Bokeh background ideas: shoot a rainy portrait for a backdrop with sparkling blur

Bokeh background ideas: shoot a rainy portrait for a backdrop with shimmering blur

Bad weather doesn’t have to curb your photography. Using your creative side, there are plenty of fun photo projects you can pursue that embrace the challenging elements. In fact, rain can be a great time to shoot outdoor portrait photography, as the drops can produce a shimmering bokeh background.

In this tutorial we show you exactly how to set up your camera and edit your rainy day portraits to maximise this bokeh background effect. And we also show you how to create rain

Bokeh background ideas: shoot a rainy portrait for a backdrop with shimmering blur

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 1

01 Find a location
For this shoot you’ll need a hose, and plenty of room to spray water around, so a garden is ideal. As we’ll be creating a raindrop bokeh effect for our backdrop you’ll need a simple background, such as hedge or wall, for your model to stand in front of. A sunny day is best for this technique, as the sun will create shimmering highlights in the raindrops.

 

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 2

02 Props and styling
You don’t need to worry about your model being in direct sunlight, as she’ll be holding an umbrella to shade her head and shoulders. To add to the stylised effect we also got our model to wear dark, smoky eye makeup and fake eyelashes. You’ll need an assistant to direct the hose, and a tripod on which to mount your external flashgun.

 

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 3

03 Camera settings
Set your camera to Manual mode, and set the shutter speed to 1/200 sec to sync with the flash. Set a wide aperture of f/2.8 to capture a shallow depth of field that will blur the background and create the bokeh effect. To retain maximum image quality keep the ISO at 100, and shoot Raw files.

 

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 4

04 Control the light
If you’re shooting on a bright day, because of the wide aperture you may need to use an ND filter to reduce the amount of light entering the lens – we used a variable ND filter to give us some flexibility. Ideally you need to underexpose the scene by around one stop to ensure that the background is dark enough to emphasise the bokeh effect in the water.

 

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 5

05 Flash settings
Place the flashgun on a tripod. Set the flashgun to slave mode, select the E-TTL setting and fire it using a trigger, or the on-body flash. To set this up, go to Flash Control Menu > Built-in Flash Func. Setting > Wireless Func and select the third option. We set the exposure on our external flashgun to +3 stops, but this will vary depending on the light. Position the flashgun to one side so that it illuminates the ‘rain’.

 

How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background: step 6

06 Start shooting
Get your assistant to crouch down in the background, and have them direct the hose so the water falls off the umbrella behind your model. To get the classic ‘street portrait’ look, direct the model to stand sideways-on to you, looking back over her shoulder. Make sure you’re focusing on the model’s eyes, and start shooting.

PAGE 1: How to shoot a rainy day portrait with a bokeh background
PAGE 2: How to edit your portraits to emphasise your bokeh background

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