Autumn is here... How to take photos on overcast days.

After a promising start, summer in the UK was something of a disappointment with cloudy skies and plenty of rain.

So, with the conditions particularly September-esque our man Steve at Park Cameras has some advice so you make the most of these conditions and get the best possible results from your photography.

When the sun is not out then colours tend to be far more muted and cooler than when the sun is shining. If you want to give your pictures a colour boost and a warmer feel then there are several ways you can easily do this.

Tip 1: Take Control of the White Balance Setting

Move the white balance setting off Auto and around to the 'cloudy' setting - this will warm up the image slightly but noticeably. I would suggest you take a test shot on Auto white balance and then one on Cloudy and you should see quite a difference. If the result still need more warmth then move to the 'Shade' setting which adds more warmth.

Cloudy white balance adds warmth

Tip 2: Select a different colour setting or picture mode

Rather than standard colours choose 'Vivid' this will boost contrast and colour saturation to provide a much punchier result. You could also shoot in 'monochrome' mode which is sometimes really effective as with not much colour to play with in the first place monochrome can give you a nice option.

Olympus Dramatic Tone monochrome

Your camera may well have picture modes too. These will normally boost colours or contrast based on the subject you are shooting - so for instance 'landscape' mode will tend to boost greens in the image.

Tip 3: Use filters!

Another option would be to use filters. The Cokin system offers a low cost way in to using filters and the Lee system offers a superb quality fully professional filter system.

A neutral density graduated filter will allow you to put detail back in to a burnt-out sky.

Other options would be a blue graduated filter to turn the sky blue or a tobacco or sunset effect filter to add colour to the sky.

Neutral density Graduated filter, Cloudy Colour balance,
Vibrant setting
A polarising filter is most effective at darkening a blue sky when the sun is out and you are pointing your camera 90 degrees from the sun. It can however also be effective in duller conditions by eliminating reflections from foliage or buildings for instance to boost contrast.

Tip 4: Use the camera's in-built filters (if your camera has these built in!)

Many cameras have creative filters or art filters built in; both Olympus and Panasonic have especially effective filters for shooting dramatically toned images in both colour and black and white and can really add interest to an otherwise dull scene.

Monochrome works well for dull lighting

Tip 5: Use the cloudy sky to your advantage!

With the sun hidden behind cloud the sky then becomes a huge 'softball' with soft shadow-less lighting ideal for flattering portraits. Why not take advantage of the light and shoot portraits of your friends and family?

Probably best not to use a vivid setting on your camera as this will boost contrast and emphasise any skin imperfections but certainly most subjects would benefit from the added warmth of cloudy white balance.

'softbox' sky great for portraits
Tip 6: Use a flash

Don't forget also, you can add your own light to the scene by using a flash. All modern cameras will allow 'fill-in' flash which helps lift your subject. You can also manually take control and under or over expose the background to provide dramatic lighting effects - no sun required!

Tip 7: Support your camera

Light levels are naturally lower when the sun is not out so do consider using a camera support - either a tripod or monopod or alternatively raise the ISO setting on your camera if you need to.

Tip 8: Find shelter

If the conditions include rain then consider sheltering under an umbrella or under cover and shooting passers by - they will be much more concerned with getting out of the rain than you taking photos!

Flat lighting great for details 
Tip 9: Vary shutter speed

You can shoot very creatively in rainy conditions by varying your shutter speed - a high speed to capture rain drops and a low speed to capture the rain blurring through your image.

Puddles and wet surfaces provide great opportunities to shoot abstract images with reflections too.

Tip 10: Use post-production tools

So these are all things you can do during the shooting process but of course there is plenty you can do on your computer afterwards!

Using Lightroom for instance it is very easy to boost colour saturation using the 'Saturation' slider, 'Vibrance' will also boost colour significantly and 'Clarity' will increase local contrast.

The 'Contrast' slider can be used to boost contrast(!) and the shadows slider used to add or reduce shadow detail.

A new slider in Lightroom 6 or Lightroom CC is the 'Dehaze' slider which can have a dramatic effect on images which are hazy restoring colours and contrast.

You can also change colour balance in any image editing software to warm colours up if that is the effect you are looking for.


Of course, if the conditions are truly terrible you might consider shooting indoors - many museums and attractions have indoor areas where you can shoot away without worrying about the conditions.

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