Sun-kissed landscapes have long inspired photographers, but some of the most spectacular shots ever taken have been at the other end of the weather spectrum. On April 26, 1884, A.A. Adams was the first person to ever photograph a tornado as it tore through Anderson county in Kansas, USA. Many people consider Adams to be one of the first ever storm chasers.

Today photographers dedicate their whole careers to chasing wild and wonderful weather-scapes, from double rainbows all the way across the sky to dramatic wave-battered seascapes. Mind you, you don’t have to pack your survival kit to get into weather photography. In fact, all you really need is your smartphone, a comfy pair of shoes and a good waterproof jacket.

  1. Recommended camera gear for photographing the weather
  2. How to photograph bright sunny days
  3. How to photograph seastorms
  4. How to photograph rainbows
  5. How to photograph storm clouds and overcast skies
  6. How to photograph lightning
  7. How to photograph rainy scenes
  8. How to photograph snow

You can get fantastic weather photos with any camera or smartphone, but for the best results consider using a DSLR or modern mirrorless that you can use in full manual mode. You’ll also want a wide angle lens, such as a 10mm prime or 18-55mm zoom lens to capture as much of your scene as possible. Zoom lenses are more practical for shooting in bad weather as, unlike prime lenses, you won’t need to change it as often and risk water or dirt getting into your camera.

For ultimate piece of mind, use a weather-sealed camera and/or lens, which will give you a more rugged setup for shooting in inclimate weather. Of course, many smartphones these days are waterproof, making them perfect for weather photography.

You’ll also need a tripod to hold your phone or camera during long exposures (especially if you want to shoot lightning).

Photography tips for all types of weather

How to photograph bright sunny days

Super sunny days are unquestionably beautiful, but they can be surprisingly difficult to photograph. Sometimes you’ll find there’s simply too much light, while other times you’ll find dark shadows that are too contrasty to control. This is especially true in the city. If you’re trying to take portraits of your partner or children, simply move into the shade where the light is softer and more flattering. Whether it be under a canopy of trees or down a sheltered alleyway or street, you’ll find you can get much better portraits or detail shots with a bit of shade. But to truly make the most of sunny days, head out to your local park, beach or mountains. Use a small aperture opening such as f/11 or f/16 to get as much of your landscape shots in focus. A wide-angle lens, such as 10mm or 18mm will help you capture more of your scene and provide a sense of scale. Your smartphone camera will also be perfect for this, as most cameras have a focal length of around 28mm.

How to photograph seastorms

Most people avoid the beach when the weather’s “bad”, which is a great thing for us photographers. Visiting the coast during a storm means that not only will you be able to capture the wild shoreline, but you’ll also have the whole place to yourself. Take a wide-angle lens, such as a 10mm or 18mm, or use your phone which has a perfect focal length for photographing seascapes. This will let you get as much of the seascape in your shot as possible, including the sky as well as the sea. You may also want to use a telephoto lens (anything from 100m and up) to zoom in on individual waves and capture them breaking. Use a fast shutter speed of around 1/500 or faster to “freeze” the motion of the waves. Or use a slow shutter speed of 1/50 and slower to introduce motion blur to your images and show the motion of the ocean.

Bonus tip: Get creative with your sea storm photos by introducing details. Look for surfers riding waves, birds soaring above, or ships on the horizon. Include some of the beach life in your foreground, such as silhouettes of walkers or dogs.

How to photograph rainbows

What could be better than stumbling upon a rainbow lit up across the sky. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes on earth. However, it’s not always the easiest to photograph. Start by framing up your shot. Either use a wide angle lens, such as 10mm or 18mm, to capture the whole rainbow, or zoom in and try to capture one end of the rainbow in a little more detail. Consider what you can include in the foreground or background to make your shot more interesting and show a sense of scale. Keep your ISO as low as possible (no higher than 400 in bright sunlight) and use a narrow aperture such as f/11 or even f/16 to make sure everything is in focus. Take as many photos as you can as quickly as you can – rainbows don’t hang around for long!

Bonus tip: Consider investing in a polarising filter, which you can attach to your camera lens to help enhance the colours and clarity of your rainbow photos.

How to photograph storm clouds and overcast skies

Stormy skies always result in dark and moody photos and can be especially dramatic when shot in black and white. The key to shooting scenes like this is to have an interesting subject at ground level too. This could be a rural village or a farm, a silhouette of your child or partner, or even an animal such as a horse or your pet dog. To get as much detail in the clouds as possible, use a narrow aperture such as f/8 or f/10, which will ensure the clouds are in focus as well as your ground-level subject.

Bonus tip: Overcast skies bring beautifully soft and diffused light which is perfect for shooting outdoor portraits.

How to photograph lightning

Capturing a lightning bolt blazing through the night’s sky is the ultimate goal for many nature photography enthusiasts. For the best shots you’ll need a tripod and a camera that you can switch into full manual mode. Note that you can also use a photo app like Manual Camera DSLR to gain full control of your phone camera’s settings, so you don’t need a professional DSLR or mirrorless camera.

Start by setting your camera or phone up on a tripod so that you can see both the ground and sky in the frame. You might imagine you’d need a super fast shutter speed to photograph lightning, but in reality slower is better. Dial in your ISO as low as it will go (around 100 or 160) and select an aperture of f/16. Then select a shutter speed of five seconds and take a test shot. Keep taking photos until you see a lightning bolt flash while your camera is taking the photo. If your image is too dark, try an even slower shutter speed – some of the best lightning photos were taken with a 30-second shutter speed!

How to photograph rainy scenes

Rain can add some serious atmosphere to your photos, whether you’re shooting landscapes or portraits. You’ll obviously need some kind of covering for your camera or phone to protect it from getting wet, as well as a good waterproof jacket. An umbrella is also a great idea as you can hold it over yourself as well as your camera to stay dry while shooting.

Consider using manual focus to stop your camera focussing on the raindrops closest to the lens. It’s also fun to play around with your shutter speed. A slow shutter speed such as 1/25 will blur out the rain and result in really dramatic looking landscapes, while a faster shutter speed like 1/250 or 1/500 will help you freeze the rain drops in the sky. This can be better for shooting portraits in the rain, as your subject will still be visible in the shot.

Bonus tip: Get creative by photography reflections in puddles. This can be a fantastic way to photograph interesting buildings in a city.

How to photograph snow

From portraits to landscapes, shooting snowy scenes can result in magical photographs, but they’re surprisingly tricky to get right. The brightness caused by light reflecting off snow can confuse your camera and make colours look a little funny. For this reason, before you start shooting it’s a good idea to adjust your camera or phone’s white balance setting. In fact, your camera or phone will likely have a dedicated “snow” white balance profile (look for the snowflake symbol). Then it’s time to dial in your settings. Start with a low ISO of 400 or lower, and an aperture of around f/8 or f/11 to ensure as much of your scene is in focus as possible. Use a fast shutter speed of 1/500 or faster to freeze the motion of snowfall or, if you have a tripod, slow it down to around 1/25 to introduce motion blur and show the snowflake falling from the sky. You may notice your images look too dark. This will be because the glare of the snow is confusing your camera. In this case, try increasing your exposure compensation by +1 (or increasing your brightness if you’re using your phone).

Bonus tip: Snowflakes are simply spectacular when photographed up close. Zoom in as close as you can, or consider using a special macro lens to capture as much detail as possible.

Remember that the key to taking beautiful weather photographs is simply to get outside as much as possible. All you need is your phone or camera and the right clothing – Mother Nature will provide the rest!

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