How to Create Rainy Window Portraits in a Studio

With a makeshift studio and a camera in hand, it’a possible to create nearly anything. In this tutorial, Gavin Hoey brings the stormy weather indoors with a step by step guide to creating the illusion of rain drops clinging to a glass window:

As always, the most crucial aspect to create a convincing scene is the correct lighting. Hoey uses a Streaklight 360 strobe to provide plenty of light, with a soft box attached to create the diffused look of a cloudy day. The bigger the soft box, the more light is scattered, the more convincing the setup becomes. It’s also important to keep the main light source elevated to replicate muted overhead sunlight. In addition, a small speedlight can be used to add a bit of depth to the background as well as create a barrier between your model and the backdrop.

Rather than a window, Hoey uses a sheet of 3mm Perspex—a more durable, manageable alternative to glass—in his home studio. A dark background further adds to the window illusion, as less sunlight would be reaching an interior setting on a gray day.

Once the lighting and the scene is set, adding rain is actually the easiest part of this setup. A spray bottle will evenly disperse droplets of water in a manner similar to the way rain rests on a surface. The amount of “rain” in your scene is entirely up to you. Different amounts of water create completely different looks and feels. For instance, excess water will condense and drip down the Perspex, just as a heavy falling rain drops would, while a small spray might resemble mist or condensation.

Using a higher depth of field will ensure that both the rain droplets and the model’s face appear in focus within your frame.

indoor studio configuration

To further add to the realism of the photograph, you can use Photoshop to create a faux outside world with nearly any image. Landscapes and wide angle outdoor shots work magnificently. Once you’ve found the right image to reflect, paste over the studio portrait and switch the image blending mode to “screen.” From there, you can reduce the opacity so that the “reflection” doesn’t overpower the subject. To further add to the realism of the reflection, a gaussian blur can be added and set to a a high, distorted setting to create a misty look without much definition.

faux rainy window portrait

Of course, there are multiple ways you can arrange a studio setup to create different looks. As Hoey demonstrates, turning everything on set other than the background to a 90 degree angle and opening up the aperture of the camera can create the effect of looking down the length of a window. Because this is such a simple yet convincing arrangement, experimentation doesn’t take too much effort. So, don’t subject yourself to cold, damp conditions just to get a shot. Creating more controlled, equally beautiful results that will fool any viewer is far easier than you may expect!

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2 responses to “How to Create Rainy Window Portraits in a Studio”

  1. Poppy says:

    Hi did you use a polarizer filter on your lens? If you did my ask which one you used thank you.

  2. Kurt Lapere says:

    Hello, very interesting tutoral! Please, can you tell me: what are the sizes of the perspex window?

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