How to Photograph Dramatic Skys

Forms and textures

Skys, particularly dramatic ones, can  make some awe- inspiring  photographs with the clouds playing the biggest part, their different forms and textures continually evolve into some truly spectacular colours and shapes. A sky that looks mundane and uninteresting one moment can look colourful and dramatic the next.

When you see a sky worth photographing you’ll want to capture it exactly how you saw it, so to help you, try these tips:

Image by Colmarino

Perspective

To help make your skys truly dramatic, shoot them with something in the foreground such as  buildings, trees, mountains or people, this gives your photos a sense of perspective and adds interest.

Image by dsearls

Dawn and dusk

The time of day is an important factor when photographing dramatic skys; in the early morning around dawn and late evening around dusk you can take advantage of the low sun with its strong colours to help create a truly atmospheric shot, but you need to be quick as the lighting will change rapidly at these times of the day.

Image by Linda Cronin

 But don’t just rely on the dawn and dusk to get a good shot, even at other times of the day you can still capture a good dramatic sky; just before or after a thunderstorm when the sun’s poking through the clouds for example.

© A Webber

Weather

Although the time of the day is important, so is the time of the year, and also the weather. In the summer you’ll see the typical high Cirrus cloud at dawn and dusk that gives us those colourful  rippling skys and during the day there’s nothing like a summer storm for capturing a good dramatic sky.

© A Webber

Which lens?

First, if you want to capture as much of the sky as possible then using a wide angle lens will be the usual choice to get those wide vistas, but if you want to isolate a part of the scene don’t neglect your telephoto/zoom lens; the image above was taken on a Canon 70-200mm zoom lens @ 70mm.

© A Webber

Be patient

It’s not always easy getting a good photo of a dramatic sky, so be patient, the sky is changing all the time, so is the light shadows and colours, so by waiting a little longer you may be rewarded.

© A Webber

Keep it sharp

When possible use a tripod to avoid camera shake to get a really sharp picture, and don’t forget the white balance. Most digital cameras have white balance presets, so experiment with these to see which one produces the best results.

© A Webber

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* Thanks to Colmarino, dsearls and Linda Cronin from Flickr’s ‘creative commons’ for allowing their photos to be shared.

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