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The Beauty in Cloudy Day Photography

written by: •edited by: Carly Stockwell•updated: 11/27/2013

One might think that cloudy days would not present the most ideal conditions for picture taking, however, photographing on overcast days can produce some of your most dramatic shots.

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    Don't be scared of an overcast day. Clouds can provide the right environment for some of your most beautiful photographs.


    Clouds act as a natural light diffuser, making cloudy days extremely suitable for portraits. Days with bright sunshine and a photographer using the outdated “sun over the photographers shoulder” approach will end up with a subject who is squinting and lighting on the face is flat. Your subject might have dark shadows under the eyes or nose, which will be quiet unflattering.

    However, the soft diffused lighting of a cloudy day makes for evenly lit portraits without harsh shadows. Photograph a subject under a canopy of trees during a bright sunlit day and you may end up with dappling on the subject’s face from the sunlight filtering through the leaves. Try the same portrait on an overcast day and notice the difference in the shadows cast.

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    Landscape & Nature

    Looming clouds offer the perfect backdrop for somber pictures of old churches and cemeteries. Gloomy days can convey mystery or sadness in your photographs. Stormy skies can produce contrasts in clouds that can’t be found on a clear day and sunshine peaking through thick clouds can produce stunning results. Sunsets and sunrises through clouds can produce beautiful, vibrant colors. Your opportunities on these days are limitless.

    Colorful flowers that may look washed out in photographs taken on sunny days will appear vivid in cloudy day photographs. The softer lighting is perfect for photographing water. Using slower shutter speeds to allow more light to enter the lens will give a silky look to flowing water. It is always a good idea to use your tripod when photographing with slower shutter speeds to avoid blurring of the picture. The shutter is open longer and any movement will produce a shaky image.

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    Unique Possibilities

    Pay attention to your surroundings. A bright umbrella or raincoat could become the focal point of your picture on a gray day or the face of a delighted child splashing through a puddle of water. Experiment with different settings on your camera. Try black and white or even sepia to see what effects they have on your picture. Always take caution to protect your camera from the elements but don’t let a rainy or overcast day deter you from venturing out for a shoot, you will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

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