5 TIPS FOR SHOOTING ON A CLOUDY DAY

If you live in the northern hemisphere then you still have plenty of winter days ahead. Even in the spring, the sky is not always clear and sunny. Personally, I love shooting during overcast days. It lessens half of my worries and, although experimenting with sunlight is fun, cloudy means easy…ier. Easier!

Today I’m sharing with you 5 tips for shooting on a cloudy day. Let’s begin!

In this photo the light is coming from above, thus enhancing the facial features of the model and his high cheekbones. Model: Ruud van Buren (Touche modelling agency Amsterdam)

In this photo the light is coming from above, thus enhancing the facial features of the model and his high cheekbones. Model: Ruud van Buren (Touche modelling agency Amsterdam)

1. CLOUDY MEANS SOFT LIGHT

Look at it this way: if the Sun is our primary light source and you put a layer of clouds in between the Sun and the Earth – you get a giant natural diffuser. FOR FREE.

That means the light will be soft and perfect for portrait work. You don’t have to worry about ugly harsh shadows on your model’s face because there are none! The light is soft and compliments the model’s face.

2. LOW CONTRAST

Because the light is really soft on overcast days, this will result in a duller, flatter image with less contrast. There is not a huge difference between the shadow and light areas which is a good thing for capturing more details in the shadows. However, if you prefer more contrast in your photos, you can use post-processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom to fix that.

Ema and I went to shoot in the woods. We found a spot without any trees on either side and this allowed us to have her evenly lit in the centre.  Model: Ema Jankovič (dancer and choreographer)

Ema and I went to shoot in the woods. We found a spot without any trees on either side and this allowed us to have her evenly lit in the centre.  Model: Ema Jankovič (dancer and choreographer)

3. LIGHT FROM ABOVE

Any light has it’s source and directon (the angle from which it falls on the model’s face). In the case of cloudy days – the light being diffursed by the clouds – the light is falling down on an angle from above.

That means you will have to ask your models to move their heads in order to see what pose works best. Generally, it’s best if the model’s head is tilted slightly upwards, thus eliminating the dark areas around the eyes.

Using reflector is helpful in these sort of situations, as they can bounce the light in the model’s face, adding nice catchlights in the eyes to make them more prominent.

The best thing about photographing on a cloudy day is that you don't have to worry about ugly shadows. The clouds act like a giant diffuser! Tip: ask your model to tilt her/his head slightly upwards, toward the light source. Model: Michelle (Tijara model management)

The best thing about photographing on a cloudy day is that you don't have to worry about ugly shadows. The clouds act like a giant diffuser! Tip: ask your model to tilt her/his head slightly upwards, toward the light source. Model: Michelle (Tijara model management)

4. BLOWN-OUT HIGHLIGHTS

You pressed the shutter button and – BAM! – the sky turned white. No, it’s not magic, it’s one thing that happens a lot when shooting during cloudy days – blown-out highlights. The sky on the photo loses its colour and no details are visible.

If you’re shooting in RAW (and you SHOULD), you can partially solve this problem by underexposing the image and bringing back the details in the shadows in post (Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom).

The other method you can use is HDR. That way you take three photos, one of which is properly exposed, one is underexposed and the last one is overexposed. This technique will definitely allow you to maintain more details in the final image, but the use of a tripod is recommended!

Two other ways:
– Using graduated ND filters (external link)
– Using fill light or flash

Look at this Youtube video to get an understanding of how Gavin Hoey used external lights to add a bit of drama to the image, as well as the settings he used to create a well-balanced scene!

5. SEE THE WORLD IN COLOUR

Okay, how does a yellow field of flowers look like in sunlight? You can barely look at it, right? It’s so bright and not a pleasant view. And it shines like a disco ball on photos!

But, on cloudy days, the story changes. All those beautiful bright colours like red, yellow and orange stand out among the grayish dismal landscape. Flowery fields become magical places to shoot at, the red roofs are a much-needed pop of colour and there is nothing better than having a colourful bold style on your model.

girl in a field of yellow flowers

Now, THAT will make an impression!

SO, LET’S GO OVER THIS AGAIN:

– Cloudy days are great for portraiture
– Shoot colourful subjects/objects because they stand out from the rest of the landscape
– Beware of blown-out highlights and the sky turning white

A dull gray day outside? Perfect – it’s time to put these tips in action!
Don’t forget to share your results with me and let me know how your shoot went!

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selfportrait with mirror

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi! My name is Isabella and I’m a lazy workaholic. That means I'm a:
- fine art/portrait photographer
- illustrator (check out my comics here!)
- digital photography blogger - jewelry creator
- graphic designer

I love spending my time creatively, but when I’m in the mood to chill I enjoy watching movies, drinking tea and hanging out with friends!
Find me on Instagram and say hello!


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