How To Build A Rain Machine

Our How I Took I contest is quickly gaining critical mass with all the great tutorials being submitted by you guys. Got some great news on that, the folks at Rosco just chipped in with a LitePad Loop kit.

Raj Khepar submitted a cool tutorial about how he built a rain machine for one of his shoots.

While we have had a rain machine before, this one is quite different in the way it was built and in the final effect it creates.

How To Build A Rain Machine

This image and the rest of the series can be seen over at the main site: here.

A few weeks ago I put together this shoot as a portfolio builder and as a potential starting direction for a major unit in my final year at university. The concept started after I saw Simeon Quarrie‘s work for couple. He had stated in a BTS that the rain machine they had ordered had not turned up, so they simply built their own instead. So I did the same! I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but it was a quiet summer!

The rain machine build:

Surprisingly easy job this was, just a few bits of wood and a hose pipe.

I Started off with 2 long bits of wood (can’t remember the measurement but doesn’t really matter (also don’t use untreated wood like I did if you intend to keep it, it will rot)) crossed them over and drilled a hole through both, fixing together with a nut, bolt and a couple washers, then roughly cut 4 brace pieces to stop it twisting around. They were simply screwed into place.

Now using a hosepipe and a hell of allot of zip/cable ties I simply spiraled out from the center trying to keep it fairly even distance between them. After trimming the zip ties I started making the holes; Bare in mind that in order for it to look natural as rain, it has to spray upwards and then fall at gravities pace. To start with, based on information gleaned from the internet I used a tiny drill bit and drilled them. This was a terrible idea.  instead use a spike, like a pin or one of these:

I don’t know what it’s for but it was perfect. I did the holes every few cm, but that also turned out to be a mistake, leave a good few inches, there will be a lot of them! 

How To Build A Rain Machine

The legs were a bit rubbish, I figured 4 of the same bits of wood would do it, but they didn’t I recommend using a hook in the center and hanging it above the subjects if possible. In the end I used 2 of the legs attached with standard shelf brackets and propped the front of it up over my backdrop stand. (backdrop stand weighed down by paving slabs)

How To Build A Rain Machine

The Shoot:

The shoot was quite a challenge. It was all done on my driveway and as the garage has white doors, we opened them up and put hung black material (the stuff you put under gravel paths to stop the weeds coming through – all I had lying around) held up with clothes pegs onto the drain pipe. 

How To Build A Rain Machine

Then the lights had to go around the rain machine without getting wet, we used plastic bags to cover the power supplies, other than that it was down to getting the water pressure just right so that it didn’t spray too high or far. 

The Lighting

I had a 4 light set-up for the image, one strobe was taped onto the shaft of the reflector umbrella that they are holding in shot.

Once set up (light set-up diagram below) I had a nightmare in which my cheap ass Chinese radio triggers decided to break, I had used all of my available lights already so I had to resort to switching everything to slave mode and triggering them all with the on camera flash. At the distance was shooting from this proved quite temperamental!

How To Build A Rain Machine

Every few shots my 1st assistant would pump smoke into the back of the scene and wait for it to spread out so it wasn’t too clumpy.

By the end of the shoot it started raining properly so we had to bail and disassemble it all in an insanely quick time before someone got electrocuted.

The gear:

How To Build A Rain Machine


That’s how I did it, I will in future be doing this in video form, I didn’t have a whole lot of assistants in this shoot! The post production work was long and laborious. Removing the frame of the light stand and allot of dodging and burning.

How To Build A Rain Machine

How To Build A Rain Machine

Massive thanks to No.1 aka Scott Luck for his assistance and to the models Doug, Issi and Richard.

  • Julius V. Abd

    Always bring banana for photoshoot :)

  • Gerry Satrapa

    the tool is a wood work ‘awl’ – used to create starter holes for drilling or nailing into, without disturbing the timber fibres around it…

    You could also use irrigation dripper hose (the kind used in garden beds, with built in ‘drippers’ to slowly let water out) – which will use a lot less water – but dripping straight down, obviously. Building one with that know – will let you know how it goes 😉