Photo Tip Friday: How to take Better Shots in Difficult Conditions, Part 1

by Mary Denman     Twitter: @MaryDenman    Instagram: @MaryFDenman
A large part of improving your photography is learning how to utilize light to best advantage. Whether it's understanding Golden Hour (read part 1 and part 2) or understanding the direction of lighting, the more you can utilize proper lighting, the better your shots will be. 

But here's the thing. 

You can't always shoot under ideal conditions. 

When I was in Paris recently, one day had bright sunlight and the next day was overcast with periods of rain. Since I only had those 2 days in Paris, what was I going to do, be upset and not shoot on the rainy day? Of course not. I just had to alter what I was doing and make the most of it. 

We're going to learn about how to take great shots when you have difficult conditions like an overcast sky, fog, or rain. 

Let's get started. 

What are the problems you encounter with an overcast sky?

1) The lighting is considered flat since you don't have a direct light source (the sun). You won't have shadows to provide depth and contrast. 

2) Also, it's usually not as bright when it's overcast which can result in dark pictures.

So, how can you still take really good shots under these conditions?

TIP 1: Incorporate the clouds into the picture.

PHOTO 1: This is the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Since I was visiting on a completely overcast, and later, rainy day, I had to do the best I could under the difficult circumstances. So, I captured the courtyard of the Louvre with the dark clouds dominating the sky. This created a great mood shot. 
PHOTO 1: The Louvre
PHOTO 2: This the famous Pont des Arts. By setting my camera down on the bridge, I was able to create a different perspective of the walkway and, once again, incorporated the dark cloud cover in the picture. 
PHOTO 2: Paris foot Bridge
TIP 2: Find a pop of color to add to your photo.

PHOTO 3: This photographer wasn't stopped by the overcast skies. Notice that there are no distinct shadows. I was up on a terrace while watching and took this picture. The young lady's red dress stood out, even with cloudy skies. I loved the way she twirled with the umbrella. 
PHOTO 3: Photographer at work in Paris

TIP 3: Decide where you want read the light for the photo to create the effect you want.  

PHOTO 4: Wanting to define the clouds means you need to read the light on the clouds, which will be the brightest part of your picture. 
Wanting the church and trees to be brighter means you need to read the light on the building or trees to get the proper exposure.

Post processing, you can enhance either photo, but these are straight out of my camera so you can see the dramatic difference. 

PHOTO 4: Notre Dame
These tips should get you started in understanding how to deal with difficult lighting conditions. Next week, we will go over what shots to try when it's raining or you're in fog! 

Bad conditions make it harder for sure, but don't let that stop you! Just work harder and smarter to learn the craft. 

Hope these tips help! 

ASSIGNMENT: As soon as an overcast day presents itself, grab your camera and see what you can do. Some of your shots will probably be too dark, but again, you'll learn what to do as you PRACTICE!

BLOGGERS:  Think of improving your photography skills as adding another tool to those you use for writing. Just as a photographer has to be ready for any weather conditions, you too must have varying writing styles. Blogging is different than writing non-fiction or fiction. Plus, your improved photography can lead to inspiration for your writing. It can also tell a story to your readers. 



  1. Mary, I have really been working on my photography since I started blogging and I may not have the most original diy ideas but I think having great photography will have readers coming back. It is definitely a big plus especially for a diyer like myself. Thanks for all your great tips.

    1. Great photography does help blogs AND twitter even. They've found that a photo with a tweet improves traffic. I'm glad you are learning from the tips! I love to share them!

      Anytime you have a question, just ask!

  2. Nice tips.
    Thanks for sharing at

  3. Mary, I totally get you. I have gotten to the point where I do not want to get out on cloudy days because I am not going to be able to take good photos. But, the good news is that on my last trip I tried to play with the aperture in order to improve the shots. My only cloudy days were in Prague (can you believe it) but I think I managed to get some decent photos. Your tips add ideas to my repertoire.

    1. Great! I have a few more tips this week to help with cloudy, rainy days! :) I'm glad you had mostly sunny days! :)

  4. I always prefer to shoot on overcast days. I hate when the sun is high in the sky creating terrible shadows. :-/

    1. Midday light is definitely a challenge! Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Lovely tips Mary, love the shot of the photography taking pictures :) Thanks for sharing at Creative Mondays

    1. That was very serendipitous! I love that shot too!

  6. This is a very good post. Just wonderful. Truly, I am amazed at what informative things you've told us today. Thanks a million for that. Hentai Hina Maeda Lagi Dientot

  7. Great photo tips! I could sure use them myself. Thanks for sharing at Funtastic Friday.