Pouring rain can be an excuse to stay home and do nothing. It can also be a great opportunity to go outside and use the elements at your advantage. Japan based photographer Ilko Allexandroff (interview) is maybe the master of shooting stunning portraits in the rain. You know what, it only takes perseverance and some knowledge to turn a rainy night into your playground.
Ilko uses a very consistent 2 lights setup, a soft(ish) front light and a hard backlight. The front light – a Nissin MG8000 with a 60×60 foldable softbox – lights the model, while the backlight – another Nissin – does a double duty. It freezes the rain drops and provides a kicker light. Both lights are triggered using a Cactus V6 trigger.
Here is where the clevers comes in, it only takes two small battery powered lights. This makes the entire setup relatively light, portable and waterproof. Two simple nylon bags protect both strobes. Ilko, the Canon 1Dx and the 135mm f/2 glass are protected by an assistant with an umbrella. Moving is easy, repositioning is easy and there are no high voltage power strobes that can shock you.
Think that a simple nylon bag is not enough? think again, look at the abuse those strobes are taking and totally surviving it
This “fast to build” setup help focusing on what’s important, directing the model, and asking her to change pose or jump, or move a bit.
A two lights setup combined with heavy rain, is also enough to create several different rain-inspired moods.
One thing you can do is play with the position of the back flash: it can be outside of the photo (see two photos above), slightly off to the side or directly behind the model (see above).
You can also get the back light for a more colorized look:
Ilko does a great job of documenting his shoots and you can see the two videos below to see how both he and his models brave the rain