Photo-Tips for Cloudy Days

I am not young enough to know everything. Oscar Wilde

Someone Hung a Huge Piece of Gauze in front of the sun

Hidden under gloomy overcast skies are deeply saturated colors and soft diffused lighting. Overcast skies are defined as 90% or more cloud cover. Avoid large sections of gray sky in your shots because it will never be anything else and look for colorful subjects instead.

Low Contrast Subdued Lighting Video

Artist James Nares made a video of  Manhattan Streets from a car in subdued light. His mesmerizing slow motion video of pedestrians can also be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Analyze the Light Before you Shoot

Photography is painting with light, so understand where the light is coming from. For example, even on an overcast day, if you are shooting people when the sun is high in the sky, it will create bags under their eyes and shadows over their eyes. Try to avoid shooting  between the dreaded hours of 10 and 3 or 4, or use your fill flash for portraits to fill in shadows and even out the light. Try Side light to bring out interesting details and front light for more even lighting. Choose back light for dramatic silhouettes and for old people who want to disguise their age in dark shadows.

Old age comes at a bad time. Sue Banducci


Watch the Clouds Drift By

Even if you don’t think that life is a cloud drifting by, you can enjoy photographing them.

Clouds over Pasture
Clouds over Pasture

Cloudy day photography will benefit from some post processing in your computer because of low contrast flat light on cloudy days. An alternative way to add contrast is to carry around a sheet of red or orange acetate to hold in front of your camera lens while shooting.  A better idea is to download a free photo editing program onto your computer like Google’s Picasa or use the Apple  iPhoto program to enhance your photos. I processed this photo in Picasa after shooting it underexposed by -1/3.  That way, the highlights in the clouds didn’t completely blow out to white.  Then, I cropped the photo, changed it to black and white, applied the Holga filter to darken the edges, faded the filter, and added some contrast. Voila, it only took about 5 minutes. If you don’t want to spend that much time on your pictures after you shoot them, consider some alternatives: 1) Stay indoors and study your camera instruction manual (Exposure compensation) while waiting for a sunny day, 2) Take a nap, (see note below), 3) Use a smartphone with quick and easy photo apps that take less than a minute to make your photo “pop”.

A Note on Alternative #2— Famous British Actress Tilda Swinton is currently taking a nap at the New York’s Museum of Modern Art in a performance piece entitled “The Art of Napping.”  We old ones could shed some light on the subject, but prefer to stay in the background for now.

Next Friday some tips on shooting in the shade 

 No hats or sunscreen required


Copyright© 2013, Marlene Hutchison

Photo Tips: Golden Light Illuminates Golden Years

“I recently turned sixty. Practically a third of my life is over.” Woody Allen

 Photograph During The Magic Hour :

Most photographers agree that up to an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset are the best times to capture deep rich colors and the warm glow of the “Magic Hour”.


Shooting toward the sunrise
Monterey Bay Pier, CA, 2012 No Tripod

Since you’re probably up at dawn anyway or aren’t tired enough to go to bed at sunset, it’s a great time to go outside and take pictures. Take along a tripod because unfortunately, exposure times will be long (shutter speed slow), depth of field shallow (scene focus) and high ISO settings of 400+  produce less detail and more grain. I took the backyard desert with quail in the foreground photo shortly after sunrise in Hemet, CA and the Monterey Bay picture at sunrise facing the hills with the rising sun behind, so everything else is in silhouette.  Both were taken without a tripod. You may get lucky without a tripod, especially if you 1) set your auto timer to 2 seconds which cuts down on shake when you press the shutter button, 2) keep your arms close to your body, and or 3) brace yourself against a solid object or an attractive man or woman.

Double  exposure, Sunrise Hemet, CA
Double exposure, Sunrise
Hemet, CA


” Just because there’s snow on the roof, it doesn’t mean the boiler has gone out.” Anonymous

 Shoot Before 10:00 a.m. and After 4:00 p.m.


Mid-Day Sun Good for Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and Open Water:

Chicago Midday
Harsh Light, but Very Blue Water

As the sun moves higher in the sky, the bright light casts strong shadows and harsh contrast on your subjects. Because they look less appealing, try to move them into open shade where the light is more even. If they won’t cooperate, head for a cafe where you may find some interesting subjects indoors. You may also want to take a nap between these bright daylight hours (10 to 4).

Water is the only subject I know of that benefits from sunny overhead light. Water reflects the sky and produces rich, deep colors unavailable at other times. (physicists, please comment).


Visit next Friday for tips on shooting under overcast skies and in the shade

Copyright © 2013, Marlene Hutchison