Tips for Taking Weather Photos

Remarkable weather photos do not require expensive, heavy equipment. When the sky presents an opportunity, a small automatic camera or the one on your cell phone can produce beautiful results by remembering some simple rules. The tips below are to help you capture better images through awareness. And our thanks to friend of NWS Green Bay and amateur photographer Peg Zenko for these tips and beautiful pictures! All of the photos below were taken in northeast Wisconsin. (Click on an image for a larger view.)

Keep the lens of your camera clean. Disposable wipes for cleaning eyeglasses work well.

Sometimes power lines are unavoidable. If you can’t get away from them, raise or lower your camera so they do not cross the main object of the photo. If power poles are stretching away from you, they can also be used to give your photo distance perspective.

Shield direct sunlight behind a tree or a corner of a building to capture best color and contrast on photos.  Do not look directly into the sun without protective eye wear, and never through a camera lens!

Avoid being near reflective metal or glass surfaces. Bright sunlight reflection from the side can change the brightness of your photo. Tinted glass, like car windshields, can cause a “stain” on the image if the reflection path is between you and your subject.

Use your camera’s auto focus lock for still photos.  Hold the camera or phone still until your subject comes into focus, then steady the camera and take the picture at that point. Some cameras may require you to depress the shutter button partway to lock the focus, so check your owner’s manual for its operation to get your best photos. If you don’t want the subject in the center of the photo, point at it and focus lock, then move the camera to suit your frame.

If you are shooting a photo from inside a building, stand close to the window to avoid including your own reflection. If there is strong light behind you, shield the camera as much as possible. If there is a reflected image on the glass your camera may be focused on it, instead of the object outside, making your subject blurry. If the window has spots on it, the closer you are to the window, the less likely they will show in the photo.

Standing in shade and photographing a subject in full sun (and vice versa) can yield unpredictable results. When possible, take several photos from different vantage points and let the camera choose the best exposure.
Photos over water can be tricky.  In the case of a sunset over Green Bay, the glitter path of the sun on the water’s surface will double the amount of light coming into your lens and change the sky contrast significantly. Using the light off the water to darken a subject can also create dramatic silhouettes and effects. When there is a marked temperature difference between air and water, it's a good time to watch for mirages on the horizon.  Picture  Picture 

Just because there is no big storm on the radar, that does not mean there is nothing to shoot. Look at the landscape, and then the shape of the clouds above it. Are they interesting together? Pale sunset colors on wispy clouds can be just as captivating as vibrant reds and oranges. A snowfall can turn everyday places into a beautiful setting. Pictures  Picture   Picture
If the sun is coming out full after a rainstorm, get the camera ready for a possible appearance of a rainbow! Rainbows will appear directly opposite the sun where it is still raining. Fog creates very moody photos. Sun shining on fog can create long rays and shadows, especially on fall mornings when there are warm days and cool nights. Take photos quickly, since the sun may dissipate light fog as it warms. Picture  Picture 
When taking twilight photos, you can use your camera’s 10-second delay if you don’t have a tripod handy. Set the camera on a level surface, aim it and press the shutter so it has time to stabilize before it opens. The slightest movement will blur a low-light photo. Picture 

Digital cameras afford us the luxury of just deleting our mistakes – so when in doubt, take as many photos as possible, standing in different light and various angles. Using a zoom may compromise focus, so also take full-frame photos if the subject is far away. With a high resolution camera you can crop the surroundings later. However, not all bad photos can be fixed digitally, so give it your best shot while it’s happening.

If you have a dramatic weather picture from northeast or central Wisconsin and want to share with us, please do so! You can post your photos on our Facebook page:

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