Photographing children

How to Take Stunning Photos in Overcast Light

Light happens to be one of my favourite photography topics. I adore all things light. Finding light, manipulating light, capturing light…it’s a passion of mine. I also happen to love a good challenge so the more challenging the light the more enticing it is for me to work with and capture it in a technically strong and creative way. In the past I’ve found myself a little disappointed when the outdoors has given me overcast light. However, in time I’ve found ways to work with overcast light in ways that can be beautiful too. Here are some of my tips for working with overcast light.

1. Create portraits or environmental portraits

Overcast light can be beautiful portraiture light. The dynamic range or difference between the highlights and shadows in your scene is lessened as compared to shooting in stronger light. This creates more even lighting in your scene. This even lighting falls beautifully across a subject resulting in smooth and even skin with little worry about distracting highlights or shadows.

When creating portraits in overcast light I make sure that I’m still aware of where the sun should be. If you are unsure of where the sun should be you can look for soft shadows around you. The sun is always opposite the direction in which a shadow is falling. Or there are numerous free apps such as Sky View Lite, Sky Guide and others that will superimpose the sun’s placement when you hold your phone up to the sky when using the app. Knowing where the sun is will help you still use overcast light in a good way. I like to have the light behind me, falling flat over my subject. This creates beautiful catchlights in your subject’s eyes, especially if your subject’s head is tilted upwards just a touch, and soft and even skin tones. 

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1000SS

ISO 400, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1000SS

2. Embrace the mood within overcast light

Overcast light emits a certain type of mood. Usually one of peace, tranquility and calm or sometimes even moody drama. Play this up! Capture images in a way that enhances the calm or moody drama in your surrounding.

ISO 800, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/4000SS

ISO 800, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/4000SS

3. Incorporate juxtaposition

As just noted overcast light typically suggests calm or moody drama within an image. Incorporating elements into your image that are contradictory to these moods will likely draw attention to your image. Think energy within a moody scene, like a dancing child or movement of any kind.

ISO 2000, 120mm, 3.5f, 1/1600SS

ISO 2000, 120mm, 3.5f, 1/1600SS

4. Focus in on detail

Another favourite technique of mine in many situations is to simply focus in on details. When the light is not dynamic drawing attention to a simple detail can still contribute to a powerful and stunning image.  

ISO 200, 50mm, 2.8f, 1/1600SS

ISO 200, 50mm, 2.8f, 1/1600SS

5. Use interesting compositions

Overcast light is for the most part flat. Incorporating elements of composition that enhance depth can result in a more interesting and dynamic image. Challenge yourself to find creative composition after all you’ll be working with light that isn’t all that hard to manage so now is the time to take risks and challenge yourself with experimenting in composition.

CreativeCompOvercastLight.jpg

6. Incorporate a creative technique

I really enjoy thinking up ways in which I can push my images creatively. By using natural elements around me like shurbs, tree branches, flowers or other products like a prism or by freelensing a bit of artistic flair can be infused into an image making it unique and captivating even in overcast light.

ISO 200, 105, 3.2f, 1250ss

ISO 200, 105, 3.2f, 1250ss

Next time you are given overcast light remember these tips! Stunning images can be captured in every lighting situation!

9 Tips to Encourage Subject Cooperation

I’ll admit it. I’m extremely fortunate to have, for the most part, cooperative subjects to photograph but trust me it’s not always this way. I also have two preteens and as they age their opinion in how I photograph them in addition to their compliance plays a role in how and when I capture them.

I am also not a documentary photographer. Yes, I enjoy capturing everyday moments but photography feeds my creative soul and because of that I have a need to capture everyday moments within my creative vision. Sometimes I’m a little more relaxed with my vision for an image but sometimes I do aim for a specific outcome. Over time I’ve learned a few tricks and tips that help me achieve the images I want and allow for my children to have fun with my photography too.

1. Short and sweet for all vision focused images

I’m often a vision focused photographer. What this means is that I have an idea in my creative mind about what or how I might like to capture a memory. Before I even ask my children to participate I set up every single detail from light manipulation to creative props to camera settings and so on. I’ll even take a test shot to ensure my settings are spot on and that I’m on the right track for what my vision is. Only after I’m completely ready will I ask my little subject to pop into the scene. I quickly snap away and get what I want within a few short minutes.

For example, in the image below I knew what I wanted to capture and how. I was completely set up and prepared before I asked my daughter to start twirling for me. She only twirled a few times before I knew I had what I wanted. This ready beforehand and short photo shoot session makes it fun and easy on everyone.

ISO 800, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

ISO 800, 35mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

2. Make it fun

In addition to making any planned photo shoot short and sweet I also try to come up with fun photo shoot ideas. I find things like movement and play are openly embraced by my children. I also know that almost any type of outdoor play will be welcomed by my children. Outdoor adventures are always the most fun and easiest moments for me to capture. Also, if I incorporate an idea that is mildly dangerous to me or entertaining for my children I know my children are bound to participate.

For example, my son loves to throw snow balls at my camera lens! I just make sure I stand far enough away out of full impact reach!

ISO 250, 92mm, 4f, 1/2000SS

ISO 250, 92mm, 4f, 1/2000SS

3. Use a longer lens

I prefer longer lenses anyway but I find the use of a longer lens important when my children are just not quite in the mood to be photographed. Outdoors, I use a long lens pretty much exclusively. This allows for my children to run and play and be themselves while I can maintain distance and hang back a little. My longer lenses also allow for me to experiment creatively with things like light or composition or even creative additions into an image like a prism.

ISO 500, 190mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

ISO 500, 190mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

4. Ask for their input into a photo shoot

I use this often with my children. I let them know that I’d really like to photograph them and tell them that they get to come up with what we do.

For example my daughter has been working really hard at reading and I told her I wanted to capture this milestone. I asked her to plan the shoot in her room. When I showed up she had all these sparkly crystals she’d found that she wanted me to use. She willingly participated in the photo shoot and I captured that milestone image I wanted. She was super excited to see how her idea of the crystals came out in the final image.

ISO 1000, 35mm, 2.0f, 1/200SS

ISO 1000, 35mm, 2.0f, 1/200SS

5. Be sure to make a effort if they want something captured

This is similar to the above point but different. I almost always have my camera with me but there are times when I actually don’t feel like picking up my camera. I remember a particular hike we were on last summer when we came upon a field of beautiful fox tails. I was feeling disappointed about the smoke from forest fires ruining the mountain view but my oldest was extremely excited about running and playing in the field of fox tails. As she was playing she asked if I was going to photograph her. I remember not feeling all that interested in picking up my camera but I did because she wanted me to preserve that memory for her. Looking back now I’m glad I have those moments captured. When they ask for an image I always make an effort to do just that.

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.2f, 1/2500SS

ISO 100, 35mm, 2.2f, 1/2500SS

6. Capture what they love

I find if I ask my children to do something that they love that they’ll be way more cooperative as subjects. My oldest adores going to the park to feed the Chickadees and Nuthatch. These little birds will actually fly right up and sit on an open hand. Yesterday, she asked to go to the park and when I agreed she got herself ready, without any prompting, in a winter coat, toque, matching scarf and her more attractive boots…all items I’d be thrilled with photographing her in.

ISO 55, 190mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

ISO 55, 190mm, 2.8f, 1/640SS

7. Capture moments not poses

I came across an image the other day when I was browsing all the beautiful images grouped into #thephotographersnotebook on Instagram. I absolutely love what this Momma had to say:

“It always goes like this when we actually plan a photo - I end up loving the photo that I just randomly took for fun before we took the “planned” photo! I’ll never tire of real and authentic shots. To me they tell a story, like this beautiful one of my amazing little girl who has the biggest heart of all.” Amy Louise.

Image Credit:  @agirlwandering

Image Credit: @agirlwandering

What Amy Louise had to say completely resonated with me. I love portraiture. That beautiful soulful connection with the camera in a gorgeous well lit pose is captivating to me. However, my children have zero interest in standing a certain way to allow for light to fall in the perfect Rembrandt Triangle while staring deep into my camera. I’ve tried this. It doesn’t work out well. This feels rigid and uncomfortable for them and can be frustrating for me. I’ve learned to let go of having this expectation and instead aim to capture a relaxed portrait. I adore these types of portraits even more and the authenticity that comes from images like this. In a relaxed portrait personality shines through and these are always the images I love the most.

ISO 500, 125mm, 3.2f, 1/640SS

ISO 500, 125mm, 3.2f, 1/640SS

8. Photograph only the details

Yup, I do get that look. The rolling eyes, the intentional defiant expression, the “I’m not going to look pretty on camera” glare, the “There’s no way I’m participating” pose. In these situations I switch directions and focus in on details.

For example, my son did not want to be photographed prior to me capturing this image. He was giving me the frozen eye roll glare. However, he’d found a rock that was shaped like a bear and when I suggested we capture that detail he was all in.

ISO 200, 105mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

ISO 200, 105mm, 3.2f, 1/1000SS

9. Take no for an answer

Sometimes putting down the camera is the best answer. I want my children to feel like participants in our photo shoots and enjoy my camera too. So if they are truly not in the mood I put my camera away. After all, there will always be another opportunity.

ISO 200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/500

ISO 200, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/500

all content and images © Gina Yeo Photography, 2019