7 mistakes not to make when you are photographing clouds (yes, I made all 7)


7 mistakes not to make when you are photographing clouds (yes, I made all 7)

Concrete tips

Hello to everybody!

Well, here we are at the end of 5 weeks back to school to learn together and review some valuable photography lessons.
Even though I’m sad that I’ll soon have to say good-bye, now isn’t the time for tears and distress, since we still have a tutorial to explore together: after tutorials on street photography, the tutorial on culinary photography, here is a variation on a landscape photography tutorial: the photography of clouds !

I really do believe that you learn a tremendous amount by making mistakes, so I have put together for you a list of 7 errors I have made and that you should avoid for taking successful photographs of clouds.

Tuto 5 - Photo 1

Tuto 5 - Photo 2

Off we go!

Error n°1 : Forgetting to check the weather

But you’ve already got a weather application on your smartphone and you forgot to check it before you set out : you would have figured out that the sky would be hopelessly gray, or even blue, without a cloud in the sky !
The result is that there’s not a cumulonimbus anywhere in sight or maybe one silly cloud you won’t be able to do much with (no clouds, so no “cloud photography”).


(Not a cloud in sight or maybe hardly any… you’ll have to try “cloud” photos another time)

Careful : watch out to see if the weather predicts wind too (I’ll tell you why a little later).

Error n°2 : Taking a picture at noon when the sun is at its zenith

It is true that clouds are beautiful in all circumstances but to take advantage of optimal lighting, avoid photos when the sun is at its highest in the sky (around noon).

Tuto 5 - Photo 3

(The sun is at its zenith, so come back a little later, toward the end of the day)

I would really recommend to take photos early in the morning or else at the end of the day and ideally between 15/20 minutes BEFORE sunrise and 15/20 minutes AFTER sunrise. Same thing for sunset.

These time frames are called the golden hours or the blue hours and the quality of the light is so great that these times are the hours of the day that are especially prized by photographers.

Error n°3 : Not framing the photo

If you want to take a beautiful photo of clouds, you are going to have to put the emphasis on the clouds and put the sky in the spotlight, rather than what’s happening on the ground!

Not framing your photo

Tuto 5 - Photo 5

(If you’re interested in photographing the clouds, this ½ + ½ framing isn’t ideal

Rethink that rule about dividing your shot into thirds or fifths; place your bets on everything above the horizon!
And if you’ve got a wide-angle lens, you’ll do even better.

Go for a division of 2/3 + 1/3, or even 4/5 + 1/5

Tuto 5 - Photo 7

(Go for a division of 2/3 + 1/3, or even 4/5 + 1/5)

Error n°4 : Not knowing how to read the sky

You can put away your Esmeralda costume, reading the sky simply means that you need to be attentive and watch which direction the clouds are moving in the sky (that’s why the wind is important, otherwise they stagnate at a standstill).

Once you’ve tracked their movement, try to move in a way that the clouds’ movement creates a curve or a diagonal, that will make your image even more dynamic and it will enable you to get a more interesting composition.

Not knowing how to read the sky

Tuto 5 - Photo 9

(Photo taken in moonlight, clouds are moving from the upper right corner toward the lower left corner)

Error n°5 : Forgetting your tripod

Ideally, you are going to use the semi-manual “Speed” mode (cf the abbreviations A or Av of your camera) and choose as slow a speed as possible (do several tests with several different speed values).
So when you say slow speed, you’re saying “tripod” to get a sharp image!

With this slow speed, your clouds won’t be frozen, rather they’ll create a “line in motion” because of their movement in the sky during the shot.
Your photo will be even more dynamic and this line in motion will give your photo a very special atmosphere !

Tuto 5 - Photo 10

Tuto 5 - Photo 11

(The first photo was taken at nightfall at 2 second speed, and the second photo was taken at 30 second speed)

Error n°6 : Forgetting to use a polarizing filter

Without a circular polarizing filter, or “CPL Filter”, your sky will very quickly appear too light compared to the rest of the image (because of the overly high dynamic = too wide a spread between the clearest zones and the darkest zones).

Forgetting to use a polarizing filter

Tuto 5 - Photo 13
(I lightly retouched the sky on the second image to retrieve detail on the level of the clouds. A polarizing filter used on the ground will allow you to retrieve even more details)

Other camera lens filters, such as UV Filters, will help reduce blurring, haziness, and blue casting in your shots. Be sure to try them out and figure out what produces the best results!

Error n°7 : Not knowing the “Exposure Correction” function

The “Exposure Correction” function will allow you (with a single button) to adjust the exposure and to obtain an image a little more over-exposed or under-exposed.

For clouds, it can be a good thing to under expose by 1/3 of a stop (which is “-0.3 EV”) or even a bit more.
So the sky’s colors stay more faithful and will not appear “washed out”.

There you are. Our tutorial on photographing clouds has come to an end!

Thank you for having read my advice over the last 5 weeks, and I really have but one thing to add: now, it’s your turn. Get your camera and put to practice one of the 5 tutorials that we have discovered together!

And by the way, which of these has been your favorite tutorial? Why?

Maïeva Voyage

Maïeva Voyage is a passionate amateur photographer who discovered photography completely by chance 4 years ago when someone gave her a Reflex camera as a gift and it changed it her life. 
She developed her photographic techniques especially in Vietnam through the Photo Club of Hanoi.
Since then, she constantly badgers her friends and family to get them to pose and she talks about her photography with them whenever she isn’t busy updating her blog on women’s photography at Photo-tuto.fr with the secrets she has picked up from friends or her favorite photographer-authors (always with good humor and with a decidedly relaxed attitude).
Maïeva Voyage is our invited author for the month of September.
You can also follow her on her Blog 
Or on Facebook 
Or on Twitter 

Our Brands