We have had more than
our fair share of grey days recently (50 shades of Grey?) The PM 2.5 air
pollution has meant we didn’t get to see the clouds, but clear days are
This week I want you to
look up in the skies and start putting together a portfolio of cloud
formations. The reason for this is just that having choices of cloud
formations can elevate a very ordinary shot into something quite dramatic.
How do you photograph
skies and clouds?
You can never have too
many photographs of clouds, skies, sunsets and sunrises. No longer do you
have to wait for the weather to be interesting to make a truly spectacular
image. As long as you have plenty of cloud formations in your cloud
portfolio, you can simply Photoshop the sky right in!
Here are the best tips
for photographing clouds and sky photos, but be warned, this will make you
use your filters and fiddle with ISO levels. And all your lenses, telephoto
zooms, wide angle lenses, general lenses, and zooms. Learn how to get
photographic panoramas, and as I have written many times shoot them both in
portrait mode and landscape. 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.
This is how you get blue skies in Bangkok – pack as much sky as you can into
your 35 mm frame. Wide angle is the way to go.
What kinds of cloud
should you have in your cloud portfolio? Photograph all types of clouds.
Dark angry clouds always look good, fluffy clouds have the best updrafts for
glider pilots, Cirrus and Cumulus and Cumulo-Nimbus if you know how to
identify them – remember these are for your cloud portfolio, so you don’t
need to name them – it’s how they look that is important. Overcast days,
sunny days, rainy days, just keep shooting whenever you see a dramatic sky
You can photograph your
clouds at any time, at sunset, sunrise, midday or even midnight (but you’ll
need a tripod).
Set your camera’s
setting to 100-200 ISO. Personally I use 200 ISO for just about everything.
That way you are not likely to be troubled with digital camera ‘noise’.
Next, use a polarizing
filter to help bring out as much detail as possible and get rid of
clouds and the sky from every direction in reference to the sun and lighting
as well. When you insert a new sky in post-production, the lighting on the
main subject needs to match the lighting on the sky. After all, you want it
to appear believable.
Set your aperture wide
but make sure you are focused at the lowest aperture f-number possible. A
sky or cloud formation is so far away your camera aperture setting becomes
virtually unimportant. You can even try A for Automatic. Just make sure the
camera is focusing on the actual sky and not a nearby tree.
The reason for having
this portfolio of clouds and skies is because inserting an appropriate cloud
formation can actually rescue an entire photo-shoot and re-shooting
commercially can be expensive if there are models (‘talent’) involved. You
never know when you will need a sky background. Get in the habit of
regularly photographing clouds and skies and making your portfolio.
For many weekend
photographers, you can shoot like the pros, no matter what the weather is
like – provided you know how to insert the sky in post-production. Go to a
class or photography club and a whole new world will open for you.
Constant practice will
result in believable pictures. Start this weekend.