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4 Top Ideas For Photography In Cloudy Weather.

I generally like to write about things that are related in some way to what I'm shooting at the moment. Right now it's the English summer, so I'm going to share some tips on shooting in cloudy weather. I'm hoping this will invoke Sod's law, or something like that, and lead to an immediate upturn in the number of sunny days we're getting. I'm becoming desperate. If you're listening weather gods, a "surprisingly mild October" will not be sufficient karma this time!


1. Capturing The Texture Of Skies

Not all overcast days involve a blank, featureless grey canvas covering the world. In fact, from a photographer's point of view, the shapes, tones, contrasts and textures contained within some cloudy skies are a bit of a goldmine. This is especially true if conditions are edging towards the stormy. Occassionally the opportunity arises to capture a sky just before a monumental downpour, with distant rain linking land and sky together.

In these situations the sky becomes the hero of the shot. It doesn't matter where you are. In urban environments, the orderedness of human civilization contrasts with the angry elements. Whilst in rural settings a powerful display of the natural world is on show. I really like converting these shots into black and white in post processing. Give it a go. The montone emphasizes contrast, texture and pattern. In fact, even if the sky isn't a stunner, a nicely rendered b/w conversion can lift it up a notch.


2. Showing The Colour Of Flowers

Flowers always look lively, vibrant and photogenic. But on hot, clear days, the hard light of a bright sun produces washed out colour. If you've ever shot flowers in sunny conditions, you may have been disappointed by the lack of depth of colour, and possibly the prevalence of harsh shadows and highlights.

Clouds function as a giant diffuser and provide natural soft light. It's brilliant for flower shots, and any kind of 'natural still life'. If you get the chance to shoot just after a bit of rain, more the better. The little droplets left behind can be very cool indeed, like precious stones bejewelling the colourful petals. Have a macro lens in your bag? Lucky you! Now's a good time to use it.


3. Get Out On The Streets

Image by: hipnshoot

I do as much street photography as I can and, frankly, I'm not that bothered what the conditions are. Whether it's hard light from a sunny day, or soft and diffused light seeping through clouds, there are advantages to each. So this is on your list of options for these conditions.

I like shooting street scenes under a cloudy sky because getting accurate exposures can often be easier. This kind of photography is about reacting quickly. I tend to use aperture priority mode (and normally leave it on f.8), matrix metering and autofocus. Street scenes often throw up situations where part of what's going on is under shade, whilst the rest is in full daylight. On sunny days I often totally lose the area in shade (nearly black), but cloudy conditions are more forgiving on the metering.


4. Soft-Lit Portraits

Image by: Bui Linh Ngan

There aren't all that many natural light conditions which are near-perfect for portrait photos. Window light is the most obvious example, and you often hear professional portrait photographers singing its praises. But a simple overcast day is actually a pretty damn good time to take portraits. Not perfect, but very helpful all the same.

Under the glare of a strong sun, shadows soon spread across people's faces and leave nasty dark patches, off-set by contrastingly bright areas. These pictures are always frustrating, because you never feel you can really see the person properly! The soft, diffused light produced by a cloudy sky makes it easy to capture the full detail of someone's face and, crucially, leaves their eyes unhidden by shadow. I usually switch to spot metering when shooting portraits outdoors, but you can always just use exposure compensation to tweak things if that's how you prefer to work.


So there we go, 4 quick ideas for photography in cloudy weather. Well, writing this hasn't yet helped to disperse the clouds outside my window! Still got my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I'm going to grab a jumper and shoot some b/w beach landscapes because there are some quite cool textures in that sky.

As ever I look forward to anything you'd like to add / contribute / discuss in the comments.

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