I don’t know about you, but on days when fog or mist dominate the atmosphere I feel similarly overcome by sluggishness.
Staring out the window into the haze, I figure I’ll just take it easy while I wait for conditions to clear up. Until I look up, that is. I look up at the surrounding buildings and the way they dramatically disappear into the fog and next thing I know I’m hightailing it out the door.
Fog, mist and even low clouds can be used to create visually stunning images, but these are also situations that can sometimes be tricky to handle.
Keep reading to learn a few tips to help you take better photos in foggy and misty conditions.
Get An Early Start
Most of the time fog and mist develop overnight and they may not stick around the entire day, so fight the urge to stay in bed on dreary days as there may be some great shots awaiting you.
Get The Exposure Right
Getting the exposure right is probably the trickiest part of shooting mist and fog.
If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of photographing snow, just know that the same dynamics are in play. Your camera will insist on metering everything as middle gray, meaning the whiteness of the fog/mist (which are reflective subjects) will be rendered drab and grayish and the image will be underexposed.
You can overcome this by overexposing the shot. How much you will need to overexpose will obviously depend on the atmospheric conditions at the time, but you probably won’t need to go more than one stop over.
Use Manual Focus
Foggy/misty/hazy conditions bring with them diminished contrast, which means your camera’s autofocus system is going to struggle to find something to lock onto. You’re better off using manual focus.
Depending on the scene you’re attempting to capture, you might be able to just set your lens to infinity and be done with it. If not, just stop your lens down to ensure you’ve got adequate depth of field, which will provide you with some room for error when it comes to focusing.
Establish An Anchor Point
Speaking of focusing, you need something to focus on — something that draws the viewer in and serves as the visual bedrock of your image. Use leading lines or a vanishing point to create an air of mystery and pull the viewer deeper into the fog.
You can portray scale and distance by focusing on a foreground object near to you; this object will display more detail, color, and contrast while the rest of these scene falls away into the distant mist. If you happen to be surrounded by tall buildings don’t forget to look up, as they make wonderful focal points.
Use Shutter Speed For Artistic Impact
Fog can vary in texture and distribution. How you want the fog in your photo to appear comes down mostly to shutter speed. If you want to capture the cloud-like clumps of fog that closely represent what you are seeing in real time, then a relatively short shutter speed is required. On the other hand, you might go for a more ethereal look by using a longer shutter value to capture the fog as it moves across the scene.
Bring Your Tripod…Maybe
I already implored you to get up early; if you do take this advice you’ll probably need a tripod. The already low light conditions will only be exacerbated by the presence of fog, preventing you from being able to hand hold your shots.
Of course, you will definitely need a tripod if you intend to do any long exposures. But if you’re lucky enough to have fog settle into your town during the middle of the day, you may very well be able to do without the tripod.
Most of you are already doing this, but if you’re not you should know that shooting raw will not only allow you to edit your photos without losing image quality, but it will also make it easier to deal with the white balance issues that shooting in the fog can present. If, however, you insist on shooting jpegs, set your white balance to cloudy.
Final Thoughts On Photographing Fog And Mist
There’s a lot you can do with fog and mist. It can be mysterious, magical, foreboding, gloomy. It’s up to you how you want to convey your vision and what emotion you want to evoke in the viewer. What’s sure is that incorporating fog and mist into your photography, done properly, will have a significant impact and will make a way for your work to stand apart from those who didn’t get up early enough.
For More On Taking Beautiful Photos Of Mist and Fog
- How to Capture Misty, Magical Photographs: 3 Essential Tips on Timing, Tools, and Technique take a look at this post by Sheen Watkins
- Landscape Photography Guide – see this great guide by the team at Photzy.
- How To Process Fog & Mist Pictures In Lightroom – see a great tutorial by Mikko Lagerstedt