How to Take Photographs of Rainbows – Photography Tips and Techniques
written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/12/2009
This article will provide you with tips, tricks and techniques for capturing beautiful photographs of rainbows.
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A Colorful Spectacle
In every part of the world, a beautiful spectacle can appear immediately after a storm or rain. That’s right, a rainbow can appear. While scientists and meteorologists may differ somewhat on exactly how a rainbow is produced, rainbows are a regular spectacle in most of the world. The origins of the rainbow are chronicled at Genesis 9: 11-16. Where I live in South America, double and occasionally triple rainbows frequently appear. But how can you get a good, strong, intensive digital image of these wondrous light displays? Here we’ll consider three helpful digital photography techniques for capturing rainbow images.
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Techniques for Capturing Rainbows
The first technique to try is to reduce the exposure by metering off of a light area of the sky. If your digital camera inadvertently meters off of a darker area, like the darker red tile roof of this scene, the rainbow will be lightened and appear washed-out. You can barely see the rainbow in this image [See Image 1]. When I metered again, but this time off the lighter portion of the sky, the rainbow image darkened, resulting in deeper color and intensity. Not only that, but look carefully and you’ll see a faint second or double rainbow showing in this second image which is not discernible in the first one. [See Image 2]
Next, change your angle of view if possible to get a better reflective image of the rainbow. The angle of your view can decidedly affect the intensity of the rainbow image that you are able to capture. So, if you are in a moving vehicle pay attention as to whether the colors of the rainbow are becoming more or less intense. As you draw into a position more perpendicular to the rainbow’s arch, the colors should seem to intensify and deepen. You also might be able to see more of the rainbow’s arc. Sometimes you need change position only a little to see some noticeable effects. In the first image taken from my window, the rainbow image is more subdued since there is open sky being metered all around me [See Image 3]. When I pulled back inside the window, creating a darker frame of reference all around me, and then metered and shot the rainbow again, the colors were intensified by the change of metered exposure conditions. Note the darkened window frame. [See Image 4]
Finally, if you already have an image of a rainbow, you can intensify the image color intensity digitally by using photo editing software. Note the effect of these two double rainbow images. The first image is as photographed [See Image 5]. The second one is an image that has been digitally edited using photo editing software - Microsoft Office Picture Manager. [See Image 6]
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Good Rainbow Images
No matter how often or infrequently you may see a rainbow where you are, try getting some photos the next time one appears. Be sure to meter off of the brightest part of the visible sky, hold the shutter locked by keeping the shutter button depressed halfway down, then compose your rainbow image and take the shots. You should now have some good rainbow images. After that, feel free to engage yourself in a smug expression.