Finding Good Photographs on an Overcast Day


There is a place where the sun shines every day, all day long, and the temperature is a constant 72 degrees with little to no humidity… it’s called Neverland, Peter Pan lives there.  For the rest of us, we have to deal with a day here and there where the clouds are filling the sky in a none to spectacular way and everything looks dull.  Most folks would leave their cameras in their bag and pick up a book or hop on the internet for their PhotolisticLife fix.  Most folks would be missing a great opportunity.  Dreary days are perfect for taking a walk and getting some phenomenal shots, it’s like your walking around in a giant light tent.  The lighting is fairly constant and not harsh at all, their aren’t pesky shadows and sharp reflected light to contend with.

The picture at the top of the page was taken in a field next to an old barn, this was a shed of some sort.  The wall that I photographed was the only wall left, everything was open to the elements (hence the snow on the board with the hook in it on the bottom right).  I could not have asked for better lighting, there is not a flash in this world that would have been that perfect.  For those of you that hang up your cameras in the winter, there is no way I’d have found this dilapidated building in the summer with all the foliage.  Take a walk through the woods and see what you see, you’ll be surprised how many new things you see since the leafs have fallen.

Here are a few more shots taken that day:



ISO – If you’re not using a tripod, turn up your ISO so you can hand shoot with a higher shutter speed with less camera shake effecting your photographs.  The photo of the downed tree between the other two trees was shot at ISO 6400 (yes, 6400).  Admittedly, 6400 is way higher than you’d need, I was just seeing what the Olympus OM-D E-M5 was capable of… I was impressed.  The rest of the photographs were shot at ISO 1600.

Lens – I enjoy a zoom lens for walking around with because of the versatility.  More specifically, I like a 12mm to somewhere around 35 or 50mm (on Micro 4/3rd camera that is equivalent to a 24-70mm or 24-100mm respectively).  If you are planning on shooting on overcast days then a weather proof lens is a must.  I’m not super concerned with the distance my lens can zoom out to because God gave me feet… I can walk closer to something if I want to zoom.  What I am worried about is the 12mm (or 24 on full frame cameras) end because I like to take landscape photography and wide-angle lenses are ideal for this.

Aperture – Every lens has a sweet spot when it comes to aperture, usually somewhere between f/9 and 11.  If you’re taking a landscape shot at the 12mm (or 24mm on full frame cameras) then I’d suggest staying in that range and even possibly a little higher.  If you’re not seeing a landscape shot because you only see ugly on rainy days then pull in close and focus on some berries or something and choose a higher aperture (lower f number) like f/2.8.  This will blur your dreary background into oblivion and bring the viewers eyes right into whatever you’re focused on.

Clothes – I’m pretty sure you know how to dress yourself at this point in your life, make sure you dress warm enough that you’re not scurrying back to your car before you’ve had a chance to really explore.  My favorite gloves for photography are Fuji Convertible Gloves because they are $25 dollars cheap and I can just order them from Amazon.  You’re gonna want gloves where you can peel back the tips (mitten form) when you want to press the little buttons on your camera… otherwise you’ll be pawing at your camera like a bear in the freezing cold.

Gear Used

Since the weather was wet and dreary I took my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Olympus 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 because together they are weather sealed. The Nikon D600 is weather sealed as well but my OMD is my go to for hiking or anything where I may fall into a creek, pond, ocean, or other body of water.  The Olympus 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 also has a macro mode that works very nicely (and on rainy days the lighting is perfect for macro photography).

Related Links

OMD EM5 Review
Rainy Day Photography
Nikon D600 Review

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3 replies on “Finding Good Photographs on an Overcast Day”
  1. says: Liz

    Beautiful shots. I think some of the most beautiful photos taken are in the winter months when the inter-twinning of tree branches are exposed and are even more defined after it has snowed.

  2. says: John Barbiaux

    Thank you! I agree, I used to hibernate in the winter but I’m having way to much fun photographing it to stay indoors.

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