Many people think clouds are only important for landscape photos but this is not true. Clouds can be very effective at shaping the mood of your photo.
Whatever type of photography you’re into, here are eight techniques to shoot amazing cloud photography.
Look for Different Clouds for Different Moods
There are many types of clouds out there. Each has its own way of influencing how your photo appears.
If you want your photo to look vibrant, shoot Cumulus clouds. They appear when the weather is good.
For a more serious vibe, consider the flat and grey Stratus clouds on overcast days.
If you’re after a more dramatic effect, then try the big and scary Cumulonimbus and Altostratus. They appear when a big storm is on the way.
Pay Attention to the Weather Forecast
Forecasts provide you with a lot of information if you’re interested in taking cloud photos. They’re very useful if you want to capture a location in a specific type of weather.
So if you were waiting for storm clouds to approach an area you have in mind, then you’ll know when to prepare.
If your location has a weather radar you can access online, take advantage of it. This shows real-time results in a more concentrated area. And it’s more accurate than the ones you see.
The radar map shows you where the clouds are and where they may be headed. In most cases, it has a scale that indicates the severity of the weather.
Green spots in the clouds mean there could be light rain. Purple spots represent severe storms.
But you shouldn’t worry even if you don’t have access to radar. You can still use the regular news forecast to help you guess what types of clouds to expect on the day of your shoot. Or just check The Weather for accurate predictions.
If your local weatherman says there will be a thunderstorm, prepare for Cumulonimbus clouds.
Choose the Right Camera Settings
You don’t need deep technical knowledge when it comes to taking pictures of clouds. In fact, you can even get away with using auto settings on your camera in most cases.
But these tips will help you make the most out of those dramatic clouds.
First, set your ISO between 100 to 800. If it’s bright outside, then use 100. As it gets dark, you can use higher values until you reach 800. If you go any higher than that, you might end up with pictures that look noisy and grainy.
Next, set your aperture between f/11 to f/16. The deep focus produced by these f-numbers ensures that everything in your frame is sharp.
When it comes to shutter speed, you get to choose from a few options depending on what you want to achieve. In most cases, you can set your camera to Aperture Priority. Then let your device decide the shutter speed for you.
If you want to try long exposure photography, then you’ll need to use Manual Mode.
Get Creative with Long Exposure Cloud Photography
Long exposure photography is useful for capturing clouds at night. Using normal shutter speeds would result in underexposed images.
It works by opening the shutter for a long time so the sensor could gather more light to create a proper exposure.
As a consequence, anything in the frame that moves while the aperture is open will end up blurry. That sounds like bad news in most cases but it creates surreal effects when shooting clouds.
In fact, the longer you keep your shutter open, the fuzzier the clouds are going to look.
You’ll need to switch your camera to manual mode to create a long exposure. Once you’re on that mode, set your aperture somewhere between f/11 to f/16 depending on the lighting condition.
If it’s dark enough, f/11 will suffice. But if it’s still too bright out, then try f/16. Although most lenses have a minimum aperture size of f/22, we don’t recommend you using it due to diffraction.
When the aperture is too narrow, light to go through, and that results in blurry photos.
Once you set your aperture, you can adjust your shutter speed up to 30 seconds. Take a test shot. If it’s over or underexposed, bump it up until you get the proper exposure.