Would you believe that gloomy days are great days to go out and shoot? Experience tells us that sunny days are the absolute best times to go out and take pictures, but overcast conditions have their own benefits when it comes to shooting as well. Here are some tips and suggestions on making the most of those grey days.
Northern California suffers through a phenomenon called “June Gloom” where typically sun-soaked summer days are replaced with brooding, melancholic grey clouds. Shockingly, the citizens in San Francisco live in this “June Gloom” for the majority of the year! Bay Area weather continues to confound those that visit as well as its inhabitants with bipolar temperatures and perpetual fog.
There’s no doubt that Lomographers know the absolute best days to go outside and shoot are on clear sunny days, but should overcast days be overlooked entirely? Should grey aching skies deter you from roaming about and getting some awesome shots?
I’m no professional photographer, but these are some tips and guidelines picked up from photography teachers in school, professionals, friends and personal experience along the way.
Overcast Can Be Good
It is falsely assumed that overcast skies are less than ideal conditions to go out and shoot, but overcast skies gives us diffused sunlight. When the sky is overcast, the sun does not shine directly and the cloud cover softens all of the light. This is advantageous to us because light is more even and shadows appear softer or disappear altogether. Use this soft and balanced light to your advantage!
Who said all pictures you take needed to be filled with fun, smiles and sun? Use overcast days to photograph something you wouldn’t think of shooting. Cloudy days are good for taking gloomy and atmospheric photos. Get in the mood and shoot the “darker side” of a subject.
Get in touch with nature
Overcast days are also good for photographing smaller scenes. Close-ups of plant-life, rock surfaces, and colorful patterns all come out great on cloudy days. The lack of shadows help cast a soft light on flowers, leaves and woody settings. Bright sunny days produce harsh sunlight that tend to blow out the brightness of wildflowers and similarly colorful subjects. Detailed macro shots work well too because of the aforementioned reasons.
Shoot Portraits & Candids
Ever notice that a good majority of high fashion editorials are shot in overcast conditions? That’s because the lighting is even and more consistent which results in better exposures and more flattering shots of your subjects. Therefore, portraits and candid shots come out great in these conditions. If your subject is wearing something bright the colors will pop even more!
This part is totally up to the shooter, but I try to avoid having the sky in my shots because it’s generally dull, grey and doesn’t provide a good background. Instead I focus on details and tight framing of my subjects removing most if not all of the sky in the frame.
- Shoot black and white – using black and white film can lead to some interesting photos in these conditions. From my experience, it results in great contrast as well as saturated tones, which go well with the overall mood of weather.
- Architecture and abstracts – buildings and abstract patterns work well in these conditions too. Because shadows are eliminated, the structure’s lines and angles of a building are more defined and apparent in the photographs you take.
- Experiment – I didn’t go over technical things such as film speed, aperture settings, shutter speeds because it is important to experiment with what works for you and your camera
I hope you can take these tips and apply them to your Lomography adventure to get great shots, even on the gloomiest days. Over cast skies present a fun and exciting challenge, and it’s best to adapt to the conditions rather than wait for it to be “just right.” Being comfortable with any setting ultimately makes you a better, more diverse shooter. With that said, I would love to see your cloudy day shots! Remember that there are no rules, so next time, don’t throw away cloudy days!