Weather Photography is Art and Science

Weather Photography is Art and Science

Tim Williams Tim Williams
Phil Loder Phil Loder
Paul Guglielmoni Paul Guglielmoni
? Alan Sealls ? Alan Sealls
MOBILE, Ala. -

If you've seen the News 5 weather photo gallery then you know half the trick of a good picture is simply watching the sky and being at the right place at the right time but here's the other half which involves art and basic setup.


Charge up. If you haven't used your camera in a while you might pick it up to catch that fleeting waterspout only to be disappointed to find that the batteries are dead. Make sure the batteries have a good charge.

Clean up. Look at the lens and see if it is smudged with grease or specks. If smudged wipe it gently with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth. If dusty then blow clean compressed air over it first.

You need light. Whatever you are trying to shoot needs to have enough light on it. If it is a dark scene then you'll need to use a tripod or set the camera on something steady. Nighttime shooting and lightning photography definitely require a tripod. In these cases you should use the timer setting to trigger the shutter so that you don't shake the camera when pressing the shutter button.

Shooting through windows when it is dark is difficult because the camera flash causes a bright glare on the glass. Even without the flash you almost always end up with unintended reflections.

A steady hand is needed for zooming in on distant objects. The more you zoom, the more likely your shot will be blurred. If it is halfway dark or dark then you'll benefit from a tripod. Using a flash at night for something more than 25 feet away from you doesn't help unless you are using a tripod and a very slow shutter speed.

Framing is the key to a good shot once everything else is set. You don't want things in view that distract from the actual image. As you compose your shot look at the corners and the sides and the top and bottom of the viewfinder to make sure that what you see is what you want. Look through the images in our gallery to see what grabs your eye as great pictures and learn from those.

Read the owners manual of your camera for good tips on how to get the best possible picture from your camera. Many cameras default to auto focus and if you are shooting something far away like a landscape or cloud then the camera will often have a hard time finding something to focus on. In these cases you should use the manual or scene settings to force it to focus on "infinity" or distant objects.

Never risk your life to take a picture! This sounds like common sense but too often people stand in dangerous spots or lean over railings. When you are concentrating on what's in front of your camera you sometimes miss hazards around you or approaching you. One of the worst things people do is take a picture while driving a vehicle. Have a passenger take the shot or pull out of traffic safely to park and take the picture. Realize that lightning and storm photography hold high danger if you are outside.

Submitting to News 5 weather photo Gallery or to our Facebook page:

You must be the photographer or have the photographer's permission to submit the photo.
We cannot use photos that are copyrighted by other people or companies so don't send those.

If you alter the image that raises suspicions of authenticity. If you crop it or alter it let us know!
Just send the best one or two weather photos you shot if they are different. Do not send a bunch of images that are similar unless they show a series of events over time.

Picture title should be short.

In your picture description let us know the location, date, and time if that is relevant. Don't forget to put your real name in the submit form too.

Use mixed case lettering since it's easier to read than all capital letters.

Take the time to make sure your spelling and punctuation is correct when you fill out the submit form.

Beware photos emailed to you of "amazing" or "incredible" weather photos that turn out to be hoaxes. We definitely can't use those.

Older cell phone pictures often suffer from low resolution and blurring so we can't always use those.

It's okay to scale down a very high resolution picture if you need to reduce the file size but please save it at high quality or maximum quality jpg compression, at least 1910 pixels wide (or about the same as a 3 megapixel image). This way we may use it on TV and have it fill the screen.

Even if you don't scale a picture our photo gallery will scale it down once it is posted.
We always try to put the best photos on the air but since we get dozens of pictures from weather events that everyone experiences we can't always show each one. Most but not all of them end up in our Photo Gallery. The best photos show and celebrate the variety of weather without distraction so we avoid photos that are advertisements or tributes to people, or those with political or social agendas. When we show pictures on air we can't inform you in advance since we get pictures daily that might be more relevant to that day's weather than the one you sent and the decision to show any picture is often last-minute.

Nature photography tips from the National Park Service
Lightning photography tips from researcher Chuck Doswell
Finding and photographing rainbows
Capturing a good sunset or sunrise
The causes behind sky colors

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