You always hear photographers talk about the importance of “good light.” We want shadows that add dimension. We adore glowing backlight. And we swoon for lens flare.But the truth is, “good light” isn’t always readily available! Especially in these gloomier winter months, cloudy gray skies are more likely that beautiful golden sun.
I used to not even bother picking up my camera when it was overcast. I hated the light and was not inspired by it at all. My camera would languish for weeks, gathering dust while life and all of its photo-worthy moments passed me by.
After a while I realized that I was missing too many opportunities by not taking pictures in less-than-ideal light. I finally resolved to make it work. I didn’t want to waste my time waiting for sunshine. So I set-out to learn how to work WITH the gloom instead of against it.
Imagine my surprise when I realized that not only could I make overcast days work, but that these kinds of conditions could actually be favorable! So if you are like I was and used to hide from those cloudy skies, this article is for you. Here are all the reason you should love photographing on overcast days.
Gray skies mean that beautiful weather is on its way
While the clouds sometimes feel a bit depressing, they can also be a sign of amazing things to come. That’s because clouds mean precipitation! And precipitation can lead to some pretty fantastic photo magic. The key is to make the weather work in your favor.
Overcast skies during winter here means there is a big chance of snow. And snow, my friends, is an awesome enhancer of photos. It adds interest, texture and life to any picture!
Even better, snow is irresistibly fun for the kids! All of those smiles make for happy photos, even if the light isn’t particularly happy.
Think about how you can incorporate play into your photos of snow. Is it a picture of the kids sticking their tongues out to catch a snowflake? Perhaps you want to take a shot from overhead as the kids make snow angels? Or maybe it is a photo of everyone working together to make a snowman.
There are endless possibilities to make your pictures shine with happiness when you add snow to the mix!
Of course, it isn’t always cold enough to snow, in which case those gray skies might mean that rain is on its way. This is still a great opportunity for photos!
Think about rain boots splashing in puddles, colorful umbrellas, and shooting through windows covered in sparkly little droplets of water. As long as you keep your gear safe from the elements, there is no reason to hide when the wet stuff comes raining down.
Try shooting reflections in puddles, or even photographing the clouds themselves. This is a great time to try to be creative and you may find yourself loving the results.
And if you are really lucky, rain can lead to RAINBOWS! One morning it was raining like crazy and it seemed as thought the deluge would never stop. But then suddenly, a double rainbow appeared!
The sun had come out for the briefest moment, left just as quickly, and left these magical rainbows behind. This never would have happened with out that rain and those clouds. It was like a dream and I have never seen something like it again.
So be prepared, you never know what magic those clouds can bring. They are often a sign of fantastic things to come.
Colors are even bolder in the midst of gloom
So let’s say magical rainbows don’t appear. What are we to do? Create your own rainbow of color!
All that dull gray begs for a pop of color and when you oblige, that color is even more beautiful. Color really works against the gray and can be made the star of the frame.
Try putting your subject in a bold, rich color and photograph her on an overcast day. Red look richer. Blues look deeper. And golds look bolder. The contrast of the muted light with the saturated hues can make for photo magic.
My daughter’s red coat against the muted hues ensures that my viewer is sure to see her as the focus of the photo. It’s a simple concept but makes all the difference when the sun isn’t at it’s most glorious.
Shape the light for beautiful portraits
If the outdoors are gloomy, stay inside! Overcast days are a perfect opportunity to play with window light and create some beautiful portraits.
By using the light as it shines through the shape of a window, you are no longer working with the sun overhead. Instead, you are working with a rectangular light source positioned on the wall.
Try moving your subject closer to the window, farther from the window, and behind, below, above, and in front of the window. Observe what happens to the light and shadows on his face as he moves. When you see results you love, take a photo!
I love using this concept in my carport. It gives me the most beautiful, soft, directional light. I make my kids pose here all the time! It is the same concept as the window, but now the rectangle of my light source is much larger. It makes for beautiful soft shadows and it’s my favorite spot for a portrait.
Take advantage of nature’s softbox
Clouds are a great diffuser of light. The sun is an amazing light source and the clouds complement it by taking of the hard edges of midday sun.
A cloudy sky is basically a huge softbox and if you are positioned right, the light is amazingly flattering. Having your subject straight up to the sky lights up the face beautifully.
The light is flat and that makes for especially flattering results. While I do love directional light, there is definitely a place for flat light in my workflow. This kind of light minimizes blemishes and wrinkles because it doesn’t emphasize texture.
Try playing with different perspectives using this diffused light and see if you find an angle that is most flattering. You will be delighted to find that the clouds can remove a lot of the challenges that you might face on a bright sunny day!
So don’t despair at the gloom! Instead, take the optimists approach and find all the ways that clouds and gray skies can benefit your photography. This kind of creative challenge is always good and you might just get results that you adore!