Interesting clouds can make all the difference in a landscape photo. They’re also fun to photograph on their own. Many photographers use cloud photography to supplement their other images. If there isn’t enough drama in a scene, you can take out the old skyline and replace it with something that has a little more character. You should always be on the lookout for clouds. Here’s what you can do to capture them in the best possible way.
Use A Polarizing Filter
Polarizing filters reduce glare in the atmosphere. This will give your clouds a more defined outline. At first, you will notice that your entire image is much darker. That’s because polarizing filters reduce the amount of light that enters you camera.
Polarizers are best used when the sun is completely to your right or left (technically 90 degrees). They do not work when the sun is behind you or in front of you. Keep this in mind when you are out in the field. There’s no point in attaching extra filters when you don’t need them.
You should also be aware that polarizing filters will have an effect on everything below the horizon. Generally speaking, the entire image will be a little more dark. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you are photographing. When water makes up most of the scene, polarizers are perfect. When there isn’t much water present, you may need to reconsider.
That said, if you are only taking pictures of clouds, try to use a polarizer most of the time.
Reduce Your Shutter Speed
Most people unintentionally overexpose clouds. The next time you’re out taking pictures of clouds, reduce your shutter speed by a few stops. This will give your clouds a more textured and defined look (very similar to using a polarizer). You can tell because your clouds will be much less white, and you will see strong gray outlines.
Just like using a polarizer, this will darken the rest of your image. It’s really good if you only want to take a picture of the clouds, but it’s not the best option when you want everything in the image to be properly exposed.
Capture The Entire Horizon
Don’t be satisfied with a few clouds. Get the entire horizon into the shot by zooming out as much as you can. You’ll be happy to know that most cameras have enough megapixels to give you all the detail you need from the sky. If you’re an avid collector of cloud pictures, you can reuse these images later on in your other photography.
Find Different Kinds Of Clouds
It sounds a little strange to say it, but clouds have emotions. Crazy talk, you say? Not at all. Fluffy clouds remind us of the happy times, and big ominous storm clouds tell us what’s headed our way. If you’re really into cloud photography, you’ll capture them all.
The darker the cloud, the more dramatic it is as well. Play around with different filters and shutter speeds, and pay attention to the emotional impact your images make. Use what you learn to custom tailor your cloud photographs to the emotions you want to activate in your viewers.
Use Your Clouds In Your Other Images
How often have you felt like a picture would be great -if only the sky were more interesting? Well stop waiting for that perfect moment to arrive. Make it happen by collecting as many pictures of clouds as you can. Whenever the sky is doing something interesting, get out your camera and photograph the clouds.
As you build up your collection of clouds, you’ll start finding clouds that fit other images. Now you no longer have to wait for the weather to be interesting to make a truly spectacular photograph. You can simply photoshop the sky right in!
The key is to make sure the lighting is exactly the same in both the cloud and landscape images. You don’t want to combine back lit clouds with a side lit horizon. Common sense goes a long way here.
I’ll provide a tutorial on this soon. For the time being, keep snapping up those clouds!
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