Shooting on the Bright Side of Gloomy Days

2011-07-28 24

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?


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


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 on 2011-07-28 #gear #tutorials #san-francisco #cloudy #overcast #tipster #gloomy #fog


  1. simon-hedge
    simon-hedge ·

    You are the master of gloomy days!

  2. senpaislump
    senpaislump ·

    Thanks! No master, just live in a foggy city!

  3. mafiosa
    mafiosa ·

    Great collection of photos :)

  4. ja-en
    ja-en ·

    thanks for sharing!

  5. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

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

  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! :)

  7. senpaislump
    senpaislump ·

    Thanks for the kind words everybody!

  8. darlim
    darlim ·

    Inspired to start shooting on RAINy days :)

  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...

  10. senpaislump
    senpaislump ·

    Sweet! Thanks for the tip!

  11. ahleng90
    ahleng90 ·

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

  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.

  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

  14. domo-guy
    domo-guy ·

    Happy even when its gloomy! :D

  15. tomkiddo
    tomkiddo ·

    the photos are awesome!

  16. jojo8785
    jojo8785 ·

    fantastic article and very true!!

  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'

  18. omer
    omer ·

    Great article. Finally talking about gloomy days and not only on "Bright Days of Summer". ^^'

  19. dearjme
    dearjme ·

    Amazing ideas!

  20. itsdebraanne
    itsdebraanne ·

    just amaZing!! (:

  21. b_and_w
    b_and_w ·

    Gloomy days RULE and your photos show it!
    Amazing photos, really inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

  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!

  23. nattykins
    nattykins ·

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

  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!

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