Many people see an overcast sky and think, “What a bummer. I guess I’m going to have to photograph on another day.” Think again. An overcast sky can be a photographer’s best friend. Instead of battling with the harsh rays of sun, an overcast sky can be looked at as a photographer’s soft box as it creates soft and even light over subjects. In an overcast sky, the clouds act as a natural diffuser. So, the more clouds, the more evenly dispersed the light appears.
Whenever the sky is overcast, I cannot wait to break out my camera and shoot landscape, food, and portraits. With all that being said, an overcast sky can also create a flat, boring photograph due to the lack of contrast, lighting, catchlights … the list can go on and on. So, how do you make the most out of overcast weather?
5 Tips for Shooting in Overcast Weather
1.) Add Color
If you’re photographing people in overcast light, consider the clothing and accessory options. You don’t want your subjects to wear grays and whites (unless you’re going for a flat look) because the overall look and feel of the photograph will be flat. Instead, add a pop of color or two to really draw the eye into the photograph and create interest. You can also add brightness to a person’s face by having the person look up to the sky.
2.) Watch the Sky
Naturally, a flat, overcast sky will have a tendency to look gray or white in a photograph. You should be mindful of how much sky you’re including in your composition. Will the white or gray sky take away from the subject? Or, will it add to it? If the former, then avoid including the sky in the photograph. If the latter, think of ways to make a stark contrast.
3.) Capture the Mood
Instead of a bright and cheery photograph, why not capture the mood and tones of the moment? Overcast sky can help you do just that. Embrace the overcast sky and use it to help tell a story. Whether it comes to landscape or food photography, I always love to use the lighting situation to help set the mood and tone for the end result.
4.) Post Process in Black and White
Often, when photographing in low light situations, photos tend to be grainy due to the camera setting used to capture the moment. Black and white photos have a tendency to hide the grain. When you upload your photos, select the one that would look the best in black and white. Amp up the contrast while you post process and you will love the result. For black and white photography tips, be sure to check out this post.
5.) Add Grain (cautiously)
That brings me to my next tips. Embrace the grain in your photos. By adding just the right amount of grain, you can enhance the story of the photograph. Be cautious, though. Adding too much grain to a photograph will make it look busy and a bit sloppy. The right amount of grain will add to the mood, cold, isolation, noise … whatever you are trying to tell through your photograph.
The bottom line is to never let overcast days get you frustrated. The next time you’re faced with a gray day situation, use it to your advantage and embrace your artistic side.
What’s your favorite overcast photography tip?