While no special methods are needed, taking beautiful pictures of clouds is more than simply pointing your camera at the sky and capturing an image. You might get lucky that way, but you won’t be sure of getting a good picture. You need a plan.
More is Better
Remember to take a lot of picture – at least one a day – so you learn from your mistakes and successes. Always keep your camera with you because you never know when an unusual cloud formation will occur. Likewise, keep your tripod handy and build a good selection of light filters.
Consider using a digital camera for your cloud photography so you can view your pictures before taking them to insure you’ve got the correct light exposure. Clouds give off an amazing amount of light in a wide variety of strengths, which vary from the edges to the center of the formation. Capturing that detail is important.
Many photographers are frustrated when their pictures don’t do justice to the real clouds. If you’re using a manual camera, at least keep a graduated neutral density filter and a polarizing filter handy. Also consider using a sky filter to remove the blue tint that often accompanies cloud images.
Color With Your Clouds
You can take pictures of clouds at any time of the day, but spectacular images are often collected at sunrise and sunset -just before the sun rises or sinks below the horizon. That’s when you’ll see magnificent color -pinks, reds, blues and purples. You don’t have to have a crystal clear day with a bright blue sky to get good cloud pictures; some of the best shots are caught during thunderstorms and turbulent skies.
Content and Composition
Visit the location where you plan to shoot and note anything interesting in the area that you can use to enhance a picture, like an old barn or a distinctive tree. A small body of water will reflect the clousds, so you can set up a unique angle or perspective for the shot.
You already know that the main focus of the image should take up two-thirds of the frame, but watch out for foreground elements like power lines or passing airplanes, unless you’re good at removing them later on the computer. A lot of good shots have been ruined by a bird flying by at just the wrong moment.
Visit your location several times to get a feel for the light in the area and plan where you’ll set up your tripod. Go ahead and snap a few images as a test. Once you start taking pictures, the time for planning is past.
HDR Software can Help
If you’re disappointed with the lighting and contrast in your cloud photographs, consider looking into HDR photography software so you can combine the light from several images into one and add flair to your final photograph.
Cloud photography – like all photography – captures a moment in time. But unlike some other forms of photography, that particular shot is lost after only a brief moment, because you will never see that exact formation, color and lighting again. Plan ahead and you won’t miss it.
Sonia Mansfield is the content editor for PsPrint and editor of PsPrint Design Blog. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company specializing in real estate printing. You can follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint