Tips & Tutorials

How to Capture Raindrops to Create Surreal-looking Portraits

You can alter the feel of a photo significantly by making effective use of pouring rain. In this article, I will introduce some professional tips for producing beautiful, surreal-looking shots by using an external flash to capture raindrops. (Reported by: Shoichi Asaoka)

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM/ FL: 41mm/ Manual exposure (f/2.8, 1/15 sec.)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto
With the nightscape as the background, I made use of the slow sync flash technique by slowing down the shutter speed to bring out the mystical feel in the model. Also, I used an additional flash unit to brighten the raindrops, thereby creating a fantastical look.

Step 1: Determine the model’s position after getting an idea of the final image

Step 2: Determine the exposure setting that allows the nightscape to be captured without a flash

Step 3: Set up one flash unit each behind and to the front left of the model


Step 1: Determine the model’s position after getting an idea of the final image

The first thing to prepare before the shoot is to determine the position of the model while checking details such as the background and reflections from the road surface. I took into consideration how the illuminated panels gradually became smaller one after the other, as well as their balance with the colour of the light, and eventually chose a composition that created a space to the left when seen from the front. Note that each time we change the position of the model or the camera, it would be necessary to adjust the flash position and the light, so it is advisable that we finalise the position as quickly as possible.

Step 2: Determine the exposure setting that allows the nightscape to be captured without a flash

Next, determine the exposure setting that enables the nightscape to be captured beautifully without the use of a flash. As light from the flash does not reach the background, doing so also determines the overall brightness of the image. The example illustrated here is a handheld shot, but if the shutter speed becomes too slow, use of a tripod would be recommended.

Step 3: Set up one flash unit each behind and to the front left of the model

Finally, set up the flash units and adjust the brightness of the flash used to illuminate the model. A wireless transmitter comes in handy in this case, as it allows wireless control of the flash light.

I used the external flash that was placed behind to brighten the raindrops and cast light directly onto the model at the same time. Meanwhile, to illuminate the model from the front, I attached a bouncer to the flash in front and allowed it to stand on its own. If you’re not quite familiar with the procedure yet, it’s better to adjust one flash unit at a time until you are. If AF is unable to operate due to the dark surroundings, illuminate the model using the LED light only when you are establishing the focus. Also, the hairstyle and clothes of the subject may go out of shape if the rain is very heavy, so it is advisable that you complete the shoot as quickly as possible in this case.

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Rogue FlashBender S

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Shoichi Asaoka

Born in 1973 in Tokyo. Besides photographing subjects as models and merchandise for advertisements, Asaoka also produces a range of works that capture models in snapshots or together with evening or night views.

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.

Published by Impress Corporation

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