Photography on a Cloudy Day
A cloudy day can be a great day for taking pictures. As we transition from winter to summer, a partly cloudy springtime day is a wonderful opportunity for cloud photography and creating truly compelling images. You just can’t beat a photo taken in the early evening with a deep blue sky and bright flaming orange clouds. Dramatic cloud formations can be a significant compositional element and will definitely add contrast and vibrancy to your photographs. Everyone loves a beautiful, clear and sunny day. But direct sunlight, and harsh shadows from the bright sun, can sometimes produce unflattering images. Without clouds, some landscape photos can look a little boring and as a result, challenge photographers to rely on other composition elements.
Despite all the planning in the world, there are never any guarantees you’ll get awesome cloud formations and just the right light to create memorable images. Tracking weather forecasts could give you insights into possible cloud formations. Unfortunately, there is no way to accurately predict cloud movement and how light may pass through the clouds. It just takes some planning and a little luck to capture great photos on a cloudy day. But if it doesn’t work out, don’t give up. Be patient and keep trying. Eventually nature will reward you for your efforts and you will end up take some stunning photos. Sadly, not all cloudy days are ideal for photography. Gray overcast days with clouds that lack in features and shape can be pretty boring. However, days like these may cast light optimal for photographing flowers.
It all starts with being at the right place at the right time. If you want to capture morning clouds at sunrise, you have to position yourself with your camera at the crack of dawn. Conversely, to shoot a nice sunset, you have to be patient and wait for sundown and usually well beyond. Sometimes the best time to photograph clouds are at sunrise, before, during and after sunset, before a storm, and sometimes just after a storm.
If the sky is full of clouds, point your lens up. Using the Rule of Thirds as your guide, compose your shot so the upper two-thirds of your image includes the sky. Use the clouds as your main subject and ocean, lake, valley floor, hills, or mountain range as your foreground.
Usually the sky is several stops brighter than your foreground. The contrast range between the sky and your foreground can be pretty wide (up to 5 stops). For example, if you expose for the mountains, the sky will be blown out and overexposed. However, exposing for the sky can create a nice silhouette of the mountains. Seasoned photographers use what is known as a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. These filters darken specific areas of an image, such as bright skies, while allowing for normal exposure in the other regions of the image.
Weather 101: A Tutorial on Cloud Types (FREE Video)
So if you’re really motivated to photograph clouds and you want to become a cloud expert, you can learn all about the 10 different cloud types from Weather Forecast Office at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, NM.
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