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How To Take Photographs On Cloudy Days

Guest post by Matthew Jordan Smith –

This week I had an assignment to photograph a jewelry assignment that required using models on location. My client was on a tight deadline and had to shoot right away. The concept required shooting outside and we agreed on a great beach location. The day of the shoot the weather forecast was partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance rain, however when we arrived at the location I knew I was in for a difficult shoot. Who said it never rains in Southern California.


The entire day I was plagued with brief periods of light rain, dense clouds and light clouds, but through it all we had an amazing shoot. On a cloudy day you have to take light meter readings more than you would on a bright sunny day because the light can go up or down easily by a two full stops and you would never notice. I instructed my photo assistants to constantly meter the entire day and to always be aware of the suns position. Even on a cloudy day the same rules apply to the sun and you must know when the sun is directly overhead or when its in front or behind your subject. A cloudy day can be equivalent to using a soft box in studio, but like using a soft box, the position of the light is still very important.

My assistants learned a big lesson regarding shooting on cloudy days and together we created amazing images because we stayed aware of the light even though it was a cloudy day. At times we were shooting at F4 @ 1/125 and other times we were shooting at F4 @ 1/1000th. To the naked eye the light looked the same but it was constantly changing as the clouds moved from thick to thin.

On a cloudy day always stay aware of the light and where the sun is positioned in the sky.

For more information on working with natural light check out the instructional video Ten Ways to Create Natural Light Portraits at www.Gallery.MatthewJordanSmith.com.

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