Take Care of the Camera When Photographing in Rain

Being a landscape photographer often means being outside in bad and uninviting weather. Camping in storms, photographing in rain, or standing in the splash zone of a waterfall while freezing your fingers off are just some of the situations we repeatedly find ourselves in. Being out in these rough conditions can easily result in the death of your camera but there are certain precautions you can make to minimize the risk of damaging it in rough weather.

Protect your camera with a rain cover

Even though high-end DSLR cameras are built to withstand harsh conditions, they are not waterproof and too much water can quickly damage both the body and lens. A rain cover is a good investment to protect your camera from water damage.

Most of you are familiar with photographing in rain or standing right in the splash zone of a waterfall. If it’s just a little rain or water it’s normally not a big issue, regardless of your camera, but as soon as the amount of rain increases it’s time to be more careful. Using a rain cover in such a situation might be what saves the camera from an unwanted death or severe damages. The good thing is that a rain cover normally doesn’t cost more than a couple bucks and you can find it in most electronic stores.

photographer in rain

Note that all rain covers do not fit all cameras and lenses. Typically, the types you’ll find in the local electronic shop are made for smaller cameras and lenses. When combining a high-end DSLR body with a zoom lens such as the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, a regular rain cover will not fit. Instead, you need to look for something larger that also has the possibility to tighten around the lens hood. Rain covers of that size will often have a pocket for a flash and two pockets for your hands so you can still control the camera.

Here are two rain covers I use and recommend:

As you can see, the price difference between the two is pretty significant. To be completely honest with you, most of the time you don’t need the most expensive version. However, the ThinkTank Hydrophobia has two sleeves for your hands so you can easily adjust all settings while the rain cover is on. I’ve found this to be extremely useful when standing in waterfalls or canyons where I need to take multiple images to capture the entire dynamic range.

If it’s important for you to be able to change the settings while using the rain cover, Altura also offers a Professional Rain Cover for DSLR Cameras at a much more reasonable price.

Disclaimer: I’m not in any way sponsored or paid by the mentioned brands to promote their products. This is solely my opinion and experience after using them.

Use an umbrella

While it’s not as sealed as a rain cover, an umbrella will in most cases do a perfectly fine job protecting the camera from rainfall (unless it’s windy, that is…).

Specially made umbrellas and umbrella holders are good tools for those using tripods. Attatching the umbrella directly to the tripod allows you to continue working with both your hands while you and the camera remain dry.

As I’ll come back to in the next tip, having an umbrella can be very useful when you want to change the lens while photographing in rain. Protecting the camera and lens from the rain and wind will allow you to change the lens without getting dirt or water on the camera sensor.

Avoid changing lenses when photographing in rain

This should go without saying but you would be surprised to hear how many times I’ve seen someone change lenses when photographing in rain or heavy winds. Is it really necessary to explain that this is a bad idea?

In fact, on a recent Iceland trip, I witnessed a man changing his lens while photographing at a beach in pouring rain and heavy winds, with large waves crashing nearby. I can only imagine how his sensor looked after that.

Changing lenses when photographing in rain or wind is quite possibly the worst thing you can do to your camera. The only times you should be changing lenses in such conditions is when you’re inside!

Getting dirt on the front element of the lens is normal and easy to clean either while photographing or at home. When that dirt is on the camera’s sensor however, it’s much worse. Even though most cameras get some dust on the sensor after a while, you want to try avoiding it. Cleaning the sensor is expensive and something you should be careful with if doing it yourself.

photographing in rain

If you absolutely need to change the lens make sure that you have an umbrella to protect the camera or at least some sort of shelter. You don’t want the rest of your trip ruined due to dirt on the sensor or, in the worst case, a broken sensor.

Use microfiber cloths

Microfiber cloths are my favorite tool for keeping my lenses clean when photographing in rain or any other conditions. If it’s raining so much that the front element of the lens is getting wet, using a microfiber cloth to simply wipe it off is all you need to do.

When photographing waterfalls, you’ll often find yourself working like this: wipe-shoot-wipe-shoot-wipe. It’s the easiest way to keep the lens dry and maintain high-quality images.

Photographing in Rain

Another good use of microfiber cloths is to wipe off water from the camera. While they are not intended to be used as a towel that’s sometimes the only option you have. You can’t bring a towel in your backpack all the time but there’s always space for a few microfiber cloths. The best part? It works!

What are your best practices when it comes to keeping your camera safe in rainy weather?