I’ll be honest, I love to take photos with that soft, golden light that is only found early in the morning or just before sunset. The golden hour has such a magical quality to it that if I’m not careful, I could find myself stuck there, lacking the flexibility to shoot in any other type of light. But a well-rounded photographer is a flexible one, and that means knowing and understanding how to work with all kinds of light. When I first started photography, wondering how to take photos with overcast skies worried me. Where was the light going to come from? How would I take great pictures without sunlight? Learning the good and the bad of working with overcast skies helped me know how to make the most of it.
The Good and the Bad
Overcast days really are nothing to shy away from. The overcast skies just function as a huge soft box! I love overcast days for their soft even light, and the flexibility it affords me in my shooting time. With no harsh sun to worry about, great photos can happen at any time of day. However, overcast skies can have their downside, too. The light can be flat, and can lack dimension in your photos. There are a few tricks I like to keep in mind when I’m shooting with overcast skies to make sure I end up with great photos.
Tips for Shooting with Overcast Skies
Turn Towards the Light. Even though the skies are overcast, if you are a natural light photographer, they are still your primary source of light. If the sky is overcast, I try to position myself so that there is open sky behind me. This helps to reflect light onto my subjects face and eyes. If there are large obstructions behind me, like trees or buildings, they will block the light coming from the sky. But ensuring there is open sky behind me allows for more light to be reflected onto my subject as they look towards my camera.
Use a Reflector. Reflectors are a great tool to aid in bouncing light directly onto your subject. If you don’t have a reflector, or you don’t have an assistant to hold one, look for natural reflectors around you, such as sidewalks or the sand on a beach. These neutral, reflective surfaces are great for bouncing light onto your subject’s face.
Shoot from Above. Much like we discussed in our tutorial on how to get catchlights in your subject’s eyes, shooting from above will turn your subject’s face towards the sky, brightening their face and eyes. This can also be a fun change of perspective to add some uniqueness to your images.
Add Dimension and Interest. When you don’t have dynamic light to rely on, let it compel you to find other ways to add intrigue and dimension to your images. This is a great time to utilize unique framing.
Or perhaps give attention to the details.
Even a pop of color can make the photo more dynamic.
Embrace the Mood. Sometimes, I love to play up the mood overcast skies can bring to a photo. While I love my golden sunlit images, there is a depth to the darker, more overcast days that you don’t find elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to play it up!
The next time you’re faced with overcast skies for a photo session, embrace it! Know that that huge, natural soft box is giving you some freedom, and with these tips, you can create some amazing images.