How do you get good shots in bad weather?

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Recently we planned a family vacation in Vietnam as a nice break from the cold of Shanghai. It was 24ºc (75ºf) in Hanoi so we booked the tickets and suffered through a few more weeks of the big chill. Suddenly the holiday was here so we dusted off the swimsuits and threw our t-shirts and shorts into the... Holy Crap 12ºc! For once planning ahead was not a good idea. We were booked during a rare and short lived cold spell in Hanoi. I mean that literally. A few days after we got back the temperature returned to 24ºc.

I had some nice photos for our holidays planned and my wife and daughters had some beautiful dresses arranged and colour coordinated but that was all replaced by chunky sweaters, scarves and wholly hats. So how do you take any family snaps while on an overcast vacation? Here are some tips on how to still bring home some memories in inclement weather.

Aim Downwards

The worst thing about vacation photos in dull weather is the sky. A stormy or rainy sky can work great but there is nothing you can do about a blanket white overcast sky. Everything will look dull no matter what you do and it can’t be ‘fixed’ in Photoshop. So don’t shoot the sky. Aim your camera downwards to exclude or minimise it and concentrate on your family and the environment.

This kind of portrait is perfect for dull weather as bright sunshine would spoil it and with the low angle and the Forrest backdrop it won’t be ruined by an overcast sky.

This kind of portrait is perfect for dull weather as bright sunshine would spoil it and with the low angle and the Forrest backdrop it won’t be ruined by an overcast sky.

Don’t shoot wide

Keep your compositions tight and concentrate on your subject with a little bit of environment. Stay away from that wide angle lens.

3...2...1 coming ready or not! My daughter playing hide and seek.

3...2...1 coming ready or not! My daughter playing hide and seek.

Find interesting enclosed locations

Seek out parks or city locations where the sky in not really visible anyway and you don’t have to worry.

These tracks in Hanoi are special as there are only two trains a day so it was safe for us to walk along them at that hour. But usually it’s quite a dangerous thing to do and every year many people die, so be careful.

These tracks in Hanoi are special as there are only two trains a day so it was safe for us to walk along them at that hour. But usually it’s quite a dangerous thing to do and every year many people die, so be careful.


B&W

This B&W Shot allows all the textures of the tree trunk to stand out.

This B&W Shot allows all the textures of the tree trunk to stand out.

Another element of the dull weather is the ‘flat’ lighting that envelopes everything. This is most evident in colours as they are lifeless and lack contrast. No, don’t boost the saturation in Lightroom, that will look overdone and artificial. Either desaturate the colours to embrace the natural look or even better go B&W. Black and White looks great in any type of lighting.


Undress briefly

Unless you’re in a beautiful snowscape or a wonderful windy Autumn afternoon no one is going to look to comfortable wrapped up in coats and scarves. So if you find a great location or the weather briefly picks up, even for a few minutes, momentarily ditch the heavy protection for some more relaxed photos.