Overcast Photography: Good Light, Bad Sky

by Kerry Drager

Tile, Water & Umbrellas
Tile, Water & Umbrellas
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Nature's great white umbrella - also known as an overcast sky - produces beautifully soft and even light. It�s just the thing for making colors and details come alive. Despite the benefits, though, there also can be drawbacks. Here's more:

The Problem
Dark storm clouds can create dramatic landscape or cityscape images. But a featureless white sky often poses a compositional challenge: Quite simply, the glaring brightness can overwhelm all the other elements in a scene.

The Solutions
If possible, find a subject that could be enhanced by an empty white canopy - admittedly not an easy task. Otherwise, your best bet is to try the following approach:

1946 Plymouth Coupe
1946 Plymouth Coupe
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Avoid grand landscapes and, instead, narrow your focus to smaller scenes and detail shots that aren't dependent on a strong sky. Then try one of the following options:

- Minimize the amount of the blank sky - say, by obscuring much of it with trees.

- Leave that sky out of the frame entirely.

Lastly ...
Although the light of heavy overcast can enhance colorful flowers, people portraits, and other subjects, it really pays to pay attention to the sky!

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
Photography Instructor: Kerry Drager
Kerry Drager is a professional photographer, teacher and writer who is also the co-author of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light. He has taught many photography courses (online and in person), seminars and field workshops.

Be sure to check out Kerry's website - www.kerrydrager.com.

Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.

Also follow Kerry on Facebook, where he posts photos several times a week that include shooting tips and thoughts.

Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, on California's Central Coast, with their three Newfoundland dogs, four cats, and a mixed terrier.