6 top tips to keep your camera dry when shooting in wet conditions

First published:
September 22, 2022
February 6, 2024

6 top tips to keep your camera dry when shooting in wet conditions

First published:
September 22, 2022
February 6, 2024

Downpour by Sarah Hardy

Every photographer will be forced to shoot in wet conditions at some point. Here are some top tips to help you ensure that you keep your camera dry and safe.

There is no avoiding the fact that as a photographer, there will be times when you will have to photograph near water or even in the rain. But rather than despair, you should embrace these conditions that can add real mood and emotion to your photos. Some places look better in the rain or just after it has rained. For example, waterfalls will be fuller, and forests and jungles will have a brighter green colour. Even cities will look great when it’s raining or just after it has stopped as all the haze and pollution will be washed away. And as long as you know how to keep your camera dry and safe, you’ll be able to capture great photos.

1 Protect your camera

A plastic bag and elastic band can make for excellent makeshift protection for your camera in wet conditions

When you are photographing anywhere where there is water, the most important thing is, first and foremost, to ensure that you keep your camera dry. Higher-end cameras are often weatherproof, so you should be OK when photographing in wet conditions. But even so, it is still best to try and keep your camera as dry as possible until you need to use it. And of course, if your camera isn’t weatherproof, it is imperative to keep it dry.

So a good tip is to always carry a rain cover to protect your camera in these conditions. If you don’t have one, a plastic bag makes a good substitute, and if you cut a hole at the end of a plastic bag and feed your lens through it, you can have a homemade rain cover. It should sit around your lens hood, and you can ensure it stays in place with a rubber band. It is a much more cost-effective way of protecting your camera than buying expensive camera covers.

2 Find cover

Downpour. Photo by Sarah Hardy - f/2.2 | ISO 250 | 1/200s

If you are shooting in the rain, whether you have a cover or not for your camera, it’s a good idea to try and find something to stand under when you shoot (if possible). This will help you keep your camera dry and hopefully avoid getting too much rain on your lens glass. There are places where finding cover will be rugged, but even in the wilderness, you may find a tree to stand under.

3 Have lots of lens cloth to hand

Palisade Falls. Photo by Anupam Hatui - f/5 | ISO 125 | 1/125s

The biggest problem you will have will be getting water on your lens glass which will show up in your photos. When photographing near waterfalls or coastlines, haze and splashes can land on your lens glass, this can be a real issue.

So, unfortunately, you will have to constantly wipe your lens glass clean (sometimes after every shot). If the rain is heavy or if there is a lot of wind, you may not even be able to shoot one frame without getting water on your glass. So having a lens cloth or a few and even a big face towel will be invaluable.

When you are wiping your lens, turn your back against the direction of the water and keep your camera close to your body. You can even lean over it to create a bit of cover. Wipe your glass in a circular motion as quickly as possible and immediately point your camera to the ground or put the lens cap on.

4 Cover your lens glass

Waterfalls are prone to giving off spray which can reach quite a significant distance - make sure you're packing plenty of microfibre cloths and wipe down your lens after each shot to make sure it's clear of any water droplets

Limiting how long it is exposed to the elements is the only way to minimise the amount of water that will get onto your lens. So, I always use a good trick: getting all my settings correct, framing the shot and focusing. If there is a danger that the camera might autofocus on something else, I would even put it onto manual after it has focused on the point I want it to. I then use the above technique to clean my lens glass, so it’s ready to shoot.

Now, this is the important part… I cover my lens glass with a towel or my hand, point to where I want to shoot and remove the towel or my hand just before shooting. With a bit of luck, you may be able to fire off one or two shots without getting water on your glass. You must repeat the process if you want to take more photos.

5 Shooting with a tripod 

Draping a towel over your camera and tripod can help keep excess water off your setup - just make sure the towel isn't covering the front of the lens when you press the shutter!

Using a tripod in these conditions will make things easier as you have both hands free to cover your camera. Using the same techniques as above, you can frame your shot and set your camera on a 2-second timer. If I am photographing in the rain, I normally use a face towel to cover the camera, and when I press the shutter button lift the towel to create a bit of a ledge in front of the lens. Unless the rain comes directly at you, this should give you ample time to take a few photos.

When shooting near waterfalls or coastlines, this technique might be a tricker to execute as the spray from the water might be coming from below. But if not, this might still work in these conditions as well.

Just be sure not to accidentally capture the towel at the top of your frame, primarily if you shoot with a wide-angle lens.

6 Don’t forget your gloves

Worms Head. Photo by Spenser Davies - f/13 | ISO 100 | 1/200s

All the tips above are about keeping your camera dry. But it’s also essential to ensure that you are dry and warm. An important part of this is making sure your hands are warm. So, gloves are one of the most important accessories when shooting anywhere that is wet. As your hands get wet, they will feel colder much quicker, especially if it’s windy (like near the coastline). So, a pair of waterproof gloves will be invaluable.

Author note:

I don’t think any photographer enjoys photographing in the rain or even when faced with wet conditions. But of course, sometimes it is necessary and, in some places, it provides beautiful conditions for shooting.

Your first action point should be to check if your camera is weather sealed. If it is, it will provide reasonable protection against the rain so your main concern will be keeping water off your lens glass. But even if it’s not, by following the tips above, you should be able to capture great photos and keep your camera dry and safe.
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