HOW TO TAKE GOOD PHOTOS OF CLOUDS:

two person on boat in body of water during golden hour
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com
Special note: recently I was looking for a subject to write on for this blog, and came across another website that was showing how many different subjects there are on photography. And they came up with:

51 different subjects !

I have decided to take on that challenge and see if I can share my knowledge of all 51 different subjects.

FIRST ON THE LIST: TAKING PHOTOS OF CLOUDS !

white clouds
Photo by Ruvim on Pexels.com

In scenery photos, I believe the best photos will include clouds. Generally, as long as you have a foreground or a true landscape photo with the clouds in the picture, you can just follow the light meter. But, be aware of certain clouds that could throw the exposure setting off on your landscape photo.

Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

If you have a lot of “white” clouds in your photo, the light meter of your camera may turn the rest of the landscape dark to compensate for all the white. The photo above has 2 issues to watch out for: 1- if you just use your light meter in automatic mode, the white clouds will probably not be white. They will be a darker shade, almost grey in color. That’s because the light meter thinks everything is grey. So, these clouds are not as white as they were in real life. 2- Also, because of that the landscape is now darker as well.

Here is a better view of what the image really was: The clouds are white, and now we have a better exposure of the landscape as well. Oh, there’s color in the landscape that was missed with the first photo. But, perhaps you like the first one better? You decide, but the first one is way underexposed.

What to do: make sure if you are shooting with automatic mode, try using your “over / under” exposure compensation dial, and over expose (+) your photo.

What if you want to make your clouds the important part of the subject, like a sunrise or sunset:

Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash

In this case, for a sunset, the clouds in the photo just adds to the colors. The capture the reflections they get from the actual sunset and make their own color. Often you can get this type of photo, just by using your camera in automatic mode. But, I would certainly experiment with this by taking the photo at what the camera light meter does, and then take one picture over expose (+) and then one underexposed (-) to see the color differences. It will mean the difference between a good photo and a bad photo.

I have on my Facebook page, a photographer that shoots the sunset every night, and the colors are incredible. I have someone else who lives in a different part of the valley shoot the same sunset, and I am bored. And then I saw it myself, and I will go with the first photographer. So, experiment with the exposure control even if you like what you got, and see if you can get a better one.

Photo taken by Lanny Cottrell

Now take a look at this above photo, with a variety of clouds and the mountains in brilliant color. This was taken with a circular polarizing filter, and this totally enhanced all the colors, plus, kept the exposure perfect. This is because there is more “scenery” in the photo than the clouds. But, look at that photo again, and picture it without the clouds. Not quite so pretty is it? So, clouds are truly important when taking photos.

seaside
Photo by Fabian Wiktor on Pexels.com

I love what another photographer put as the steps necessary to get good cloud photos:

1- Use all your lenses, telephoto zooms, wide angle lenses, general walk arounds. Zoom in, zoom out, photograph panoramas, shoot them both horizontally and vertically. But mostly shoot them wide and get as much into one scene as possible. You can always crop and resize as you wish later on.

2-Use a polarizing filter to help bring out as much detail as possible.

3- Photograph all types of clouds. Dark angry clouds, happy fluffy clouds, Cirrus and Cumulus are my personal favorites. Photograph them at sunset, sunrise, midday or midnight for that matter! Overcast days, sunny days, just keep shooting whenever you see a dramatic sky formation.

4- Keep your camera ISO setting low. Personally I don’t go over 200 ISO for clouds. You want to keep them clean and noise free.

5- Keep photographing clouds and the sky from every direction in reference to the sun and lighting as well. When you clone in a new sky the lighting on the main subject needs to match the lighting on the sky. After all, you want it to appear believable.

6- I set the lowest aperture f-number possible. A sky or cloud formation is so far away your camera aperture setting becomes virtually unimportant. Just make sure the camera is focusing on the actual sky and not a nearby object.

Another thing to watch for is the different timing on your sunset photos with the clouds. The photo above is a photo taken at “twilight”, which occurs after the sun goes down, and colors that you pick up are the purples and blues creating even a more beautiful sunset. Don’t just take your sunset photo and leave, wait to see if you can get some of the “twilight” colors too. You will be glad you did.

If you have any questions in regards to this subject, contact me at: question.123photogo@gmail.com

Published by 123photogo

I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.

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