Not many people know this, but wide angle lenses were actually developed for photographing clouds. Nowadays, we tend to shy away from overcast days and weather.
I’m here to tell you to go outside. A cloudy day is a great time for photography.
These fluffy sky monsters can help give you a great shot! And we’ll tell you exactly how in this article.
9. Photograph Cityscapes on Cloudy Days
Cities and clouds can make you think of a fantasy story with a metropolis floating in the skies. If you have ever been to South America, you may not need to use your imagination.
I am reminded of my travels throughout Equador – each city is stationed in a valley. So, to travel from one to another, a terrifying bus journey along steep cliffs is a necessity.
As you pass each city, they all sit there, marinating in a pool of clouds. You come across a beautiful scene until you see that your driver is only using one arm to drive.
You don’t have to put yourself in danger’s way – the simplest shots are the best. Wait for fog or a bunch of low clouds.
Capture the skyscrapers peeking out. This makes for a glorious shot.
8. Which Settings Should You Use on a Cloudy Day
Cloudy day photography settings are a little 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 repeatedly hide and reveal itself.
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.
I remember a portrait session I did for a magazine, using a medium format film camera. A Polaroid back was used for correct light exposing, switching to film for the shot.
Each time I replaced the backs, the sun went behind the clouds, and then came out again. This went on for at least two hours. A digital camera will make it easier. Here’s how.
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.
7. Give the Sky Definition With Cloud Formations
You may find a great landscape photography scene, but unless the sky has something interesting in it, it may fall flat. You can use birds, planes, balloons – even someone jumping.
Clouds are the easiest things to wait for unless you have all of the above readily available.
These clouds add texture, shape, and form – some even look like animals. Use them to your advantage.
Unless you want that high-key landscape photography shot, add clouds to that scene now.
6. Try Long Exposure Cloud Photography
Long exposures are great at any time of the day or night. Especially if you have access to cloudy days, an environment or scene.
Clouds add texture, shape, and form already. Capturing them with a long shutter speed adds movement and a wave-like presence to your scene.
The mood could be relaxing and calm or giving the viewer a sense of urgency and foreboding – such as the build-up of a storm.
Place your camera on a tripod, and use a shutter speed of five seconds or longer.
5. Take Advantage of Even Light
Overcast days are horrible for cityscapes. There is no definition, and the sky feels blank, boring and oppressive. There is no mood or feeling.
Ok, so no good for the sky, but an overcast day gives you diffused lighting photography. This means, even light is falling over your entire scene.
A bright sun and well-defined clouds create strong light and powerful shadows. If you don’t want those shadows yet love natural light, shoot when it’s overcast.
This is the perfect time for portraits, landscape photography (that doesn’t need the sky) or even destination product photographs.
4. Photograph Sun Rays
What adds more interest to a sky or a scene than sun rays? Nothing. These can only be captured using clouds.
When the sun hides behind a cloud, it will send out these beautiful shots of light around it.
It can be the main focus of your scene or used alongside a stunning landscape photography shot.
You will need to meter on the cloud to ensure the scene isn’t overexposed or blown out.
3. How to Use Diffused Light on Cloudy Days
The best reason to do cloudy day photography is the light it gives you. The light isn’t only spread out evenly as we already saw above, the light is diffused.
If you have used studio lighting before, or at least used a flash diffuser, you’ll know that it strips your scene of harsh light. Here, the clouds act as a diffuser, making the light nice and soft.
This is great for those natural portraits where the light doesn’t need to create a strong or powerful mood.
A great tip for diffused lighting photography is to just watch the sky for the best moment.
2. 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.
These are great. The sun passes through a group of clouds, and as it passes a small gap, a sun ray beams down to the ground.
You are able to capture a scene where only part of it is correctly exposed.
Meter on the lit area, and capture the glimpse focusing on the scene you can see. Do this rather than the darker parts of the scene for a truly powerful scene.
1. Use Clouds to Add Feeling to Your Images
Clouds add feelings and moods to the images. Big, fluffy clouds during a bright and sunny day give a sense of warmth and happiness to your landscape photography.
A dark, cloudy background gives a feeling something is about to happen. Intermittent clouds bring snow. Others bring rain, sleet or if you’re lucky – a storm.
A dark cloudy sky is interesting and gives the viewer the feeling and mood of the scene. Not every landscape photography scene should be well lit and full of joy.
We also need tension, suspense and uncertainty.
Here, you need to be very patient, watch the weather for unexpected changes so you can go when everyone else is running for shelter.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.
It's my training video that will walk you how to use your camera's functions in just 10 minutes - for free!
I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects:
You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!
Thanks again for reading our articles!