- What Is Cloud Photography?
- Camera Settings for Cloud Photography
- Black and White Cloud Photography
- Other Colors Beyond Blue Sky Photography
- Cloud Photography Post-Processing Hints
- Displaying Your Beautiful Sky Photography
- Recommended Photography Gear
- 5 Key Components of Color in Photography
- Emotion In Monochrome Photography: Capturing Mood and Feeling Without Color
- FAQs About Printing Photos On Metal
Photo by VR_Studio via iStock
Photographing the sky and clouds can result in awesome images. Those clouds and the colors of the sky look absolutely amazing at times! But how does one capture that beautiful display in the sky to evoke the same awe and appreciation when seen as a photograph?
Any genre of photographer can accomplish cloud photography and sky photography. You only need a few helpful tips for capturing and displaying your cloud photography. Join me as I discuss blue sky photography, cloud photography, and other types of sky photography.
Table of Contents:
What Is Cloud Photography?
photo by petesphotography via iStock
When you hear someone refer to “cloud photography,” what picture shows up in your mind? If you picture some puffy white clouds in a clear blue sky, you’re not alone because that is one definition we can use.
However, cloud photography can include many more things than just the clouds. In fact, some of the best images of clouds can be using those clouds as a backdrop or as a dramatic element of a more involved photograph.
Storm photography is a part of cloud photography because how many storms exist without clouds? Sunsets and sunrises also fall into the realm of cloud photography since some of the best ways to show the colors of that time of day are to use the clouds to intensify the colors.
Cityscapes, landscapes, oceanscapes, and other wide-field panoramic styles of photography benefit from adding clouds into the composition, which means that you may need to adjust your camera's exposure settings to capture them properly.
Camera Settings for Cloud Photography
Photo by amriphoto via iStock
The settings for cloud photography can be as varied as they are in all other forms of photography. In other words, what you want to show in your cloud photography will determine what camera settings you will be using.
Notice I’m saying camera settings and not just focusing on exposure settings because autofocus settings are also important, as are color balance, ISO, and file type.
I like to recommend shooting in RAW instead of JPEG because RAW allows for a lot more adjustment in post-processing and also because shooting in RAW means I can assign color balances later instead of dialing it in on the camera.
Keeping the ISO as low as reasonable for the situation is also a good idea, allowing us to enlarge a portion of the image if we want to go a slightly different way than what we shot. And keeping the ISO low for cloud photography works well for making physical prints, especially as large prints.
AF can be confused by contrast issues within a scene filled with clouds, but it’s a simple task to manually focus and choose an aperture that optimizes for whatever we want as our depth of focus.
Now, we get to the exposure settings! Guess what? It’s completely variable as well! I like to visualize what I want the final print to look like, using some of the skills I learned with the Zone System.
I’ll lean towards darker tones and higher contrast if I want a low-key approach. A high-key approach means I’ll be exposing more for highlights and lower contrast. Using a spot meter in the camera or as a separate meter helps make the camera exposure decisions.
Be careful not to let your meter be fooled by the large expanses of light or dark that are common in sky photography; even evaluative metering can be fooled. If a large area is dark, you may want to underexpose from the meter reading the other way for large areas of light. You can do this manually or use exposure compensation.
Black and White Cloud Photography
Photo by AustinArtist via iStock
I really enjoy the extreme contrasts that can be found with a deep blue sky and white, puffy clouds that show up so well in black and white photography. Exposed and processed for the extremes, you can turn a blue sky into a dark gray, almost black tone, making the white of the clouds stand out.
Depending on the time of day and your location, the bubbles and creases in a rapidly growing cumulus cloud can be shown by side lighting. Backlighting can make a bright sky turn closer to light gray, with the clouds now becoming dark.
Storm clouds can be turned dark against lighting, either sheet lighting or forks of lightning bolts. Black and white cloud photography may be one of my favorite forms of nature imaging. It’s so dynamic and can change instantly, giving me multiple imaging options within the same photo outing.
Other Colors Beyond Blue Sky Photography
Photo by jamesvancouver via iStock
We can capture so many colors with cloud photography as we mix it with our other landscape and sky photography. Sunsets and sunrises can provide us with oranges, pinks, and reds that intensify greatly when shot through a cloud bank.
The sun going up and down also provides colors outside the sunrise/sunset spectrum. Golden Hour light can be used for cloud photography just as we do for other subjects. It gives us, well… gold tones, warm tones, amber, yellow.
Blue Hour is an interesting time of day for cloud photography. It can change that blue sky photography to a very deep blue, cerulean blue, and continuing into the evening, turning sky and clouds into violet and purple.
Watch this fun video covering Blue Hour photography from our friends at the Slanted Lens YouTube channel:
I’ve been discussing evening, sunset, and twilight, moving into full night. Of course, all of this change of colors from Golden Hour to sunset to Blue Hour to full night can be seen in reverse order in the morning. While you’re out there, you might as well also try out some astrophotography, adding clouds into that fascinating genre.
Cloud Photography Post-Processing Hints
Photo by Stephen Harker via iStock
I mentioned earlier that I like to shoot cloud photography and other sky photography in RAW format because of the ability to use the sensor's photographic information.
Post-processing can be used to bring out all of those contrasts and colors listed above. We can do as little or as much as we wish. Converting to black and white takes a pretty good amount of post-processing, while a nice mountain scene in the early afternoon may only require a slight tweak of colors or exposure.
There are some presets that can be had for free or low cost on the web for Photoshop, Lightroom, and several other popular post-processing programs that can virtually automate your computer work if you’re new to cloud photography and want to learn more ideas about what to do after clicking the shutter.
Displaying Your Beautiful Sky Photography
Photo by guvendemir via iStock
Finally, you will want to show others your cloud photography images. One of the most effective means of displaying this wonderful style of photography is making enlargements as metal prints.
I’ve been using Shiny Prints for many of my metal printing needs because of their extreme attention to detail and high-quality metal printing process. They use dye sublimation on ChromaLuxe aluminum panels for archival longevity of up to 65 years.
What makes them an ideal printer for metal prints of cloud photography is that they have a variety of surface options for these prints. You’ll probably like the White Matte and White Gloss for your image files of blue sky photography with white clouds in the scene.
For a more adventurous viewing experience, the Silver Gloss and Silver Matte finishes change most white colors and bright tones into a clear view of the aluminum substrate, making a unique large print.
Whatever style of photography is your primary niche, people pics, wildlife photography, landscapes, or street photography, you’ll find lots of opportunities to capture your own cloud photography. Enjoy the experience!