One of the things you hear all the time is that cloudy skies are great for photography. The first question a beginning photographer might ask is: Is this true? Which would then be followed by the obvious question: Why? In this short article, I plan to answer both of those questions. But the answer to each depends on the type of photographs you’re taking.
Cloudy Skies and Portraits
Cloudy days are, in fact, quite good for portrait photography. Bright sunlight causes hard-lined shadows. The last thing you want in a portrait is a hard shadow. Soft lines are ideal for portraits. It gives a softer touch to your subject. In a studio, where we can control the light, we use diffusers to prevent harsh shadows. Outside, we don’t have such luxuries. Clouds, on the other hand, act as a natural diffuser. So pray for cloudy skies.
Cloudy Skies With Other Types of Photography
With Landscape Photography, shadows can may be part of your photograph. Depending on your goals, you may want harsh shadows, which means you want bright sun and blue skies. Hard-lines upon the leaves of a tree helps to give it depth. For that matter, cloudy skies won’t appear very interesting if they happen to become a part of your photo. In cases where architecture is your subject, hard-lined shadows will accentuate the lines you’re trying to capture on film, but diffused light might help in cases where shadows from other structures or plants might create distracting lines. Sunny skies or cloudy days may benefit equally.
Generally, the concept of cloudy skies being great for photography is a generalization that is limited to portrait photography. In most other cases, it depends on the effect that you desire. But unless you’re capturing portraits, when outside, you usually want sunny skies.