Photographing Rainbows

A late fall rainbow appears in the western Montana sky after a full day of rain.

A late fall rainbow appears in the western Montana sky after a full day of rain.


Rainbows are often photographed in the spring time and summer.  The rainbow above happened after a full day of rain in late October of 2014.  The fall weather in western Montana is not predictable and will often times surprise you when you least expect it.  Make certain your camera is where you can grab it in a hurry and run outside to capture a rainbow.  The lighting and weather conditions change suddenly and the colors in the rainbow will not last very long.  The image here was taken with a Canon Rebel XS and a “kit lens”  (18-55mm).  The technical information for the above image: F8, ISO 200, focal length of 18mm, Aperature priority, RAW file converted to JPEG.  The camera was handheld and the image stabilizer on the lens was turned off.  I did minimal adjustments in the software on the computer; cropping, lighting and shadows, and a very slight increase in color.  The light spot in the left side of the image was a small raindrop that had fallen onto the lens, as the rain was starting to lightly fall once again.  I managed to capture 18 photos of the rainbow and sky before the rain began falling more heavily, which resulted in me making a mad dash for the house (my DSLR is not a sturdy weather resistant professional model with all of the tight seals.)  I did not use any filter on my lens, as I don’t yet own them.  Some photographers recommend having a circular polarizer or neutral density filter on a lens to reduce the glare, increase the colors, protect the lens from damage, and make the image better in overall contrast and tone.  If you have the money and want to experiment with using filters you may find the results satisfying.

Tip:  Wait for the rain to stop (or lighten up some) and the sun to appear and look around for the rainbow.  There may not always be one visible, though when the rainbow is present it is most often very bright and full of color.

When was the last time you were surprised to see a rainbow?  Did you have your camera nearby and ready to capture the rainbow?  Which lens do you think would be best to capture a full rainbow (a wide angle zoom 10-22, a wide angle 16-35, or a prime wide angle lens of 28mm)?  Which filter would have enhanced the photograph and made the colors much brighter?  Are you a storm chaser or ever thought of chasing after storms to get the photos of the very dramatic sky and clouds?


About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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