One of the most difficult parts of shooting outside is the lack of control over the weather. Nothing can doom a planned shoot like a surprise shower or sprinkle. Though it may make it more difficult, there are many situations when a home digital video producer may want to shoot in the rain. Whether it is videotaping your son’s championship football game or a dramatic short where the dark aspects of the rain are a character in and of themselves, each expectation has different techniques for how you approach lighting and filming in such weather. The absolute first thing you need to think about when shooting in the rain is the safety of the camera and any external lighting or recording equipment you may be using. Digital video equipment tends to be fairly resilient except when moisture is introduced, which is one of the reasons that people are urged to never leave their cameras in cars or places where heat can cause condensation. There are many quality waterproof camera jackets on the market, but simply securing a trash bag over the bulk of the camera is fine for moderate rain. Hot lights are especially sensitive to water, so unless they are designed specifically for this purpose it is never advisable to put them in a location where they will be expose to direct rainwater.
Know Where to Put the Lights
If you are trying to film an event that just happens to be in the rain but you want to avoid it being too distracting in the final video, then you should avoid using too much unnatural light. Any strong beam of light will highlight each raindrop and it will appear as another texture or surface on the screen. If it is just too dark to use natural light make sure to use a small light going as straight from the camera as possible. A waterproof on-board light, or possibly a weak flashlight held directly above the camera, would work best for this.
If your intent is to capture the rain then it is important to light the rain strongly with a backlight. You can hang the light off to the right or left of the view of the camera, but try and make sure the light is set up more than ten feet away from the camera and tilted toward the lens of the camera. Think about the rain as the subject in an interview and use this light similar to how you would use a backlight to highlight the back of a person. If the rain is too heavy to use artificial light try and shoot towards where the natural light is coming. Check the time of day and if it is early in the day you shoot facing the east, and if it is in the later afternoon you should point the camera toward the west. That way the natural light will be coming right through the rain, acting as a diffused backlight.
So whether you are filming in the rain out of necessity, or on purpose, following a few simple guidelines can help you get the footage you are looking for.