HOW TO GET MAGNIFICENT PHOTOS OF A CLOUDY SKY

Many photographers believe that on cloudy days you can not get good pictures and many others believe that there is no better situation to take pictures than when the sky is covered with clouds. The truth is that everyone is as wrong as they are right in such statements.

There are no ideal conditions for taking photographs, what exist are opportunities for you to exploit them with your camera and your knowledge.

Whether it’s a day in full sun, a cloudy day, with fog, with rain or even with a lot of snow, what will allow you to take an excellent picture is the way you take your shots, the light in them and the elements with which Forms

In today’s article you will learn how to take magnificent photos of a cloudy sky, from understanding what are the main problems when doing so, and then give them a solution.

Do not let the clouds stop you, take your camera and go out to take pictures!

THE NECESSARY EQUIPMENT

  • The camera: to take photographs of clouds it is not necessary that you have a super sophisticated camera, much less, since almost with any camera you can achieve excellent photographs. Of course, in order to capture the clouds in all their magnificence, your camera must have manual shooting mode.
  •  The objective: there is no valid rule here. You can use wide-angle, “normal” or telephoto lenses depending on how much of the sky you want to capture within your frames .
  • The filters: filters are an excellent tool for you to add more drama to your cloudy skies. I recommend that, if you have a polarizing filter and / or a neutral density filter, do not forget to store them in your backpack for use in your next shots.
  • The tripod: it is always essential in poor lighting conditions, or if you want to take long exposure photographs. If you are looking to photograph clouds at sunset, or you want to capture a few rays in a storm , do not forget to charge your tripod with you.
  • Remote shutter: if you want to take long exposure photographs with a tripod, it will not be enough because, when you press the shutter button, you can end up moving the camera yourself. Therefore, to minimize the risks of moving photographs, try to get a remote trigger so you can minimize trepidation.
  • Others: Try to carry well-charged batteries, empty memory cards, a good backpack and, depending on where you are going to make your shots, protectors for your camera and your backpack in case the clouds turn into storms and a cleaning kit in case the drops or dust dirty your camera and lenses.

THE PLACES

In the photograph of cloudy skies, how could it be otherwise, the protagonist is the clouds. The problem arises when it comes to surrounding your protagonist with elements that can reinforce his presence and help you give your photographs more strength.

These elements can be from the sky and other clouds, to birds, trees, and any other element that you consider appropriate to find the photograph you are looking for. When photographing cloudy skies, you should not only focus on them, but you can use how many resources and elements you find on hand so that the messages that your photographs transmit are more effective.

If you want to know how to give more prominence to your clouds, be sure to read the following article: ” 16 Ways to Give Privilege to Your Subjects .”

FREQUENT PROBLEMS OF CLOUDY SKY PHOTOGRAPHS

The first thing you should do to solve a problem is to recognize it, so I have prepared a list of the main problems you will encounter when taking pictures on cloudy days, so you can start working on them:

  • The intensity of the light: the density of the clouds and the amount of these directly affects the intensity of the light available in the scene. This means that the more stormy the weather, the slower the shutter speeds you should use, the more open the diaphragms and the higher the ISO sensitivity.
  • The contrast between lights and shadows: although in the cloudy days the intensity of the light decreases with respect to the sunny days, obtaining details in both lights and shadows will be extremely difficult. If you plan to include part of a landscape to frame your cloudy skies or other elements, you should pay special attention to the way you measure the light in the scene in order not to overexpose the sky or underexpose the rest of the elements. I recommend that you take a look at the following article: ” Detailed Guide: How to Make a Correct Measurement and Exposure in Your Photographs “.
  • The color: the color of the light on cloudy days tends to be more blue than sunny days making the colors present in the scene you are going to photograph look more washed. On cloudy days, colors lose saturation and brightness, which can make it difficult to get photos with high visual impact.
  • Variable Light:  the conditions of the light will vary constantly depending on the size and density of the clouds. Depending on whether there is sun, if lightning strikes to cross the clouds, or if the sky is completely covered, your task will be affected since you must be constantly adjusting the parameters of the shot to achieve a correct exposure.
  • The rains: the greater the amount of clouds and the greater the density of these, the greater the chances of it starting to rain. Keep this in mind if you do not want your team to suffer from the weather and take the necessary precautions.
Clouds worthy of being portrayed.

HOW TO GET MAGNIFICENT PHOTOS OF A CLOUDY SKY?

Now that you know what is the necessary equipment to take magnificent photographs of cloudy skies, what you should keep in mind when choosing a place to do them and the main problems with which you can find yourself, the time has come for you Give some tips to transform your photos of cloudy skies into magnificent photographs.

1- Add drama: if you want to add drama to a scene, few elements will be as effective to do as the clouds. These will provide your photographs with mystery, from heaven to earth, so you should not miss the opportunity to include them within your frames, and even make them your protagonists.

2- Set the alarm clock: both sunrise and sunset are the best times to portray cloudy skies. At that time the sunlight becomes more intense, of a golden color and with a lateral direction that adds spectacular tones and contrasts between the clouds and that end up drawing in the sky beautiful colors and with incomparable textures. Be sure to stay until the early hours of the night if you want to get the most out of these beautiful skies on cloudy days.

Before nightfall

3- Adjust the white balance: to counteract the loss of color that occurs on cloudy days, you need to adjust the white balance of your camera in order to counteract this effect. You can try to adjust it manually or select the “cloudy” option (depending on the manufacturer of your camera, this option can be called in another way) within the default settings of your camera. If you have any questions about the term “white balance” do not forget to consult the following article: ” If You Scare the Term” White Balance “You Need to Read This Article “.

4 – Do not be afraid of underexposure: the differences between the lights and shadows that occur when photographing a large sky with a portion of soil or a cloud with respect to another will force you to take your measurements to the limit if you want to obtain correctly exposed photographs . Therefore, to obtain the best possible exposure you must:

  • Set the light measurement mode of your camera on time (this mode is the most accurate and least automatic of all).
  • Adjust the exposure compensation in order to compensate for those scenes with very marked backlights. Remember: positive values ​​will “clarify” the picture and negative values ​​”will obscure it.” Do not worry if you cannot master such adjustment quickly, since the secret to doing so is to experiment and practice. The important thing is that you know that this function exists and that you can use it for the benefit of your photographs.
  • Shoot, whenever possible, in “digital negative” or “RAW” format so that you can adjust the parameters of the shot later on the computer.

Anyway, a good practice not to “burn” your photographs of cloudy skies is to underexpose the shots a little until you completely master the technique of ” measurement and exposure ” of your photographs.

5- Braketing and HDR: An excellent technique that you can use to take your photographs of cloudy skies is the “HDR”. This technique consists of taking photographs of high dynamic range which will allow you, by joining several photographs, to obtain details both in the lights and in the shadows. You can do it in two ways: using the braketing function or manually.

  • Braketing: is a function in which, when activated, the camera will take a burst of equal photographs but with different levels of exposure: light, medium and dark tones.
  • Manual: it consists of taking the photographs but, since it does not have the braketing function in your camera, you will have to adjust the exposure values ​​(shutter speed, ISO sensitivity or aperture of the iris) manually between shot and take.

Once you have all the shots, you can take an HDR photo directly from the camera (if your camera has this function built-in) or from the computer with some suitable software.

I recommend you take a look at the following article if you want to get HDR photographs .

6- Encourage yourself to use filters: a polarizing filter, for example, will help you add contrast between clouds and give them a little more definition. Contrary to what it may seem to you, polarizing filters are not only useful on sunny days as they will also help you to cut the fog that occurs when the sun passes through the clouds, making sharper photographs. Neutral density filters will also be very useful if you want to turn clouds into silk mantles through long exposures.

Long exposure with an ND filter (Neutral density)

7- Protect your equipment well: the more clouds there are in the sky, the greater the chances that a rain will ruin not only your photo shoot, but also your equipment, if you do not protect it properly. Try to get a good waterproof backpack or carry plastic bags with you to protect your camera and lenses.

8- Keep the horizon low: If you want to further enhance the sky, remember the “rule of the horizon”: the lower you place the horizon within the frame, the more prominence the sky will gain (and vice versa). Depending on whether you want the clouds to be your protagonists or, if you want them to be a background element that adds more drama, you must locate the horizon in a way that reinforces the message you are trying to convey with your photograph.

The low horizon gives greater prominence to the sky.

9- Be patient: not all clouds are worthy of being portrayed, so you should not go out to photograph how much cloud crosses your path. Try to portray interesting clouds that allow you to capture the attention of the spectators or that enhance or reinforce the rest of the elements present in the scene.

10- Add extra elements: in the photograph of cloudy skies, it’s not just about going out to capture a cloud that leaves everyone with their mouths open. The sky is full of objects that you can use in your compositions, don’t leave them out.

The sky is full of elements that you can use.

That a few clouds do not prevent you from going out to enjoy a spectacular photographic day.

 


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