mobile

The Ultimate Guide To

Understanding Composition

Learn the Skills You Need
to Create Captivating
Compositions With Our Free Guide.

    5 Ways to Take Beautiful Landscape Photos in Overcast Weather

    By June 30, 2019 May 27th, 2020 Photography

    It can be challenging to take landscape photos during overcast weather.

    The sky tends to be dull during these conditions, even during the golden hours. It also tends to be too light than the rest of your photo, which may distract viewers from the rest of your composition.

    But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and go out to shoot.

    Here are a few compositional ideas that make overcast weather ideal for photography.

    1. Zoom In

    Landscape photographers typically use wide-angle lenses to photograph vast sceneries.

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon14-24mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Sigma14-24mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Canon11-24mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Nikon16-35mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Canon16-35mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Sigma18-35mmf/1.8YesCheck Price
    Sony16-35mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Sony14-24mmf/4
    YesCheck Price

    But, when taking photos in overcast weather, it may be better to go with a telephoto lens. 

    Telephoto lenses can provide you with beautiful compositions without the need to include the sky.

    So, instead of relying on dramatic sunset colors, you can focus on interesting patterns or textures to create unique photographs. 

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon70-200mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Canon70-200mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Canon70-200mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Sigma100-400mmf/5-6.3
    YesCheck Price
    Sony100-400mmf/4.5-f.6Yes
    Check Price

    Also, telephoto lenses are great for creating dramatic compositions in overcast conditions.

    One of my favorite ways to do this is by photographing cloud-covered mountains.

    This type of compositions is not only visually striking but is also great at inspiring intrigue around your image.

    Having some clouds partially block your subjects causes your audience to fill in the missing pieces with their imagination.

    This helps stimulate curiosity, making your image more engaging.

    2. Photograph Cloud Streaks

    Capturing the movement of the sky is another great option for overcast weather.

    To do this, you need to use slow shutter speeds and expose your image until you see streaks of clouds.

    Most cloud steaks will appear in your frame at around a shutter speed of ten seconds.

    But, this will depend on the speed at which the clouds are moving.

    The faster the movement, the quicker you’ll see the streaks in your images.

    For any given shutter speed, the streaks will be longer for clouds that are moving faster than clouds that are moving more slowly.

    Therefore, to create longer cloud streaks for slower-moving clouds, you’ll need to use a longer exposure time.

    To do this effectively you will need to use a tripod. 

    I recommend the Manfrotto Befree series is a great lightweight carbon fiber option that is built extremely well and is not as expensive as other carbon fiber tripods. 

    Keep in mind, different exposure times can affect the look of your cloud streaks.

    Generally, if you’re using a longer exposure time, your cloud streaks are going to appear more blurry.

    But, if you were to use shorter exposure times, your cloud streaks are going to look closer to a still photo of a cloud.

    To prevent overexposure from longer exposure times, consider using an ND filter and smaller apertures. 

    If you are looking for an ND filter I recommend going with either Tiffen Variable ND or the B+W Pro Digital ND

    Both of these ND filters are built extremely well and offer a variety of different intensity levels and sizes. 

    Also, note that the appearance of your cloud streaks will depend on the time of day you go out to shoot.

    If you photograph during the day time, your cloud streaks will be a mixture of the colors white and blue.

    If you shoot during sunset, however, you may experience some color, even during an overcast day.

    3. Take Photos of Waterfalls 

    Photo: Blue Waterfall

    Waterfalls are some of the best subjects to photograph during overcast weather.

    The clouds act as a natural softbox, diffusing the ambient light.

    This helps spread light evenly on the waterfall, which tends to be aesthetically pleasing.

    It also helps bring out the colors of the objects surrounding the waterfall, such as mossy rocks and green grass.

    Here are a few other quick tips for photographing waterfalls in overcast weather:

    • Don’t include the sky in your photograph. Since it’s overcast, the white sky will likely distract your audience away from the subject you’re trying to photograph.
    • Bring an ND filter and use slow shutter speed to make the water appear smooth. Your choice of shutter speed will depend on the size of the waterfall stream. In particular, you’ll need to use slower shutter speeds for smaller and more delicate waterfalls compared to the ones with raging water.
    • Use s small aperture setting (around f/8-f/11) to prevent overexposure when using slow shutter speeds. This will also keep most of your frame sharp and in focus.
    • Use the lowest possible ISO to prevent noise.
    • Stabilize your camera with a tripod. Holding a camera with your hands when using a slow shutter speed is a guaranteed way to capture camera shake. If you don’t have a tripod, you could use an object such as a rock. Note that, by doing so, you would be limiting the angles you could capture the photo from, so it’s recommended that you invest in buying a tripod.

    4. Shoot in Black and White 

    Photo: Iguazu Falls, Black and White

    Overcast weather creates optimal conditions for black and white photography.

     Switching your images to tones of grey will eliminate the problem of the dull, colorless sky.

    For example, photographing the coast with an ND filter during the day can create dramatic black and white images in overcast weather.

    With that said, make sure you’re not using black and white photography as a solution to improper lighting.

    It’s easy to think of black and white as a fallback option when you can’t get great images in color. But most of the time, this doesn’t work. 

    For instance, when photographing in overcast weather, you can choose a subject that has too little contrast.

    Though you may be able to fix this in photoshop, it’s a better idea to compose your pictures based on good lighting.

    So, prioritize finding a subject where the light creates enough contrast to make a powerful black and white photo.

    Also, when converting to black and white, don’t resort to only using Photoshop or other photo editor plugins.

    Try to manipulate the contrast in your images manually.

    Try to be creative when choosing how you want the intensities of light to vary throughout your photo.

    Manually manipulating tonal contrast is a great way to control the order in which your viewers will see the element in your image.

    It’s also an ideal way to enhance the illusion of depth in your image.

    5. Practice Abstract Photography

    What makes an excellent subject for abstract photography is limited only to the imagination of the photographer.

    This means abstract photography is not bounded by the quality of weather, making it ideal for overcast days.

    So, take advantage of the overcast weather and let your creativity come by creating abstract photos. Here are some tips that might help you:

    Simplicity

    It’s easy to be confused when looking at abstract images since it often lacks recognizable objects.

    To minimize confusion, aim to create simple compositions. 

    Learn to subtract any elements that are not serving your composition. 

    Structure

    Most compositional rules are not useful in abstract photography.  But, that doesn’t mean you should ignore composition altogether.

    How you choose and arrange the elements within your frame still plays a vital role in the success of your image.

    For instance, the balance of contrast and textures in your photo will dictate where the viewer’s attention would go first.

    While you don’t have to follow the traditional rules of photography, you should pay close attention to your composition to make sure you are conveying the message you want.

    Resource: 23 Composition Techniques for Travel Photography

    Use Elements of Design

    When looking for an ideal composition, use the elements of design to your advantage. 

    For example, consider using lines to convey different emotions in your photo.

    Diagonal lines are useful in conveying a sense of movement, while horizontal lines are often considered relaxing and peaceful.

    Using textures is also a great way to make your abstract images more interesting. To do this, zoom in on the texture to let it fill the entire frame. 

    Also, look for ways to use color in your composition.

    You can use color to inspire different emotions from your viewers or highlight specific areas of your photo. 

    Look for the various combinations of these elements that can create a new composition in abstract photography.

    Resource: 9 Design Elements You Should Use to Improve Your Photography

    Go Macro

    As mentioned, zooming in is a great way to create interesting abstract compositions. Zooming in allows you to fill the frame with interesting patterns, textures, and colors.

     Doing so enables you to eliminate the framework of the objects to create something more conceptual.

    It also helps to create an element of mystery and intrigue in your image.

    This, in turn, engages the viewer’s imagination and encourage them to appreciate even the most complex pieces of art.

    When shooting macro you will need specialized lenses. Here are some of my recommendations. 

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon105mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Canon100mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Sigma105mmf/2.8YesPrice Check
    Sony90mmf/2.8YesCheck Price

     Use Slow Shutter Speeds

    Using slow shutter speeds is one of my favorite ways to create an abstract image.

    The long exposure captures your subject’s motion across your frame, which creates a painterly like blur. 

    Using a slow shutter speed enables your subject to leave traces of its colors, patterns, and textures across your frame.

    The result is something that resembles your subject, but not your actual subject itself. 

    Remember as I mentioned before a tripod is important when shooting with slow shutter speeds. 

    A tripod will help you prevent camera shake by keeping your camera steady.

    I recommend the Manfrotto Befree Tripod. Is is a great quality tripod that won’t cost you a fortune. 

    Another useful tool when shooting with slow shutter speeds is to use a shutter release button. 

    This will give you greater control over your shutter speed. Also its easier to use than your cameras shutter button especially when shooting in bulb mode. 

    I recommend the Pixel Shutter release. It functions as both a wired and wireless shutter release. 

    It has a great range of over 200 feet and an LCD screen making it very easy to use. 

    Conclusion

    Taking landscape photos in overcast weather may be challenging. But, it can also provide you with unique photographic opportunities.

    The next time there is a cloudy day, try some of the tips we mentioned in this article.

    You may find that you’re able to create some of your best images despite the weather.

    About The Author

    Photographer. Explorer. Story Teller. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel, capture beautiful moments, and live life to the fullest.

    Leave a Reply