Best Tips for Cloudy-Day Photos

The best equipment to use in overcast conditions

Shooting photos on a cloudy day requires some slightly different thinking and some different equipment. Still, it can be an enjoyable and easy process, as these tips show, with some interesting results. Just make sure that you understand your camera's settings and have the right equipment available; achieving the right exposure under these conditions can be tricky.

Ideal Subjects for Cloudy-Day Photography

Clouds act as a natural diffuser of sunlight, limiting harsh shadows and distributing light evenly throughout the shot. An overcast day is the perfect time to shoot close-ups.

Whereas bright sunlight tends to wash out bright colors, such as those of flower petals, an overcast day can help them stand out. Consider shooting flower photos on overcast days to capture the subtle colors and highlights on each petal.

Portrait photos are good to try on overcast days. Subjects won't squint because of bright sunlight.

Overcast days tend to diminish contrast, which can yield an interesting photograph. With the reduced contrast, you'll find additional detail in the areas normally buried in shadows.

Take advantage of the overcast conditions to create a unique photo that reflects the mood of the gloomy weather.

Architectural photos can be difficult because of the glare of the sun off windows and reflective metal. Try shooting these on an overcast day. The clouds temper the reflection and glare.

Cloudy day photos can result in some unique images. For example, you can shoot at a lake, showcasing the reflection of the interesting cloud formations. Near sunset or sunrise, you might be able to catch the sun just peeking out from the clouds near the horizon.

Clouds themselves can result in amazing photographs. Look for interesting formations and colors, which can be especially brilliant when the sun is low in the sky. As storms approach, clouds can create some great images.

One of the best reasons to shoot photos on a cloudy day—as long as the cloud cover isn't too heavy—is the softbox or lightbox effect of the light. It offers plenty of light without the harsh shadows of a sunny day.

Technical Tips of Cloudy-Day Photography

Depending on the thickness of the clouds, you may need to include a fill flash when shooting your photo, so keep the flash unit handy.

One thing to be careful about when using a flash on a cloudy, rainy day: Glare from puddles or water standing on the ground. Be careful about how you position yourself and your camera to avoid this.

If you want to shoot a close-up photo with the flash, use your camera's macro mode so that the flash throttles down; this helps avoid a washed-out photo and harsh shadows. Have a few different lenses available with your DSLR camera so that you can achieve the right look.

Protecting Your Equipment

An overcast day could lead to rain or cool weather very quickly. Be sure you have all of the rain gear you need to keep your camera equipment dry, just in case.

In addition, make sure you have access to weather reports on your phone or on a radio. Wait out short showers and continue shooting your cloudy-day photos once the rain stops. However, if the rain is going to persist much of the day, or if there's a chance that the rain could turn into a severe storm, consider postponing your photo session until conditions are safer.

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