Scotland surely is one of the most picturesque places in the world – rugged mountain ranges, almost Caribbean-looking stretches of white sandy beach, medieval architecture and lots of street art; just to name a few photogenic highlights in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the Highlands and beyond. But what if the inevitable bad weather rolls in? This guide sums up my top 7 bad weather photography tips for Scotland!
It’s easy to take photos of the incredible beauty that is Scotland in the sun – suddenly all the colours pop, the hills look even more majestic and the grey medieval rock looks great against the azure blue sky. But let’s be honest, Scotland is not particularly famous for its long, sunny summers. On the contrary, Scottish weather has kind of a well-deserved reputation, and unless you are incredibly lucky, you will probably have to make it through at least one rainy day during your stay in Scotland.
That’s just the way it is, and to be honest, it’s one of the things that makes Scottish landscapes look so mystical. But what about your photos?
Taking great photos when the sky is glaring white, or the rain is so heavy it splashes on your lens is really difficult. It’s darker when it rains, which means it’s harder to get sharp images. It’s like the weather drains the world of colour, and all of a sudden, even the lush green forest looks like a grey mass. Not to mention the fear of ruining your camera!
Here are my top 7 photography tips for bad weather in Scotland – but really they apply to any other location as well!
1) Shoot (or edit) in black and white
While editing your photos to black & white is usually a stylistic decision, it can be a lifesaver if you return from a rainy trip to Scotland. While the rain makes everything look grey and lifeless, changing pictures to black & white can bring a lot of energy back into your composition. All of a sudden the contrasts are back and your photos gain a certain kind of artsy edge.
Try to photograph details that lend themselves to contrasts, such as dark objects in front of bright skies, hilly landscapes with great depth of field or people.
I tried this lifesaving technique after returning from a day trip to Fife and love how my photos turned out despite the rain!
2) Make rain the subject of your photo
Find raindrops on flowers, leaves or bushes; catch the reflection of a beautiful landmark in a puddle; take a funny rain selfie; let your brolly (Scottish for umbrella) peek into your frame; or photograph the raindrops on your window. The ideas are endless!
3) Use the bad weather as a backdrop
Sometimes – in Scotland more often than anywhere I’ve ever traveled – you get to experience all four seasons in one day. The good thing about this is that there are high chances of sun and rain appearing at the same time. That means that only half the sky is cloudy and dull – make use of this contrast and use the dramatic rain skies as a backdrop for an incredible photo shoot!
4) Avoid the sky
Sometimes there’s just no better way to deal with a glaring white sky than to avoid it. Find interesting details to focus on and try to chose compositions that have as little sky as possible in the frame.
5) Find specs of colours
If you simply can’t find a possibility to get the shots you want without the sky in it, or if anything in your frame just looks dull – find specs of colour to include in your composition!
You could photograph colourful street art, shop fronts, flower pots or old-timer cars. OR you could make your life much easier by carrying a spec of colour with yourself. This could be a brolly in a pop colour or simply your outfit.
One note on colour coordination: outfit colours that are complimentary with Scottish landscapes are your best friend – red during the summer, when the Highlands are green; bright blue during the rest of the year, when the hills are of a yellowish/orange colour, and yellow if you travel here during purple Heather season (August).
6) Photograph people
Photographing people allows you to naturally all of the above tips – portraits look great in black & white, your subject can do something funny with the rain like jump in a puddle, you can use the bad weather as a backdrop, you can avoid the sky, and depending on their outfit, the person can be your spec of colour.
Plus you will have lovely photos of your friends or of locals who will forever remind you of the people you met in Scotland!
7) Protect your camera
The last of my photography tips is to protect your camera. While your camera will most likely not immediately die if it gets drizzled on a little, it will certainly not survive a Scottish shower.
A rain cover for your camera can be a life-saver, especially if you want to set up shots with a tripod or don’t want to put your camera away after every single photo. I tend to bring my lens hoods on rainy days for a little extra splash protection and a microfibre towel (like the ones you use to clean glasses or sunnies) is a staple if you want to wipe down your lens without scratching it!
In general I suggest bringing a waterproof bag for your trip to Scotland, so that your camera (and all other things) stay dry while they’re stored away.
A dry bag can give additional security if you take your camera on a hike or walk!
Have you ever struggled with bad weather on a trip to a photogenic place like Scotland? What are your top bad weather photography tips? Would love to hear about them in the comments!
Planning a trip to Scotland?
All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.