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The Beautiful Light of Overcast

by Kerry Drager

Color Contrast on Overcast Day
Color Contrast on Overcast Day
© James Miotke
All Rights Reserved
(Note: This article is adapted from "The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light" by Jim Miotke and Kerry Drager)

Soft, pleasing light can enrich many colorful subjects. Overcast lighting often makes colors more vivid than direct sunlight and is more likely to reveal delicate details as well. Muted light offers minimal contrast, so scenes aren’t marred by deep shadows and glaring highlights.

The soft, even illumination cast by a white sky is especially flattering for photographing people, and a thick cloud cover mimics the studio light produced with soft boxes and white umbrellas.

The diffused sunlight of an all-white or all-gray sky is wonderful not only for photographing people but also flowers, pets, close-up subjects, waterfalls and streams, intimate landscapes, and colorful architectural details.

Fun Portrait on Cloudy Day
Fun Portrait on Cloudy Day
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved

Tip: Beware of White Sky

While an overcast sky filters the sun to create pleasing light, an image containing a big expanse of stark white or light gray, featureless sky will often be disappointing - the brightness can make everything else in the photo look dark in comparison. Here’s the usual "rule": Skip grand-scale scenics that include boring (read: white or light gray) skies.

Oh sure, there are exceptions to the no-sky rule, but not many. Either leave a white sky out completely, or severely reduce the amount of it.


Article by Kerry Drager. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at

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