Photography On Cloudy Days – Mike Browne

Dull gray days like this one, they really can be motivationally challenging can’t they? We tell ourselves there isn’t a photo to be had because the sun’s not shining and that’s just not true it’s it’s just a different picture to be had, because different weather conditions produce different lighting conditions I am down on the shores of Lake Pfäffikersee where we run the Zurich masterclass, which we’ve just finished. We’ve just had two glorious days of sunshine but today it’s a little bit more challenging but it’s just different. We’ve got all sorts of shots with these boats here and in different lighting conditions, I thought I’d come down here and show you that it’s possible to take some interesting shots even when the sun’s not shining. In fact what’s interesting me the most here is this sky, I really like this sky. One of the reasons I’m very dark in the viewfinder is I’m letting the camera see more of the sky and a bit less of me because I’m possibly a bit less interesting Now what would we do with a shot like this you? You can see we got our little boats going on down here we got nice, calm, shiny water, there’s a few reflections happening so let’s see what we can do, let’s see if we can find a photo Now then let’s have a little look through my camera, I may get in your way a little bit here guys – sorry because I don’t have a camera person, we have no Ben today. Now let me see if I can just spin up a bit of video for you, here we go It’s very easy to think that just setting the lens wide is going to give you the best shots because we’ve got all these boats here and it’s very easy to think ‘the horizon in the middle’ but look at the edges of the picture, the boats are cut off this one over here is cut off in the corner of the frame and these two over here are very close to the edge of it I don’t really like that very much Sometimes less is more, sometimes less makes a better shot. So how could we redo this? Remember I’m only using my little 18 to 55 lens which most cameras come with, you don’t need anything terribly fancy. What I’m seeing are the end four boats Look at these four down here Now I know it’s gone out of focus, that’s just the way it is – but look you see if we bring that down we’re starting to get a reflection down there Let me stop the video and refocus so that you can see it a little bit better, here we go Look at those boats just at the end with the trees up there, we got the docks going down the lake. I think that’s quite a nice little picture. Possibly we could include more boats, I don’t know, always experiment zoom around I think it’s just the end four but I also think if I go lower, if I kind of crouch down here we’re going to bring the sky a little higher in the frame, we’ve got a bit more sky and we got the reflections I like that, so all we’ve got to do is shoot our picture Can you still see me? So what do we need? Well I’m only using a 200 ISO because I’ve got enough light, my lens is on 55 millimetres so that’s full stretch for this, I don’t know, middle aperture but a good nice depth of field, I’m gonna gonna go to F9, F10 somewhere around there F8 will be plenty. That makes sure my shutter speed is fast enough I won’t get camera shake I just compose up my shot. And a little duck just appeared in shot there next to the boat, I don’t really like it but there we go.. I’m going to focus on the boats you don’t really need to think too hard about where to focus with a shot like this but I’m gonna wait for my little duck to disappear, there it’s less noticeable in the shadow, I kind of like that, I do kind of like that. There’s probably other alternatives that can be taken and what is kind of interesting to me is down here we’ve got some docks and I’ve taken some sunset shots down there with a phone which you may have seen in another video. So I think I’m gonna take a walk down there and just see what kind of shots there are happening at the end. Sorry guys, I’m gonna have to wobble you around a bit On the way down to the docks I’ve just been looking across the lake over here and you probably can’t see it in the video because it’s a long way off but there’s a kind of line of light cloud running across the opposite shore Let’s see if I can capture it for you a little bit in this one here we go there’s that little band of cloud, I like the grey on grey and can you see there’s this church spire there and there’s something about the grey on grey that I really like and that reflection in the water, so that’s interesting me and I like these clouds. Now, again with grey days this is about motivating yourself to go out and shoot some pictures. Why do I look so dark in the video camera? So that’s one question I know many of you are going to ask. It’s because of that bright area in the sky just there. Eyes and cameras see light differently. The camera can’t cope with me in the shade and the light and have the two kind of balanced – our brains can do that because our brains make an HDR image through our eyes, cameras can’t do it That’s why when you take a photo of someone in front of a window you often get a silhouette. I’d love to claim that this is my heavenly aura but unfortunately it isn’t… So let’s challenge ourselves the lights not great the weather’s not great but let’s challenge ourselves to see if we can find some pictures. Now some of them will work and some of them won’t, never be afraid to make a mistake because that’s where opportunity to learn something new lies. This shot might work, it might not, but these are the sorts of things that you need to do when I tell you to practice so let’s have a go at this shot now I’ve done something almost unheard of in that I have put on my long lens. I know I nearly always shoot with the 1855, I popped on the 55 200 because I couldn’t see that far shore if I kept the 18 to 55 on So let’s just take that shot you saw what I was thinking… When I was looking through the viewfinder when I shot that last bit of video now I think my exposure, what have we got? The camera is telling me… Five hundredths of a second at F9, why won’t it focus? It’s probably because it’s a little bit lacking in contrast so I’m going to find – there we go we’re focused – something for it to lock on to. Five hundredths of a second at f9 my histogram is telling me that yeah that’s pretty much in the middle, there’s a little bit of a peak which is the sky now yeah that’s about right because it’s all quite dull over there. Now I am actually going to tell the camera to increase my exposure I’m just going to take it up by two thirds of a stop because I’d rather shoot a little further to the right and get more data and then I know I can work with that when I make my raw file when I go to Lightroom. Let’s have a look so that histogram yeah it’s kind of in the middle there’s two spikes when people tell you that a correctly exposed histogram goes up in the middle complete and utter bullshit. It only goes up in the middle if the entire shot is made up of mid-tones, what we’ve got here are some dark tones and some brighter tones but almost no perfect midtone so the histogram is u-shaped and it’s a perfect histogram There’s a lot of myths out there – just be careful guys Now something else which is interesting me on the far shore, as the light’s changing, is this kind of mistiness we’ve got a little bit of blue starting to come into the sky up here ‘Come on camera wake up, show the lovely people the blue’ Here we go, there’s a little bit of blue going on up there in the clouds and that means ‘what’? if you’ve done the seven building blocks of photography?’ It means it’s a blue hole and therefore the light might change don’t know… but I’m also seeing over here Appalling focus… I can’t focus… can I get that to focus? I can’t I’m gonna have to stop the video, this is one of the drawbacks for me with this little camera which I love, but look at that mistiness on the opposite shore, doesn’t that look cool? Look at those trees, see on the right of the frame I really like those, I don’t really like the little duckie thing going across the water it’s like a black spot – something you need to spread cream on. So I’m just going to shoot that one as well because I really like the thought of capturing that mistiness, now as I look to the right actually there’s a couple of bits that are.. what is it.. I think I like this bit with the church but instead of having it where we had it in the first shot going to put the church to the right because it kind of tapers down let’s try that and see what it looks like. Focus it up here we go through 300 and 20th of a second f9 is going to be plenty because I’m focusing well beyond the infinity point of the lens. What I’m really interested in is that sky and then I can bring it to life a little more later on let me just whizz down here, it’s about keeping your eyes open guys. Whenever you’re out photographing just look around, don’t spend all your time thinking about who bought the latest lens or what lens you want for Christmas because you’ll miss things. You see look I’d quite like these trees and those guys on the dock, I don’t know if I’m quite far enough out but if I extend the zoom a bit… no you know what? Is it working it’s almost not worth taking because it’s the background that I’m interested in, it’s the sky going on behind I’m not even going to take it, be selective with your shots go home with shots that you think I’m really pleased with that. But by all means experiment, now my experience of having done it for years tells me that ain’t going to work, so I’m not going to shoot it but I’m not entirely sure about the one we just shot over there it might Let’s carry on down the bank see what we can find Days like today are brilliant days to come out and practice your photography because everything’s always changing as I left where we were just now it just started to rain a little bit now I’m just noticing little spots on the water and then a bird kind of jumped in the water and there are some little ripples now it’s nothing technically challenging about a photograph like that but it is challenging for those of you that say I don’t spot the picture, I don’t see pictures, how do you see pictures? I’m asked. This all the time this is how you do it you go out on your own not with someone else because someone will want to talk to you about other things or a family member will want you to hurry up. You go out on your own and you just immerse yourself in where you are and truly look around to see if you can find shots. Now you may recognize this location here from a video I did I think it was last year when I was here and we were shooting this with a phone and if you compare the pictures from last year with now, you see how the difference in light, there was a sunset in that one going on over here. I ignored the sunset because I like the light on the docks looking down this way. Okay so right now today we’ve got a couple of guys they’re fishing on the dock, it’s a grey day but I still think it’s quite a nice little life sort of a photo, you know it’s quiet, we want a quiet picture how quiet do we want it? Well very because it’s a grey day, it’s a weekday and they’re out fishing together in the murk, in the mist and the damp. So how can we utilize this shot? Well look we’re on one of my favorite little wooden docks and we can use this dock where the wood comes up here we can shoot straight down here and use it like a leading line off to that dock over there and get a nice shot of the guys but also if you look on this side we’ve got a little bit of the bank we got some trees a bit of greenery, now since we moved from over where we were just now up to here notice how the lights changed so the far shore it’s not quite as detailed, it’s not quite as interesting but never mind – I still think it’ll work as a sort of dull day shot. This is what I mean practice challenge yourself to find photos and conditions you think are less than ideal less than inspirational and less than motivational because when you do and you go somewhere that is inspirational that is motivational, that really lights your light, if you’ve practiced in these conditions you’re just gonna nail it when you go out there get off your ass and go and practice take some pictures and enjoy the experience, enjoy the smell of the lake, the smell of the air, just take yourself somewhere different. Right end of lecture! Taking a picture. So if I kind of pop up my camera here, roll a little bit of vid So look we’ve got this natural leading line here of the dock which leads to the other dock but they’re quite small and this gap in here – between the guys and the end of this dock – it’s a bit too big, I’d rather that was a smaller gap so how can we do that? Come on think, use your brilliant brain – think how can we do that? Really simple isn’t it? We bend our knees because composition and alignment is a function of arms and legs and hands and knees – look at this gap in here closing, see as we get lower we can almost make it disappear, I don’t really want it to. Somewhere there is good and then I’m thinking just the end two posts I might increase the focal length a little bit to bring that background up I think I prefer it like that. We’ve still got a little bit of this greenery going on over here, good job – take the picture What’s next? Think it through, what do you need next? How much depth of field are you going to want for a shot like this? Think it through You need enough to kind of get this dock sharp and that one. What aperture is that? I don’t know you’ve got to remember camera settings that I use are useless to you, they’re of no value whatsoever because you’ll copy my settings and it won’t work because the lights different. The light is changing around here all the time and if you copy my settings it won’t work, you’ve got to learn what the settings do then you apply them to the shot you want to take. So let’s find out what aperture do I need to get the depth of field that I want. I’m on about 30 millimetres focal length, let’s go back to our composition focus on the end of the doc I reckon Now if I was to take down to a small aperture, let’s go in about F18? Somewhere around there, that’s probably going to be enough, focus on the end of the dock and then just compose our shot make sure it’s level, check the exposure looks good and take the shot So how do you know if you’ve got enough depth of field well you can get hyper focal distance calculators but I don’t get it myself I think there’s a much easier way, you just go in the back of your LCD, you zoom in to about a hundred percent don’t go beyond because if you go beyond 100% everything will look soft and soggy. Yeah, so I’m zoomed in to one hundred percent and looking around my LCD and sure enough the end of the dock and the guys on the other dock over there fishing, these guys I think they’re there somewhere – they’re nice and sharp. This is all it takes guys that’s all it takes, just a little bit of thought and a little bit of practice I don’t if I’m going to take any more shots down here I might hang around for a while and just shoot a few and if I do I’ll post them on the end because behind you as represented by this video camera that you’re looking at is a changing sky look – you see? It’s changing now when I got down here earlier there was a blue hole possibly that one I don’t know but look it’s brightening up, you might have some different light, if I take some more pics I’ll post them on the end if you found this little video useful please you know like, share, tell your friends about it because you doing that helps you make more free videos, subscribe to my youtube channel if you want to watch my videos on my website, they will come with a free accompanying article which often has some additional information, so if you click on the little thing here sign up to my newsletter I’ll send you some free tips we’re gonna revisit some old stuff and sort of keep you practicing, keep you in the groove but I’ll also let you know whenever there’s a new one and you may get some other cool good stuff as well. So please share it around love to your comments below, any questions you’ve got pop them down there and if there’s some more pictures to be had, I will of course share them with you take care guys

100 Replies to “Photography On Cloudy Days – Mike Browne”

  1. @Mike Browne, Really enjoyed your style and content. Just brilliant delivery. Very useful perspective. Looking forward to seeing more.

  2. This kind of video is just perfect ! I can improve my english skills while improving my photography knowledges … Thanks and greetings from France !

  3. Hi, Mike! Thanks for your work. I've watched many of your videos (right from the 'Moody Teenager' ones) and I always pick up something new, or something I thought I knew gets reinforced.

    You're right about getting out by oneself — none of my friends or family are photo nuts and get a tad testy when I want to hang around a while to get a different light or get extraneous people out the way.

    Keep the videos coming, please!


  4. Reference when you say do not zoom in beyond 100% when previewing images, soft etc I have a nine year old canon eos 7d camera how do i know when i am looking at an image at 100% and not more when previewing an image on the camera lcd screen, nothing in manual, canon support do not understand what I am talking about. PS: enjoyed many of your videos especially Cambodia trip.

  5. Mike, I enjoy all of your videos, but this one was a true gem for me. So often when I have the time to go outdoors with my cameras for some lens time, if the skies are grey, I end up talking myself out of going due to the "drab" color options. Thanks for waking me up to the opportunities and beauty that grey skies can offer. Thanks for the lessons!

  6. Ciao Mike!
    I honestly don't feel like I would gain anything out from a workshop at the average level that I am, But damn, I love watching your videos! your style, your charisma and positivity, and you are just an amazing teacher! Therefore you make me feel like I've missed out for not coming to this workshop and to meet you!

  7. Mike, you are one of the best photography teachers out there on YouTube. Love your style, love your cool attitude towards photography and your explanation methods while taking the pictures.. Keep posting 👍😀

  8. thanks Mike for another really interesting video. I just realise how much I have learned from you over the last few years!

  9. I love love love your videos your pictures and your instructions (including the lectures) ! Thank you so much! You've inspired me to get off my booty and take pictures! XXOO

  10. This was the first video of Mike's that I found. Since then I've signed up to one of his online courses and it's making all the difference to my shots! Was in Dublin yesterday and found myself looking for the light first before a shot. What a difference it's making to my results. Cheque to the usual address, Mike. 😎

  11. Great call on the histogram. A histogram is a useful tool that shows where the pixels within your image lay, and how how many there are. I have heard a number of times to avoid having the histogram crammed up hard against the left or right. If you can see a tall spike jammed to the left or right, it simply means you have a lot data in the hard shadows and highlights. Typically this is avoided as it makes developing or editing those areas more difficult. The reasoning is that if you have a lot of data there, even if you adjust it in editing and can only remove 80% of it, you're still going to have data there. However, if you're wanting to capture a lot of shadow/ blacks or highlights/whites, then you'll be wanting to see a controlled spike in those area's and a movement in the curve in that area.
    People's photography definitely improves when they start looking at a histogram in terms of where all their pixels are sitting, and how much there is in any one area, rather adjusting settings to simply get a bell curve that barely touches the edges.
    Great call on the micro M curve still being properly exposed, and it was just expressing there wasn't many pixels in the mid-tones.

  12. Great video Mike and great photos you have captured. Cloudy days are the best for those moody emotional exposures.

  13. Best Photography Chanel in the YouTube…. Amazing content in all the videos…Keep it up good works Mike. You are a legend….

  14. Hi Mike. Just a quick question. Have you ever tried too hard to capture an image? I am asking because I certainly have and the results have been very poor. I have seen a buzzard a few times near where I live. Quite often within touching distance. I had the camera ready, saw the buzzard but when I went to take the shot, I had almost forgotten how to breathe. Needless to say, the picture was rubbish. What are your thoughts?

  15. Hi Mike, thank you for your clear slow talking make's everything much better to follow & understand, love your low shots, ! unfortunately at 75 years of age, it's almost impossible to get that low, & even more painful to get back up, so suggestions to fined a around this.?

  16. You are awesome! You’re one of my favorite YouTube photographers/instructors to watch. Thank you for all you do to help us aspirant photographers!

  17. Hi I love your video, s. They are educational and inspirational unfortunately I only have a fujifilm hs30 which is a bridge camera it has some limitations but still a great little camera that I can play around with and still get some interesting photos thanks

  18. I know and it's a bad trade's man that blames his tool's. I was just saying that my camera has it's limitations but still a good little camera. Just received my nd filters so now I can get out and snap away thanks for your reply Phil

  19. You can make unlimited amount of mistakes with digital cameras because of the vast memory chip were as with the SLR ( single reflex camera ) It was a roll of film and therefore Mistakes were very few.

  20. Hello Mike! I have my stock 18-55, but also a 17-70 among a couple more. How is the 18-55 useful when you have the 17-70? Thank you!

  21. Love All your Videos Mike, like the way u explain things, Very Clear & Nothing Complex. Keep Uploading Good Stuffs. Cheers

  22. I will not stop telling you, m
    Mike: you are such an inspiration for me. After each of your video I feel the urge to grab the camera and shoot. Please, keep on rolling, and don't lose that aura you have. 😉

  23. Hi Mike. Fabulous video and a great help has I live up north in Lancaster, where we have many a dull days

  24. "something you need to put cream on" lol good one.! Well you motivated me to go out and take some pictures …thank you , Sir!

  25. Nice work, thanks for sharing.
    Did you see that moorhen in the pier vid?
    Decisive moments in landscape photos, gotta love em!

  26. Looking at the boats I can see a picture from the other end getting them in a line, it just stands out to me watching the video….

  27. Not yet subscribed,but just discoverted your video.Couple of questions.Do you use back button focussing?Do you meter to the rightside on your histogram,to obtain best details?Do you mainly use a full frame or crop sensor camera(sorry that the quistion is gear orientated)

  28. You won't see much sun this year. They are geoengineering the skies with so called contrails. I think this summer will be the one and only summer that's going to be a winter. This women has videos showing spraying out of the skies. YouTube and social media is being suppressed as they don't like their objectively seen. The spraying is planned up until 2090 Exeter is real bad as they are now changing the weather within 3hrs, all done without the planets consent of course.

  29. My favourite one was the one of the dock in a 'T' shape at 17:28. I love the colours and the composition of it. The banks and hills on the left and the docks reflection on the still water. I'd have it on my wall. Not sure why you left the branches on the right side in. Looks a bit weird but doesn't detract too much! Loved the video – unfortunately we have too many days like this here:)

  30. Great vlog!…I've watched several of your videos before and have now subscribed…I like your down to earth and natural delivery, and pure enthusiasm for photography, which I find both infectious and inspirational…It just goes to show how great shots can be captured in all weather and lighting conditions…a lot of people, especially those new to photography, would immediately dismiss an overcast day as a no-goer on the photography front, but I think you have demonstrated very nicely just how worthwhile it can be..great shots by the way!

  31. I always love you videos, feels like I'm with you at the same're bringing us with you.

  32. I would attempt at the two gliding ducks at 6:00–6:10 from a lower point (kneeling) at f11, 5-7 burst frames. Might work well with the farther shore landscape shot. (Which is good in its own right though.)

  33. Doesn't it get very darker with such high shutter speed and low ISO during the cloudy days? And eventually we end up increasing the light with some editing tools. ~ P.S. I am just a beginner. Thanks for your video. it's amazing.

  34. My anxiety went through the roof when I thought you were hand holding near the water, dropped when I realized you had a hand strap on… Heart rate is normal again now

  35. I love the challenge of finding a great photo on cloudy days and “bad” light. I go to national parks regardless of weather, and find the most dramatic photos I’ve done have been taken in bad weather and flat light. Using the terrain, distinctive clouds, precipitation, and changes in light give the prepared mind some excellent opportunities.

    Thanks for your encouragement, Mike. (Sent you a photo of Yosemite Valley: foggy, low ceilings, rain, and an instant of drama.)

  36. I really enjoy watching your videos Mike. I particularly like the fact that you use zoom lenses when just about every other photographer on You Tube is pushing prime lenses. Your comment about hyperfocal distance made me laugh! Keep up the good work!

  37. Mike – this is the video that got me to subscribe. Always nice to discover a photographer who shares their experience without letting ego get in the way. Thank you & keep on myth-busting!

  38. "Get off your ass…and take some pictures." No better advice has ever been given. Love this video. A good photographer takes great pictures in good light. A great photographer finds great images in any light.

  39. Great sir
    I m a new commer in photography..i alway confused when want bridel shot in evening time when found light nearly dull(near 6pm)
    At this time i alway confused for white balance(l love kelvin)plss advise that what kelvin is best(i was use 5000 but result was bad)

  40. Awesome video… it motivated me to get the camera out on a late summer, dreary day here in the northeastern US….just a quick request… could you expand on the infinity point of a lens? I see lots of info out there but I value your take on it. Thanks in advance!

  41. I honestly can't understand, why one has to be told to take a shot if he thinks it won't work. Like if a pros are getting that crispy magic shot just by walking by and taking a single picture of something 🙂 I mean if you're buying a camera you have to be eager to experiment and shoot as much as you can.

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