Advice for shooting portraits, on a cloudy and dull day?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by steve_johnston|9, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. I have a portrait session coming up soon; the family asking for it take place in a local park rather than in the studio. However the days have been very dull and cloudy, and donโ€™t look like they are getting any better. Have you got any tips for shooting in this kind of environment?
  2. Cloudy means nice even lighting, remember that bright sunliught equals harsh shadows. If it is really dull and there's just not enough light, then you will need to play with fill flash without making them look like cardboard standees). If you drop the flash below 1 stop you should get catchlights in the eyes without overdoing it....some experimentation is needed. Rear curtain flash can help to capture more of the environment on slightly longer exposures than you might otherwise do.
    Autumn winter means there's lots of leaf litter and other stuff (looking down and around) that can add to the composition. Looking up at the dull sky you might only get bare branches in silhouette which isn't as enticing a view for family pics.
  3. I agree with Duncan. Overcast is the best time for portraits.
  4. I agree with Duncan. Overcast is the best time for portraits.
    I haven't got any examples to hand, but my photos seem to come out rather dull when it's overcast.
  5. you're going to want to have some sort of fill/supplemental lighting to give it all some snap. the secret is to make it look 'natural' -ish or at least creative.
  6. Not all overcast is created equal and when shooting color it can affect the outcome (black and white loves it in all its forms!). Anyway, even overcast can be directional, so you need to be sure you position folks accordingly. There is also occasions where the light will be very bluish and this is not a good thing. I think a bit of flash, warm flash, can really help in these cases. Preferably having the light off camera if you can, something that doesn't give that paparazzi flash look.
  7. You can still find nice direction of light under overcast conditions, if you know how and where to look. Additive and subtractive elements in the landscape(e.g., a stone wall, a shed, large tree, etc) can offer beautiful qualities and pleasant ratios. Overcast skies and locations with many such additive/subtractive elements just may be one of the best conditions for a family portrait session. I would consider supplemental lighting if I have an assistant.
  8. I just finished shooting a baby (and a beagle!) not three hours ago. The morning was misty, gray, and completely overcast. We started at 7:00AM, with nothing more than a smudge of light in the sky. The light never became anything like directional ... and I loved it, because I could add a light to the scene, and completely control what was going on. Used a monolight with a 1/2-CTO warming gel and a shoot-through umbrella to provide a puddle of camera-left key light, and a speedlight with a full CTO gel on a stand well behind the subject, more or less in line with where the seemed to be ... that second strobe was to graze the skin and hair just a bit.
  9. Woops, here's that set shot.
  10. Er, well, here's that set shot!
  11. You know, usually I pass this IQ test. Here's that set shot:
  12. And here's what that light, courtesy of dragging the shutter a bit and little hocus pocus in post production, was doing for me.
  13. Great picture Matt. As far as the original question if I may add you might also like to take some sort of a reflector that should also assist filling in some shadows and/or creadting some depth.
  14. While it won't hurt to have a reflector on hand, if the day is so cloudy that there isn't much directional light, a reflector won't have much of an effect unless you're reflecting light from a strobe, as reflectors do best when they reflect directional light.
    Matt's example is very useful for Steve's purpose. Steve, you of course don't need a monolight -- you could use a single off-camera speedlight with a remote trigger, or if you have two, you probably can set up wireless IR control and get pretty reliable results under heavy overcast. A shoot-through umbrella (Matt is using a big C-stand, which is smart when you're shooting with umbrellas outdoors -- otherwise known as "kites" and "sails") is helpful, but you can get useful directionality with a bare speedlight if you don't have an umbrella.
  15. A thin layer of bright white clouds that turns the entire sky in to a softbox is terrific. Mush is something else entirely.
    Two to three hours before sunset with your back to the sun. Lay out a king size white canvas or just a sheet on the grass, just in front of the scene. You can also add a 4 X 6 foot reflector on each side (a bit to the rear) to give some boost to jawlines, necks, hair and shoulders.
  16. Nice photo, Matt.
    I've used a similar setup on multiple occasions, too. I use regular umbrella stands and sandbags as necessary.

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