What To Do When It Rains on Your Photo Shoot
It’s going to be a raining all weekend here. However, yesterday’s forecast for dismal skies turned into a nice day. That’s New York City for you. The weather here is as unpredictable as a subway train’s arrival. With rain on the brain, I thought I would give you some NYC rainy day photo tips in case bad weather is in the forecast for your shoot.
First and foremost, always have a back up plan. When I make a venue check for my upcoming photo shoots, I always have on my checklist to find a back up location in case of inclement weather. Some locations simply do not have an alternative location: I have a family portrait shoot this Sunday in Prospect Park, and unfortunately, there is no place to hide from the rain. (We are not going to be located near the Esplanade or Audubon Center, in case you were wondering.)
In NYC, there are a few spots where you can hide from the rain. Here are my favorite plan ‘B’ locations:
Grand Central: Always a favorite for shoots – rain or shine – because it is such a landmark, Grand Central offers both a covered space and no permit needed (in practice). You can get into Grand Central 24/7, and believe it or not, you can find a few spots away from the maddening crowd to take great photos. That said, it is a very, very dark location especially when it is raining outside. Also, while the cops always look the other way for photo shoots (you technically are supposed to have a permit for professional photography in Grand Central), you should know that scheduling a shoot during rush hour will indeed get the cops attention. Also, do not use a tripod, and I wouldn’t bother with a flash as well. The ceilings are too high anyway.
Central Park: You are pretty much out of luck if you are caught in the rain in Central Park. Still, you have two options: the Dairy or the mosaic arcade by the Bethesda Fountain. The mosaic arch is a very dark location, and no doubt the space will be inhabited by many performers blocking your shot. But, you can still look out onto the fountain and get the iconic staircase shot.
The Subway: If you were looking to have a gritty, NYC feel to your shoot and rain is getting in the way, why not go down into the subway for a dry view of real life in the city? You could do a documentary-style shoot going from station to station, shots on the train itself, or even stick to one station. Several of the subway stations are worth a photo shoot on their own, including the lovely seascape mosaics in the 81st Street/Museum of Natural History stop on the B/C line, or the statues in the walls of the Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum stop on the 2/3 line.
Botanical gardens: All of the botanical gardens in New York City – both in Brooklyn and in the Bronx – have greenhouses. While neither garden will allow you to officially shoot there without a permit, this is a case of ‘ask forgiveness, not permission’ and shoot discreetly without flash, tripod, or an entourage in order to sneak in some photos.
Museums: As with the botanical gardens, you can’t officially shoot in any museum in NYC without a permit. Here again it’s a case of act like a tourist and get away with it. You must be low key, and not carry a large amount of equipment, or use a flash. The idea is to blend in with the crowd and not raise the suspicion of the security guards.
Hotels: Speaking of asking forgiveness, you might also try to sneak in a shoot in any of the grand hotels in NYC. Again, never set up a tripod or use a flash to bring attention to yourself, but if you act like tourists, then you might just get away with a few good shots. Bear in mind that if this is a case of portraits for a wedding, then wearing a white wedding dress is a bit like waving a red flag in front of a bull to hotel security. But if you are discreet, and most importantly if you don’t bother other guests, then you may go unnoticed. One fantastic hotel to try is the Roosevelt Hotel near Grand Central. I shot there for Meredith and Jonathan’s wedding as this was the hotel where they had their first date. The hotel security seemed to not notice, and in fact we weren’t the only group taking photos on the mezzanine level. I have also shot an engagement shoot off hours in the bar at the Hudson Hotel in Columbus Circle.
Your home: If this is an engagement shoot, you might consider a creative documentary-style shoot of you two at home doing something together you love, like cooking dinner, making a dessert, or playing a board game. (Get your mind out of the gutter, people.)
Your wedding venue: And if this is a wedding and you had planned on taking portraits in the surrounding gardens, then it’s time to look at your venue with new eyes. Portraits in front of a window are always lovely, and you can usually use an unused floor of a venue for portraits. For instance, the India House usually does the ceremony on the first floor, cocktails on the second, and the reception on the upstairs ballroom. If your guests are on the second floor, try shooting some portraits in the bar below or in the library area that was originally used for the ceremony.
Often weather forecasters will schedule rain for one day, and it won’t happen until the next. I always check in with my clients the day prior to reconfirm. Unfortunately, water and cameras don’t mix, so if the precipitation is much above misting, then I’m not available. For my engagement and portrait shoots I am always happy to reschedule, provided I have the day available. As such, I always try to schedule a shoot with one day as the priority shoot day, and another as a bad weather back up day (Saturday/Sunday). That said, rain boots and umbrellas always make for a cute shot so if I can brave the weather for my clients, then I will.
If you would like to see more images from my wedding photojournalism portfolio, then please visit my website — KellyWilliamsPhotographer.com