Best Tips for Cloudy Day Photos

The Best Equipment to Use in Overcast Conditions

View Of Cloudy Sky At Sunset

Norbert Kuklovsku / Getty Images

If you're a photographer who enjoys shooting photos on bright, sunny days, but tend to leave the camera in the drawer on cloudy, overcast days, you may want to rethink your policy. Shooting photos on a cloudy day requires some slightly different thinking and some different equipment.

Shooting cloudy day photos can be an enjoyable and easy process, as these tips show, and you'll achieve some interesting results. Just make sure that you understand your camera's settings and have the right equipment available, as it can be a little tricky to shoot great photos and achieve the right exposure under these conditions.

Cloudy Day Tips

  • Clouds actually act as a natural diffuser of the sunlight, limiting harsh shadows and distributing light evenly throughout the shot. So, if you have a close-up photo that you want to shoot outdoors, an overcast day is the perfect time to shoot it.

  • With some especially colorful subjects, such as flowers, an overcast day can help the colors stand out from the surrounding area. Bright sunlight tends to wash out the colors of flower petals, especially the subtle colors and highlights on each petal. Consider shooting flower photos on overcast days.

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

  • Portrait photos are good to try on overcast days, as the subjects won't squint because of overly bright sunlight.

  • If you have an architectural photo that you've been wanting to shoot, but you can't quite seem to find the best time of day for the photo because of the glare of the sun off windows or reflective metal, try shooting the photo on an overcast day. The clouds should negate more of the reflection and glare from the glass and metal of the building.

  • Keep in mind, depending on the thickness of the clouds, you may need to include a fill flash with your photo. Although it can seem a little odd to want to use a flash outdoors, the cloudy day may require it, so have the flash unit handy. In addition, heavy clouds sometimes can cause dull, flat photos, so you may need to add a little light.

  • One thing to be careful about when using a flash on a cloudy and rainy day is that you could end up with a bit of glare from puddles or water standing on the ground. You'll have to be a little careful about how you position yourself and your camera to make sure to avoid this glare.

  • If you want to shoot a close up photo with the flash, be sure to use your camera's macro mode so that the flash will throttle down and avoid a washed out photo or harsh shadows. Have a few different lenses available with your DSLR camera so that you can achieve the right look.

  • Why fight the conditions? Take advantage of the overcast conditions to create a unique photo that reflects the gloomy weather. For example, shooting a sad photo is a great use of overcast weather conditions.

  • Make sure your equipment is prepared for anything. An overcast day could lead to rain or cool weather very quickly. Be sure you have all of the gear you need to keep your camera equipment dry, just in case. Leave the rain gear at home, and you're sure to regret it.

  • 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 in the water. Or, near sunset or sunrise, you might be able to catch the sun just peaking out from the clouds near the horizon, giving you some great colors and amazing views!

  • In addition, make sure you have access to weather reports through a cell phone or a radio. If there's only going to be a short rain shower during the day, you may want to wait it out 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, you will want to find safer conditions.

  • Keep in mind that the clouds themselves can result in some amazing photographs. Look for interesting formations from the clouds or some great colors in the clouds. The colors can be especially brilliant if the sun is low in the sky. And as storms are approaching the texture of the 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 because the light clouds almost act as a softbox or a lightbox, removing the harsh shadows that can be present on a sunny day, while allowing plenty of sunlight for great results. As long as you're not dodging raindrops on a cloudy day, it can represent some of the best opportunities for great-looking photographs!