In photography, light is everything. Inside a studio, you can control every aspect of the lighting but when photographing outdoor under ambient light, a lot depends on the weather. Weather condition affects light, and therefore affects your photography. So, what can you do when the weather turns bad during your outdoor shoot? Wait for the perfect weather?
You don't have to wait for the perfect weather. Adapting to the weather condition, and using it to your advantage would be the smartest thing to do. But first you’ll need to understand how the light changes with the weather. In addition, you have to know what is the best you can get out of every kind of weather. We will see how to use that setting and light to our advantage. Note that I will provide you with some examples, but the possibilities are endless, indeed. It will eventually come down to your ideas and skills to achieve decent shots.
Whether it is about to rain, or the weather is plain cloudy and you can’t see the sun being defined well, that means the whole sky becomes your light source. Imagine the sky as one giant softbox and the sun as the strobe. It will give you the softest shadows possible. That also means that the light will be a bit flat, so you’ll need to adapt a bit using some reflectors or strobe or two. However, having overcast weather with the light shining through a window in a dark room will produce some amazing light.
Overcast weather is great for black and white portraiture. Since the light isn’t harsh and too bright, the model won’t have weird facial expressions and the catchlight in the eyes will be excellent. I’m saying black and white because you can use the black and white transformation to add depth to the image by emphasizing certain colors while toning down on others.
Rain and Thunderstorms
Here you can use the dark and moody atmosphere created by the heavy rain clouds and use the occasional thunder flash as a source of light. This can work well with portraiture but requires a lots of testing and error shots (except if you have a light trigger). Also, you can do long exposures landscape shots and hopefully get a lightning bolt in the frame. That almost always gives awesome photos.
You can use the falling rain to add some feel to the image by lighting it up with a strobe or two. During rain, you can use the rain droplets on glass cliche to create photos that emphasize nostalgic emotions. On another note, kids having fun in the rain is a positive way to use the rain. For instance, you can freeze motion with water splashing around and so on.
Clean sky means not a single cloud out there. The clean sky is good for landscapes and astrophotography, but bad for soft light. Not a single cloud on the sky means no diffusion hence hard shadows. Also, it is best for photographing sunrise or sunset because there won’t be any clouds to hide the sun (except if that is your intention in the first place).
Clear sky is great for landscapes, especially night time astrophoto landscapes. But having clear sky during sunrise or sunset is also great for portraits, with the model faces the opposite direction of the sun (technically the sun being behind their back). You can capture dramatic portraits during sunset, where the sun will create great key light and one reflector should be enough to create decent light on the model without getting any harsh shadows.
Snow and Blizzards
When snowing, you have clouds similar to those on overcast weather, with the snow reflecting light from the ground up. This is great for winter portraits, and winter landscapes since it creates great depth in the light.
Snow is great as a setting. Snow is also fun. Since it acts as a big light reflector the light is plain awesome. Get kids, or any model for that matter, add in snowflakes to the recipe and you have some great photos. Snowing weather can be used in many varieties ranging from beauty shots for models, to action shots for kids, snow boarders, and any snow sports for that matter. Also, it is always fun to shoot kids building a snowman, for example. Use your imagination.
Practically, everything is based on your ability to adapt to light in photography. Also, using the light to your advantage is crucial. You can’t always predict the natural light setting and the weather conditions under which you will be working, so you’ll have to come prepared in order not to waste your time and the time of the people you are going to photograph. Finally, always think outside the box, especially if the weather is not the one you expected it to be.
Thanks for the artical Dzvonko, I am looking forward to autumn and winter photography with my nikon D300 that i got 6 months ago. I have really learnt a lot through the summer so the changing light conditions of winter will be a good chalenge as I live on the rugged west coast of Wales, uk.
landscapes are my favorites, I love dead trees, they are natures sculptures. Looking forward to snow to enhance landscapes in northwest US. That’s for helpful hints.m
This helps alot–instead of putting on a pouty-photographer face in our moody NW United States when it clouds over, I can utilize these tips and head outdoors!