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Shooting on the Bright Side of Gloomy Days

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?

Nope.

Photo by floriansimon

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!

Capturing Mood

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.

Photo by miramira

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.

Photo by ceduxi0n

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!

Photo by satomi

Composition

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.

Photo by aim2run

Parting Tips

  • 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.
Photo by troch
  • 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.
Photo by bbilly
  • 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!

Photo by kvboyle

written by senpaislump

24 comments

  1. simon-hedge

    simon-hedge

    You are the master of gloomy days!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. senpaislump

    senpaislump

    Thanks! No master, just live in a foggy city!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  3. mafiosa

    mafiosa

    Great collection of photos :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  4. ja-en

    thanks for sharing!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  5. wuxiong

    wuxiong

    nice tipster as we are not always in the sun...<:)..<:)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  6. bubblylicious

    bubblylicious

    Just when I need this the most, I ran through your article. Gotta pack my 'babies', we're going on the bright side of gloomy days! Great article! :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  7. senpaislump

    senpaislump

    Thanks for the kind words everybody!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  8. darlim

    darlim

    Inspired to start shooting on RAINy days :)

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  9. anathea

    anathea

    a happy san franciscan here- thanks for this article, sometimes this time of year is frustrating, but youve inspired me to keep looking at our summer skies a little differently. another advantage of foggy skies not mentioned is that they make for a great double exposure layer. the fog usually has a lot of texture and if you go to the edge of the fog bank, really dramatic tendrils...

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  10. senpaislump

    senpaislump

    Sweet! Thanks for the tip!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  11. ahleng90

    ahleng90

    you come with sunshine during my gloomy days..yeay!haha

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  12. buckshot

    buckshot

    These are timely tips for a very meagre European summer! Nice article and very good compilation of photos that illustrate your points well.

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  13. inaction

    inaction

    London gets gloomy a fair bit so I am definitely inspired to take more photos on gloomy days! Plus I'm pretty sure the sun ruins a lot of my photos because I can't use the settings on my cameras yet (despite owning some for years) and end up with over exposed shots :s
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  14. domo-guy

    domo-guy

    Happy even when its gloomy! :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  15. tomkiddo

    tomkiddo

    the photos are awesome!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  16. jojo8785

    jojo8785

    fantastic article and very true!!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  17. lilo

    lilo

    Great article! I do love the drama of a gloomy sky, though sometimes the light is difficult. Nice tips, will definetely try it out the rest of this 'summer'

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  18. omer

    omer

    Great article. Finally talking about gloomy days and not only on "Bright Days of Summer". ^^'
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  19. dearjme

    dearjme

    Amazing ideas!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  20. itsdebraanne

    itsdebraanne

    just amaZing!! (:

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  21. b_and_w

    b_and_w

    Gloomy days RULE and your photos show it! Amazing photos, really inspiring! Thank you for sharing!
    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  22. slumbrnghok

    slumbrnghok

    Fantastic article! I'ma filmmaker and almost every cinematographer I've worked with HATES sunny days. they look shit on film. If you've got cloud cover you get really beautiful diffused light. If you've got pure sun we usually put up scrim and diffusion anyway to try and replicate cloud cover. Such a brilliant article! Thank you!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  23. nattykins

    nattykins

    I LOVE going out and shooting on gloomy days!!!!! :D

    about 3 years ago · report as spam
  24. davzoku

    davzoku

    Indeed! With the time tag feature, I realise most of my photos are taken when the sun is out and bright. This article gave me confidence to shoot even if it is gloomy!

    about 3 years ago · report as spam

Read this article in another language

This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano, 中文(繁體版) & Deutsch.