Tonje Lilleås

Landscape and outdoor photography in overcast weather

How do you feel about shooting in overcast weather? A lot of landscape and outdoor photographers restrict themselves to shooting during golden hour and sunrise or sunset. There’s no doubt that lighting conditions are the best during this time, with the soft shadows and golden hues. However if you restrict yourself in this way, you’ll miss out on a lot of great photography days in overcast weather.

Focus on details

Overcast weather photography days are great for focusing on details, or shooting macro if you want. You don’t even have to come as close as you do when shooting macro to achieve some great results, and a different perspective to landscape photography than great vistas.
I like both shooting detail shots of flowers or foliage for instance, as well as picking out details in the landscape with a telephoto lens on overcast days.
Since the overcast light doesn’t help you bring out the texture in nature, or offer much drama to a scene, you have to think a bit differently about your approach to an image. Focus on capturing subtle details, and you’ll have a lot of fun.

Lush natural colors

Overcast weather can be a great benefit if you’re shooting a woodland scene. Less dominant, but lush nonetheless, colors like green can really get a lot of attention in an image shot in cloudy conditions. A lot of the colors and hues that really doesn’t come through in golden light, will pop in overcast weather.
One thing to think about however is that softer light produces higher color saturation. So be mindful of how you balance exposure, composition and white balance to bring out the lush natural colors that you want your images to show.

Use the worlds greatest soft box

Overcast weather provides the worlds largest soft box. Use this to your advantage. As an outdoor and landscape photographer, I love to shoot (self) portraits or lifestyle images when it’s cloudy.
One thing to think about when shooting lifestyle images in overcast weather is to make sure your subject wears something that pops a bit out of the surrounding scene. There’s a reason that the red, orange and yellow jackets have become so popular. And it’s not a coincidence that people who like to shoot images of outdoorsy lifestyle have grown especially fond of the color scheme. Just saying.

Shoot minimalist scenes

Another great opportunity in overcast weather is giving the minimalist scenes a go. Shooting high key or low key images with subtle tonalities and a strong composition can be really rewarding. And it is no doubt a way to hone your photography skills and your photographic eye.

Consider shooting monochrome

Lastly you should consider shooting monochrome landscapes. Who hasn’t fallen in love with Ansel Adams’ landscapes over and over again? I’m not saying you’ll be as good starting off, but trying to capture good monochrome landscapes is a very good challenge. In overcast light you don’t get a lot of contrast, that the monochrome landscapes depend on, but if you work on your skills of reading a scene to capture contrast, you can be amazed by the monochrome results on overcast days as well.

Five short tips to get you shooting in overcast weather

To end this post I’ll give you five short tips to help get you started with shooting outdoor and landscape photography in overcast light;

1. Focus on depth

You will be lacking contrast, so compose the images with focus on depth in the scene to compensate for this.

2. Find suitable subjects

Try to find contrast in texture, to compensate for the lack of contrast in light. Think about the softness of running water against hard rocks for instance.

3. Don’t show too much sky

Sky will simply offer grey, empty space. Try to avoid this through composing your shot so that minimal grey sky is in your frame. (Unless you want to use it as a backdrop for a detail shot.)

4. Overexpose

By this I don’t mean loose detail in the highlights. But shoot as high key as possible to prevent dull tones in a scene.

5. Be mindful about color

You want richly colored subjects that stand out in an otherwise grey or dull scene. And you want to remember those lush, natural hues that pop in overcast weather.

I hope you found this post valuable! If you did, please make sure to subscribe to my blog and consider following me on Instagram. Now once you have an overcast day, head on out to shoot! And remember; there’s always more to explore locally!



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.