Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
Hey photographers! While very few of our couples dream of a rainy wedding day, this is one thing that even the best wedding photographer or wedding planner can’t control. While rainy wedding days are rare here in Central Virginia, they do happen. And if you photograph weddings long enough, you’re bound to encounter them! So today, we’re giving our 6 tips to get the most out of a rainy wedding day!
Before we jump in to this week’s content, in case you missed it, last week we finished up our Post Production Secrets video/blog series! This 6-part series was all about what comes after the wedding day, from downloading the photos to our computer all the way to final gallery delivery! Also, if you aren’t already a member, be sure to join our free Facebook Community: Mastering the Wedding Photography Biz with Hunter and Sarah! Okay, on to the rainy wedding day tips!
If it looks like rain is inevitable, the best thing that you can do is begin to set expectations with your couple. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were preparing for a wedding at a local venue that features some 200+ year old ruins that are absolutely gorgeous! The couple booked the venue primarily because of the beauty of the ruins, but it looked like heavy rain was in the forecast.
When we reached out to them, we basically gave them three options for how we could run the day if it did end up raining heavily all day:
While each of these three options have their own merits, it was ultimately up to them what fit their vision for their wedding day. If your couple is absolutely obsessed with the outfits they picked out, and couldn’t imagine getting them even the tiniest bit dirty, then they might be willing to sacrifice the quality of their final images a bit in order to keep their shoes dry. On the other hand, if they are willing to get a little wet for the best images, and are okay needed to change shoes after their portraits, Option 3 might be for them. But that’s ultimately their decision!
In any relationship, conflict is almost always a result of missed expectations. And the same is true for the client-photographer relationship! So making sure that you’re on the same page with your couple ahead of their wedding day is crucial! During this same expectation-setting email, we also let them know that if the rain is on-and-off, we may be suddenly pulling them outside as the rain lets up, then rushing them back inside as it picks up again! But that no matter what, we were going to do our best to keep with their timeline while also getting great shots.
Weather forecasts suck at predicting rain. There! We said it. We cannot possibly tell you about the number of times that a forecast has called for rain 10 days out, and still called for rain 7 days out, and still called for rain 4 days out, only for the forecast to switch to cloudy or even bright and sunny a day or two before. That’s why we tell all of our clients that they should essentially ignore rain forecasts until 36-48 hours out at the earliest. And oftentimes, they’re really only useful the morning of.
So if we have a wedding on Saturday, we won’t even look at the weather forecast until Thursday afternoon, and we won’t email our couple to begin discussing rain plans until Friday. Of course, they’ll need to make sure that a rain plan is in place well in advance with their venue, catering staff, and planner, but we like to wait until the last possible minute to make any official changes to the photography timeline. By the way, this is our same principle when we have a portrait session scheduled and the forecast calls for rain! If we’re scheduled to shoot at 6:00 PM on a Tuesday, we won’t look at the forecast until Monday morning, and if we do decide to postpone the session due to rain, we try to wait until Tuesday morning to do so — the day of!
However, sometimes the forecast looks good so you move forward with your portrait session, and rain suddenly strikes. Or on a wedding day, you just can’t help but shoot while it’s raining! When that’s the case, we use the next four points to get the most out of the wedding day.
As you prepare for a wedding day with potentially-rainy weather, there’s a few things you can do ahead of time to make sure the day runs as smoothly as possible. For starters, identify any areas where you can access natural light while staying out of the rain. This usually means an area beneath a covered awning or a large tree (if it’s summertime and the tree’s branches are full of leaves). Although these areas won’t keep your subjects 100% dry, it’s a great way to keep them mostly dry while also keeping natural light on their faces.
If you’ve never been to the venue before, do some research online. Look at pictures on the venue’s website, look at past weddings photographed there, and even use something like Google Street View (when available) to look for large covered spaces!
This is also the time to figure out with your couple what the exact rain plan is for the non-portrait parts of the day. Will the ceremony be moved from the lawn to the barn or the ballroom? When does that decision need to be made by? What will happen during cocktail hour if the ceremony and reception are now in the same room? All of this will help you be prepared for the day!
We talked about this exact subject back in Part 9 of our Camera Bag Essentials Series in a post/video called “Everything You Need to Protect Your Camera Gear”. If you saw that blog, you know that we use these incredible inventions called “Storm Jacket Rain Covers” to keep our cameras and lenses dry, even in the most hardcore downpours! These are basically tiny raincoats for your cameras, and they WORK. They come in a smaller size, perfect for most cameras with prime lenses or small zoom lenses, and a larger size for larger cameras with big prime lenses and longer telephoto lenses.
We also keep a handful of clear umbrellas on hand, both for us and for our couple! These look pretty good in photos, and are a necessity if your couple decides that Option #3 is the route they want to take. They’re really the only way to still be able to move around freely outside of cover, have natural light, AND stay relatively dry! However, if it’s raining heavily, keeping umbrellas up will really only keep the top half of your subjects dry, and umbrellas limit your posing quite a bit.
We also recommend keeping a handful of towels on hand throughout any rainy day. Although the storm jacket covers work great, you’ll still want to make sure you towel off your lenses and camera any time you come in from the rain to ensure that any stray rain drops don’t sit on your equipment for too long. In addition, you may want to dry off a seat for your couple to sit on for a few umbrella-sitting photos, or wipe a muddy spot off of your couples’ shoes! These towels are liable to get trashed during the day, so whatever spare rags you have laying around your house is probably fine!
If you’ve got a raincoat for your camera gear, you should also have one for yourself! Wearing a pair of waterproof rain boots and a heavy-duty raincoat will make for a much less miserable day, especially if you’re shooting in the rain for multiple hours! In the summer of 2020, we photographed Amanda and Victor’s micro-wedding, during which the DC area was hit with a literal hurricane. Hunter ended up photographing all of the family portraits from the middle of a torrential downpour, so that Amanda and Victor and their families could stand with their bodies facing toward the natural light, while staying covered beneath the porch.
Hunter was already soaked through (more on that below!), so he eventually just gave up entirely on the umbrella/rain jacket and just embraced the rain, resolving to just make sure his camera stayed dry beneath the storm jacket cover. But during our wedding just a few weeks ago, it was 25-degrees colder and lightly drizzling for much of the morning, and all through the ceremony! We were both SO grateful of our rain jackets and rain boots on that day!
The last thing we recommend is to always have a change of clothes and a second pair of shoes on hand when rain is in the forecast. After shooting for hours and hours in and out of the rain, when the reception finally begins and you’re done being outside for the day, nothing feels as nice as replacing your wet socks and shoes with a dry, comfortable pair of socks and shoes! And the same goes for your outfit. If you’re soaked through to the skin, but have several hours of shooting inside (often in a cool, air-conditioned space), that’s a great recipe for getting sick! So do yourself a favor, and do a quick change into a dry outfit so you can keep photographing at your best!
In the last section, we mentioned Amanda and Victor’s wedding, and the fact that Hunter had essentially given up entirely on staying dry. This is why: that afternoon, the couple was hosting a microwedding because their full-day wedding event had been postponed to the following year because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The wedding was supposed to be in the backyard of a family friend, on a gorgeous piece of property outside of DC. They had rented ~25 white folding chairs, and had commissioned a florist to create a stunning flower arch for them to get married in front of.
However, when the hurricane came suddenly and earlier than expected, there was essentially no rain plan, and the entire wedding was moved to the small front porch of the home. The only problem was that the arbor had already been decorated with close to 100 lbs of fresh florals, and had already been soaked through by the early part of the rain. So Hunter, the videographer, and Amanda’s brother picked up the arbor (which they swore had to have weighed 200 lbs since it was absolutely drenched), and carried it through the pouring rain from the backyard to the porch, where they then secured it to the banister using some wire they found at the house.
THAT is sometimes what’s required of you on rainy wedding days. Fundamentally, on any wedding day, your job is to photograph your couple’s wedding and produce high quality images of the day. But sometimes it’s the “above and beyond” moments that make the difference in your business. On their big wedding celebration the following summer, Amanda and Victor raved about us to anyone who would listen, because we had given up our comfort in order to make their microwedding happen.
Below is what Amanda had to say about us after our time with her and Victor across one engagement session and two wedding days! And we have over 100 5-star reviews that read in a similar way. Why? Because we built our business on loving and serving our couples on their wedding days. And that goes double for rainy wedding days!
If you’re interested in learning more from us personally, and joining a community of other photographers also striving to grow their businesses, click here to join our Facebook Community, Mastering the Wedding Photography Biz with Hunter and Sarah!