Soft, naturally diffused light is what you get on cloudy, overcast days. And while you can't shoot sunflare or get that dreamy glow of backlight - there's all kinds of gorgeous light to work with. Shooting with natural light is often easier to do on cloudy days - lots of photographers get excited about dreary days because it means you can run around and take pictures wherever you want. Shooting in the middle of the day in an open field? Yep, totally can do that.
Perfect light no matter what?
Just because the clouds act as a giant diffuser, and you have this great light, does not mean all cloudy light is perfect. You still have to look for the best light. So what's my best tip to find the best quality natural light? Shoot from different angles until you find the sweet spot. You can also hold your hand up in front of you, and look at your palm. Turn around, watching your palm, and don't stop until you see your palm light up or have this glowing quality to it. When you see it, you'll be looking at really nice light. That's the place to put your subject. These two techniques are easy ways to find the best light.
In this example, I stood at the same spot. B took pictures of me from four different angles. As you can see, one angle is the best light. This is the light you’ll want to always look for. You can use the palm trick that I mentioned above, or you can just try a few quick shots of your subject from different angles until you find the best light. Even the slightest change in direction can take you from pretty light to fantastic light. If you’re shooting someone’s portraits, just tell them that you are taking a few practice shots to find the best light. Then let them know when you’re ready to rock and roll.
This activity of finding the best light before setting up a shot is key. You must do this with every new location, if you change position at the same location, or if the light suddenly changes.
Here are some examples of images taken on cloudy days. Remember, just because it’s cloudy does not mean you can shoot wherever you feel like it. You must always look for the best natural light – no matter what the light conditions are.
In this photo the couple is facing the sun. Anytime you’re shooting on a cloudy day and it’s getting close to sunset, you’ll find that the available light you have to shoot with dwindles very fast. That’s because the sun is already on its way down so it’s a weak light, and to top it off it’s being diffused by clouds. So keep this in mind when you decide to start shooting on a cloudy day, close to sunset.
Because cloudy days have a natural diffuser, you can get gorgeous shots anytime of day. See all the details and colors in Bella’s fur? The concrete in the alley acts as a natural reflector and bounces more light back up. This photo was taken mid-day, but since it was a cloudy day we had a lots of opportunities to shoot in a wide variety of areas, areas that we normally would not be able to shoot in during typical mid-day full sun.
So that’s it for shooting with natural light on cloudy days! It’s really a fun time to take pictures - you have a lot more freedom when it comes to locations, but remember to always look for the best light.