Random Thoughts

Taking photos on an overcast day

Written by Gail Bjork

Good lighting is the key to getting properly exposed photos. But sometimes diffused light yields much better results than bright light.


Taken on an overcast day.

“It’s too overcast today,” my non-photographer husband said to me as I walked outside with my digital camera to take pictures of our granddaughter.

Although it was indeed overcast, I knew it was actually bright enough to get some decent shots.

Many new compact digital camera users think they need bright sun to get the best exposed photos. While good light is often the key to getting properly exposed photos, the sun doesn’t necessarily have to shine brightly.

In fact, very bright light can sometimes be detrimental to a photo and play tricks on the exposure meter.


Taken on a very sunlit day.

Bright light can cause harsh shadows or blown highlights, or both, on a subject. Blown areas are completely devoid of detail. Harsh shadows are not only unflattering, but detail is hidden and sometimes can not be brought out except with extensive editing.

Blown highlights are visible in the photo of my grandson taken a few days before the one taken of my granddaughter. While in this case the blown highlights are not overly horrible, a little less harsh light would have resulted in a better photo.

Cloudy day photo opportunities

One of my favorite types of day to take photos is when the sun in shining and there are plenty of clouds in the sky. Though it takes a little patience, I watch the sky and prepare for a shot when I know a cloud is going to cover the sun. The lighting becomes diffused and extremes in contrast are kept at a minimum. That’s when I snap the shutter button.

Do I mind when a photos like my grandson aren’t exposed perfectly? Nah, not always. But when having a choice, I take outside photos on days and times of days that I know lighting will yield optimal results.

Related readingRelated reading:  Working with varying light Exposure Compensation

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About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • I don’t think it’s ever too cloudy to take portrait shots.  Just more challenging.  😀  I love working in non-optimum light levels (too high or low) and then seeing what can be done.  

  • This is so true.  Pre-thunderstorm overcast is too gray and cloudy, but a nice slightly overcast day is perfect for portraits!  Your grandkids are beautiful!!!