Cloud Photography Tips - Keep Your Eyes On The Skies :: Digital Photo Secrets

Cloud Photography Tips - Keep Your Eyes On The Skies

by David Peterson 11 comments

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!

Most people think this post is Interesting. What do you think?


  1. John pain says:

    Would like to know how to put clouds into photo using elements 5

  2. dorothy says:

    very informative site you have - thank you !

  3. Raj says:

    I love taking photos of clouds especially at dusk time with orangish color .My doubt is what i see actually in the sky doesnt match in my photo.The rich and soft orange is fading in my photos I dnt know photography but i love saving dozens of clouds images.I know a bit of photoshop.Can suggest me any method in taking better cloud images?

  4. alfred says:

    can I take the picture of cloud by using pocket camera?? because I have got enough money to buy DSLR camera.

  5. Peter Wyche says:

    Greetings David,

    Again some really worthwhile tips to improve the quality of our photos. Thank you. The use of a good quality polarizing filter just give detail and depth to shots of clouds in so many instances.
    We in South Africa have wonderful scenerary and climatic conditions with many types of clouds which I really enjoy composing photos around. My wife and I have just returned from a vacation in our bushveld and coastal areas both of which gave us wonderful photography opportunities with and without a ppllarizer.
    Regards, Peter.

  6. David Peterson says:

    Do you mean a Polarizing filter? Yes, I recommend you do use that as it cuts down the light coming into the camera and helps with reducing glare.

  7. R.Vijayendra Rao says:

    I read the articles on Cloud photography with interest It is one of my favorite subject. I used to take photos of clouds full frame, frame with small portion with subject on ground, or the wings of aircraft etc. I am glad to inform that i have decades experience with Film photography where i used various filters including polorising Filter, Yellow filter in B&W photography.
    Now I have switched over to Digital photography and i enjoy doing many experiments.
    I have a doubt. Do we use poloring filter in Digital Photo graphy? . I am satisfied with normal photo technic to photograph clouds. Can you advise me/
    R. Vijayendra Rao

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.