – and your raincoat and waterproof camera – you don’t ever have to let a prediction of rain stop your photography again.