As far as I know, rain can be shown in photographs in the following ways:

  1. Droplets on grass/leaves.
  2. People holding umbrellas.
  3. Paper boats floating.
  4. Water accumulated in pits.

But I want to show the falling rain. I mean the rain drops when they haven't yet touched the ground. These rain drops are not visible with the naked eye unless there is a dark background behind them.

So, the question is, that what natural subject can/should be focused on (as a decent background) for such a shot? I live in an industrial area so the only option which I could think of is the wall of some other building.

Any thing else which can be considered? Or any ideas of showing the falling rain in some other way?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1256/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 8:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ On your specific question on background - you should not focus on background, but on your subject (the raindrops). AF will not do that, so use manual focus or AF on something at equal distance. As you have already found, the background should be dark - a tree with dark leaves, a dark rock, dark ground, dark cloud... \$\endgroup\$
    – Imre
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ "When to use it" - whenever the autofocus has hard time focusing on what's important to you. I am pretty sure you will not be able to autofocus on the drops themselves, so try focusing on a subject which is just as far, and then turn off autofocus to remain with the last focus settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 10:30

2 Answers 2


Background can be anything, for example just trees - but the lighting is important. If it lights up the drops (for example from the side), you'll catch them, if not, then they'll stay invisible before the background. That is not so different from snow.

In an industrial area I'd try to catch rain under street-lights in dusk/dawn at first - if you get the knack, you can combine with architecture or full/empty streets ...

Of course, the heavier the rain (with big drops), the easier it gets: enter image description here

Edit: Just for the sake of completeness: viewing this article about a picture I realize that you can add another technique to your ideas of showing rain somehow:

5. Take a picture with drops on your lens distorting the picture.


In Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure", he recommends that in order to simulate falling rain, you use a garden sprinkler, and exposure time of 1/60 sec. Shoot your subjects backlit for best results.

This video shows how it's done.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That haircut is almost enough for me to retract my +1... \$\endgroup\$
    – user456
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 9:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Miners - LOL! Yeah, it took me some time to get used to it when first watching his video series... \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 9:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that more than the background it is the lighting that is important. In the video you can see how back lighting helps to separate the drops from the background. If you are shooting against a wall, try to blur the wall as much as possible - it will help further distinguish you subject from the background. \$\endgroup\$
    – ysap
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 10:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ A bright light will do as much to make the droplets visible as a dark background. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fake Name
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 11:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I second the idea to understand how the light influences a scene while experimenting with artifical rain. \$\endgroup\$
    – Leonidas
    Commented Jul 16, 2011 at 11:27

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