Taking Photos on an Overcast Day – the GOOD and the BAD

Let’s start with why an overcast sky can be GOOD:

  • An overcast sky helps cut down on shadows. That is, it can provide more consistent light. If you find an overcast sky is diffusing too much sunlight, consider enabling your camera’s flash if you’re close enough to your subject.
  • Did you ever see studio photos taken with a white backdrop? The white backdrop helps in isolating the subject; it provides a simple, clean background. That’s what an overcast sky can do. To use an overcast sky as a white backdrop for your subject, photograph your subject from a low vantage point.

The photo below is an example of using an overcast sky to isolate a sunflower. I took this photo from a low vantage point and also enabled my camera’s flash. This helped isolate the sunflower from among the many sunflowers in the field.

Isolation of a sunflower on an overcast morning

Here’s another photo taken on an overcast day. I took this photo using my iPhone 5c camera in selfie mode.

Isolation of leaves on an overcast fall afternoon.

Now, let’s talk about why an overcast sky can be BAD:

  • An overcast sky can ruin a photo of a beautiful landscape because it can takes viewers’ eyes away from the beautiful landscape to the white sky. It’s like a spelling error on a poster – once you notice the spelling error, it’s hard to look at the poster without zeroing in on the spelling error. So, what can you do if you’re out taking landscape photos on an overcast sky? You can zoom in or recompose your shot so as to eliminate the white overcast sky.

Below are two photos (same size). The first is of a beautiful fall landscape that includes an overcast sky. The overcast sky at the top adds nothing to this photo; in fact, it’s distracting. The second photo is the subsequent photo I took with the overcast sky eliminated. Much better!

Hope this post makes you more aware of an overcast sky in light of your photos.

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