How to Make Believable Fake Rain in Your Photos and Videos

How do filmmakers and photographers fake rain for the cameras? A team of creatives has shared a behind-the-scenes look at ways to add fake rain to scenes and how to combine it with lighting for a natural but atmospheric look.

The creative team behind lighting brand Aputure’s YouTube Channel teamed up with cinematographer Laura Odermatt whos shared her team’s approach to tackling film scenes that feature rain. For photography and film sets, it is rarely possible to rely on the actual weather to create the atmosphere for particular scenes, especially because rain in its natural form doesn’t show well on the camera. Be it video or stills, the rain effect needs to be dramatized for it to be clearly present in the scene.

Rain often acts as a visual representation of the emotional turmoil felt by the characters, which further adds to the moody atmosphere of a scene. However, to create that look, the team had to overcome several obstacles, with the first one being white walls in the house set. White walls spill light everywhere and make it hard to control, so the team used negative fill in the shape of black flags, which absorb the unnecessary light.

They also had to film during the night so they coul best utilize their rain machine — the most important feature of the scene — otherwise, sunlight would seep in through the window.

The rain machine, also known as rain tower, was rented from Special Effects Unlimited, Inc. and is a rather affordable solution that features an adjustable sprinkler head that helps control the angle and intensity of the water. The team also set up an artificial light outdoors — facing the window from a high angle — to replicate moonlight that would shine onto the actor’s face as she looks through the rainy window and a warmer color balanced indoor light to simulate living room ambiance.

The rain tower produces water flow that is strong enough to clearly show on camera and would be equally handy for photographers, too. The unit used by the team in the video — which comes at a cost of just $50 to $60 for a weeklong rental — was the smallest rain tower available. However, even at the smallest size, it is still of significant height and may not be the most convenient tool for individuals or small teams, especially those that are limited to indoors space.

Creatives who work indoors or who have limited space or budget can use other ways to simulate rain using a glass pane or perspex sheets — sold separately or as part of budget photo frames — with water droplets sprayed on it. Although it won’t have the same impact as a whole scene with a window that has continuous water sprayed on it and likely won’t work for video footage, for stills photographers this method gives a simple and budget-friendly option for portraits, close-ups, still life, and more.

More lighting and cinematography tutorials can be found on Aputure’s YouTube channel.