5 Ways to Capture More Detail in Your Skies for Outdoor Photos


A truly magnificent landscape photograph relies on capturing not only interesting geography but also breathtaking sky. Boring skies without clouds can make your landscape photos pretty dull and static.

Because of this, capturing a dramatic sky is definitely something worth your while. Since the sky is lighter than the land, the camera will usually overexpose the sky and turn it into a vague grey colour, but if you master the following five tips, the skies in your photos will start to look much more compelling and eye-catching!

1. Know The Right Timing

When planning out a landscape photo that will include the sky, you should always consider how the timing will impact the sky. It’s definitely not the same if you’re shooting landscapes early in the morning, at midday or in the evening.

In addition to this, you should also watch for weather patterns, since they can surely add some interest to a shot. For instance, stormy skies (especially lightning) look amazing if captured properly!

Generally speaking, weather plays a big role in storytelling and it can help you convey a gloomy or happy feeling.

2. Use Polarizing Filters

In case you’re not too much into editing skies in Lightroom and Photoshop, using a polarizing filter can save you a lot of time.

These filters remove polarized light from the image and reduce reflections and glare. At the same time, they increase colour saturation of the sky.

Polarizing filters are perfect for a sunny day outdoor photography because they deepen the blue of the sky which in turn makes the clouds stand out more.

3. Capture Water Reflections

Another way to emphasize a stunning sky is to capture its reflection on a body of water, such as a lake, ocean or sea. You should frame the scene in a way that will include both the sky and the water. This kind of ’’mirror effect’’ can make your image look twice as alluring compared with those regular shots!

If you want to make this kind of scene more dynamic and colourful, you can include subjects like boats, rocks, sand, or even some people. These additional elements can help you fill the frame and introduce some visual variety.

4. Try Long Exposures

Long exposures aren’t something you should use just for low light scenes or waterfalls. In fact, there are many creative ways to use long exposures.

If you use a long enough shutter speed, the clouds will blur too, since they are moving objects. Such images of silky skies full of wispy clouds can introduce a wonderful sense of motion.

The ideal settings for shutter speed will depend on the weather and how much motion blur you want to capture. A good starting point is usually a two-minute exposure.

5. Experiment With A Graduated Filter Tool

For those who don’t mind improving the sky in post-processing, there are a few editing tools that can be really helpful.

One of the best tools for this kind of editing is the graduated filter inside Adobe Camera RAW. This filter behaves just like an actual graduated filter – it covers just the selected portion of the image (in this case the upper one, where the sky is) and gradually fades away.

It’s quite easy to create natural looking effects with this filter. It can be also used to adjust the exposure and reduce haze in the distance for landscapes and cityscapes, which opens up a lot of possibilities for applying powerful edits just to the sky.

Photo by Segio Souza

If you want to capture and share the undeniable natural beauty of the outdoors, you have to make sure that the sky in your images looks its best and these five tips can help you achieve that.

In case you want to see more hints and tips about shooting and editing the sky, you can take a look at the following links:

Further Resources:

  1. What Photographers Must Know About The Sky When Shooting Outdoor Photos
  2. How To Master Night Sky Photography
  3. Daytime Long Exposure Photography
  4. 7 Tips for Using Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool for Landscape Photography

About Author

Jasenka is a photographer with a background in web design. You can find out more about her on her website, see some of her newest images at 500px or get to know her better here.

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