Weather Photography – Judy Sara

August Competition Weather: An image that conveys weather as the major feature, not simply the effects of weather. (You may have to venture out on a stormy day or night.)

Weather is an integral part of our life but what exactly is it. The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘the state of the atmosphere with respect to heat or cold, wetness or dryness, calm or storm, clearness or cloudiness’. The emphasis is on the ‘state of the atmosphere’ – the air.

A different use of the word atmosphere is defined as ‘the overall aesthetic tone of a work of art” and we are reminded of Helen Whitfords’s list of questions for interpreting images. So, before we get into the technicalities of photographing weather let’s remember that powerful compositions will make us feel it and take us there and that the colour, quality and direction of the light are really important.

What follows are tips collected from internet resources, for photographing some different states of the atmosphere.


Fog makes the air much more reflective to light and so you will often need to increase the exposure compensation.

There is usually less light reflecting off the subject as fog occurs mid to late evening and lasts till early morning, so the exposure time needs to be increased.

Fog decreases the internal texture and contrast of subjects. You can use this to emphasise depth in your photos. Subjects close to the camera will show high contrast and colour but subjects further away will show much less detail. It is a great time to compose for silhouettes.


Use a lens hood to deflect the rain and take microfibre cloths to wipe away spots.

A shutter speed below 1/125th is not recommended – try 1/250th and adjust to the conditions.

Try f/8 or higher.

Shooting in dark backgrounds adds mood.


Many people will look to the clouds to see what is going to happen to the weather!

Often clouds will be highly variable in the light they give off, so filters may be useful.

Graduated neutral density filters help expose the clouds without overdoing the highlights.

Polarising filters bring our fine detail.


Expect that most of your shots won’t work out but when one does it will be worth the wait!

Be aware of your personal safety! Don’t stand under trees or near metal poles.

Use a tripod.

Use manual focus and set to infinity -you don’t want camera searching for focus before it actually takes the picture.

Choose aperture accordant to the intensity of the lightning.

Blinding Average Dull
Close Lightning ISO 100 @ f/16-22 ISO 100 @ f/5.6-11 ISO 100 @ f/5.6
Mid-distance ISO 100 @ f/11 ISO 100 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 @ f/4-5.6
Distant Lightning ISO 200 @ f/4 ISO 200 @ f/2.8 ISO 200 @ f/2.

There are many alternatives for Shutter speed. Wait for the lightening and react quickly, or use continuous shooting and discard lot of images, or use ProCapture (Olympus cameras). At night, you can set to Bulb, open the shutter then shut it using a remote shutter release, after you get a flash of lightning