Finding the Light: On a Cloudy Day | Part 5

February 6, 2015

Yay! Another one of my favorite types of light to shoot in! Wait..I feel like I’ve said that about most of them. I guess that shows you how easily excitable I am with my photo opportunities! 😉

Okay, so this week we are talking about finding the light on a cloudy day. I first want to point out that this could also mean a partly cloudy day where the clouds pass over the sun from time to time. The main idea that you should take from this is: clouds act as a softbox over your light source. Translation:clouds can be a very awesome thing. They diffuse the harsh light at all times of the day when they cover the sun. Don’t be afraid of them!

Negatives of a Cloudy Day

The only negative I see with clouds is that 1) they can potentially be too darkening to where there simply just isn’t enough light (closer to sunset or sunrise) and 2) they don’t allow you to backlight your subjects. I understand some photographers choose not to shoot on a cloudy day. For example, some photographer’s style is backlit and sun-kissed, so they personally choose to reschedule, so they can continue their brand/style. I’m not one of those photographers, because I love that cloudy days give you the availability to face your clients any-which-way you please. Remember that on sunny days, you don’t want to face them toward the sun, because…it’s just mean.

Quite simply…how to find the light on a cloudy day: shoot anytime and anywhere. In the examples I’ve posted, notice that they are not backlit, nor are there any hot spots. Most are in an open field that might have required them face a different way had the sun come out.

Do: have fun being able to place your clients facing direction and in any location. This softbox effect from the clouds diffuses the sun and gives you such an even light that’s wonderful to work with- almost the same concept as if you were shooting in the shade- evenly diffused and perfect.

Something else to look for are shadows under your client’s eyes. If you see this, then add a reflector to give some pop to their face.

Don’t: shoot as close to sunset as you normally would. Because it’s cloudy, you lose light a lot quicker than when it isn’t. You might want to start shooting earlier in the afternoon to make sure you aren’t having to shoot at too high of ISOs come sunset time. Your camera doesn’t lie! It knows how much light is present whether you can see it with the naked eye or not.

Something else to keep in mind is to stay away from shooting under trees or buildings. We talked about this in our post about shooting in the shade. This doubly decreases the light with it being cloudy and you being under a tree. Remember to look up and see sky; then shoot away confidently!

If You Have To: then go ahead and open up your aperture wide, lower your shutter speed as comfortably as you feel and raise your ISO. Keep in mind when you do either of these that as you open your aperture, you run the risk of losing a family member in the focus plane, you could cause a blurred image due to the slowness (shutter speed), and lastly, you could add grain to your images the higher ISO you go.

To Summarize

And there you have it guys. It’s a very basic concept to find the light on a cloudy day. It’s everywhere and at a very diffused state. Let a cloudy day be the time you opt to shoot in an open field. But remember to steer clear from already-shady areas- or at least be weary of them! Make sure your histogram reads that you’re getting enough light! 🙂

Thank you for sticking with us throughout our lighting series. The responses have been super encouraging to receive. I’m glad you guys are applying and learning. Again, feel free to ask questions for any clarifications needed, keep learning and have fun doing so! Come back next week for our last post in the series where we will talk about finding the light when you’re inside. Any suggestions for my next series!? I’m all ears!




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Lindsay Davenport is a newborn and motherhood photographer + educator based in Dallas and available for travel worldwide.

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