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9 Great Tips for Taking Cloudy Day Photography

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Photographers tend to shy away from overcast weather. But, a cloudy day is an excellent time for stunning photography.

These fluffy formations can help give you a great shot! In this article, we’ll tell you all the tips and tricks to great cloudy day photography.

a shot of clouds against a blue sky

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1. Change Your Camera Settings

Cloudy day photography settings are different than what you would use on a clear or overcast day. Every time your light changes, you need to change your settings. If you are shooting in a cloudy environment, your light source (sun) will hide and reveal itself often.

This can be a pain if you need to stick to a strict timescale. As a rule of thumb, the clouds are going to pull 2-3 stops of light from your scene.

You know about Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority, but what about setting your ISO to automatic? Find it in your camera, and go one stop before ISO 100. It should say ‘A’ where the numbers are.

Your other settings will stay the same, but your ISO will increase from 100 to 400 or 800, depending on the light. Keep in mind that you need to use manual mode.

When shooting in soft light or with cirrostratus clouds, you should use the Sunny 16 rule. It helps you find the best exposure setting with the available lighting conditions.

Remember, when you shoot in RAW, it is always better to underexpose if it is hard to meter the light well. You can edit it easier than an overexposed shot afterward.

a landscape shot of a river cutting through a mountain range with clouds and sky above

2. Add Sky Definition With Cloud Formations

You may find a great landscape scene, but it can look boring without certain elements.

Clouds are the easiest things to wait for and use as interesting details in your photo. Clouds add texture, shape, and form – some even look like animals.

Take advantage of a cloudy day and use it to create unique compositions.

an image of a mountain in the background with green hills in the foreground and blue sky and clouds above

3. Add Movement With Long Exposures

Long exposures are great at any time of the day or night.

Clouds add texture, shape, and form already. Capturing them with a long shutter speed adds movement to your scene. The results are abstract and painting-like effects.

The mood could be calm or give the viewer a sense of urgency – such as the build-up of a storm.

Place your camera on a tripod, and use a shutter speed of five seconds or longer. Use ND filters and remote. Do not forget to focus before applying the filter. Make sure to use Live View.

a long exposure photograph of clouds above water and rocks

4. Take Advantage of Diffused Light and Shoot Portraits

The best reason to do cloudy day photography is the light. An overcast sky creates diffused light. This means, even light is falling over your entire scene.

Bright sunshine and well-defined clouds create strong light and powerful shadows.

The clouds act as a diffuser, making the light nice and soft. It is the perfect time for fashion and portrait photography. The soft light condition smoothens the skin out.

Also, overcast is good if you have to shoot interior and architectural pictures because it is beneficial for dynamic range.

a cloudy day portrait photograph of a woman sitting in a wheat field

5. Create a Mysterious Atmosphere With Sun Rays

Sun rays add more interest to a scene and the sky. You can only capture sun rays on a cloudy day.

When the sun hides behind a cloud, it will shine these beautiful shots of light around it.

You will need to meter on the cloud to ensure the scene is not overexposed or blown out.

cloudy day photograph of a ray of light cutting through clouds onto a valley

6. Create Stunning Cloud Photos With Wide-Angle Lenses and Filters

Bring a wide-angle lens when capturing cloud photography. Combined with a narrow aperture, it will help you add dramatic effects and detail.

Using ND and CPL filters can also enhance your cloudy day photographs. ND filters come in handy for daylight long-exposure shots. A CPL filter will help you manage reflections in the scene.

wide angle image of a city street with skyline in the background and blue skies with clouds above

7. Create Contrast With Clouds and Cityscapes

Cities and clouds can make you think of a fantasy story with a metropolis floating in the sky. Clouds can be in contrast to the buildings.

You can even capture sunbeam lines outlining certain aspects of a scene. Or the soft light conditions can create evenly lit images of buildings,

Wait for fog or a bunch of low clouds and capture the skyscrapers peeking out.

Using CPL filters can enhance your photos as they bring out the clouds. Then, boost up Clarity sliders when you edit your shots in Lightroom!

a photograph of city skyscrapers peaking through the clouds

8. Photograph Light Pools

Cloudy days can offer you a multitude of scenes and settings that allow creativity in your landscape photography. One of my favourite cloudy day photography scenes is with light pools. The sun passes through a group of clouds. As it passes a gap, a sunray beams down.

You can capture a scene where only part of it is exposed or appropriately highlighted.

Meter on the lit area, and capture the glimpse focusing on the scene you can see. Do this rather than the darker parts for a genuinely compelling scene.

an image of a valley with dark clouds above and a light pool in the foreground

9. Capture Cloud Reflections

Clouds look great not only in the sky but also as reflections in the water. Find lakes, ponds, or even shiny buildings to capture cloud reflections.

This way, you can add more depth to your scene and create exciting compositions. Look for symmetry or shapes that result from the clouds and reflections.

a photgraph of clouds above reflected in a lake below with pink hues

Conclusion

A gloomy day or overcast weather might not look inviting but can offer great photography opportunities. Take advantage of the diffused light and the cloud formations.

Create long exposure cloud photography or use the clouds to add texture to your scene. Find creative ideas to compose your photos even on overcast days.

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