Finding the Light: Embracing Gloomy Days | by Shannon Douglas
Last year we moved to Seattle, a city famous for its rainy days. In fact, we get rain on an average of 150 days a year! While the rain brings lush forests and beautiful green foliage, it inevitably brings grey clouds. The lack of sunlight is hard on everyone, especially light chasing photographers. However, as the great Albus Dumbledore pointed out, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to
turn on the light.”
Overcast days actually are wonderful for outdoor photography sessions as the clouds act as a natural diffuser. You may not get those beautiful backlit images but take advantage of the even lighting on your subjects. Better yet, use the clouds to your advantage! Clouds can add drama to your photos and help you tell your story. Play with your contrast and saturation sliders in post processing to enhance your sky.
Nothing conjures up a sense of mystery in a photograph quite like fog. Eerie, quiet, and sometimes ominous, foggy days can really help bring out your creativity! Fog subdues the colors and adds moodiness to any image. Take into account that fog is actually reflective and you may need to compensate by bumping your exposure by +1 or +2. Also, fog can throw off your white balance, but it is an easy fix in post processing.
Rain in your forecast? Put on your wet weather gear and enjoy the rain with action shots of your puddle jumping kids! Try freezing the raindrops and splashes in your photo, a shutter speed of around 1/1000 is a good place to start. One other major upside to downpours is great reflections. Reflections add interest and can lighten up an otherwise dark image.
If the weather has you stuck indoors, look for pockets of light through out your home. As the sun moves so will the light in your home, even on cloudy days. A helpful tip is to learn where the sun is best at different times in your home so you can encourage your subjects to hang out in those areas. Don’t be afraid to up your ISO and lower your shutter speed. On a resting subject, you can get away with a hand-held shutter speed at 60 or lower. A prime wide angle lens lets in the most light and having a wide open aperture will help in dark situations.
Shadows and directional light are my favorite things about gloomy days. On bright days, the sun can be too harsh and overpower your images. Standing next to a window can illuminate your subject and create depth with a contrasting background. In the images below I am standing next to the window, but slightly angled. I used a mirror propped against my tripod to see how the shadows fell on the baby’s face. In the next, we turned the opposite direction and embraced the light to create even more drama.
Lastly, artificial light can tell a story you might otherwise fail to capture. Of course, flash and your household lights can always be used, but have fun and be inventive! Glow-sticks, lanterns, nightlights, and fairy lights draw you in and can add a feeling of magic. Kids love them and are more willing to be photographed when they are busy playing with lights! Crank up your ISO and see what you can create!
Maybe the weather in your neck of the woods has ruined your plans for a sunrise hike or a day of fun at the beach but don’t let it dampen your creativity. Every time you pick up your camera you become a better photographer. Each time you push yourself in uncomfortable ways you grow as an artist. I hope I have given you some ideas to brighten your drearier days! With any luck,“The sun will come out tomorrow!” Have fun and be sure to share your work with our Hello Storyteller community!