Why Cloudy Days are the Best for Taking Pictures

On the ride to County Line Orchard, Elaine was visibly nervous. She kept looking out the window, telling her fiancé to hurry up or we were going to miss all the sunlight to the clouds coming in. I, on the other hand, was in the backseat getting more excited the cloudier that it got and trying to reassure her that this was a good thing, better even than I expected for today. Why is that?  Okay, I may (definitely) be biased about this, but I really believe it to be true that the cloudier it is, the better that pictures will turn out. I hear from clients all the time exclamations of surprise when I tell them that overcast skies are good, because I know that this goes against all common sense - but trust me, you want clouds. It may shock you for me to say, but I actually AVOID sunlight. I'll explain why.

I want to emphasize that there are tons of different styles that photographers can have - some love the high contrast look, while others like myself enjoy photos that were taken during cloudy days or in the shade because it gives me more power as the artist to make decisions. Clouds and shade allow for a more even distribution of light so that nothing is blown out or in dark shadows, and lets me choose what I want to be highlighted, what should be focused on, and essentially gives me the blankest canvas to work from. :) But because I hear this fear so often, I thought I would show some examples of good cloudy days and compare them to super sunny photoshoots so that you can see the lovely difference it makes and ease your worry if you see clouds on the day of your photo session. Below are some pictures of Elaine and Brandon's engagement session after we made it to County Line Orchard and the clouds came in. 

Couple at engagement photo session at County Line Orchard 

See how everything is in the same light and nothing is too dark or light to see? Having the clouds gives a soft contrast to the leaves, to their clothing and hair, and their facial features without losing anything information. And here are some photos from Kendall's senior shoot in Millennium Park when it was sunny as all get out the whole time! Even in situations like this where I don't have any choice but to work with the sunshine, I still adjust to find shadier spots with my girls to avoid this bright look that will make me lose details in importrant areas. So in the case of Kendall, I shifted her from this walkway to between the bushes next to her that were covered in shade so that there weren't any blown out highlights. 


I hope that you found this helpful and that if you have a photoshoot soon and when you're headed out you see the clouds rolling in, you feel excited and not worried in the slightes. :)

Katharine Hannah

Katharine’s work has graced the walls of institutions such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Harold Washington Library of Chicago, and local galleries such as Dreambox Gallery, Siragus Gallery and Blick Art Materials. She has also been featured on websites such as the Huffington Post, Phlearn, Fstoppers, Tigress Magazine for Girls, Bitchtopia, and Golden Boy Press.

In addition to photography, Katharine has been a mentor and educator in the arts since 2013. She has worked with students in various organizations and projects over the last two years, including Hive Chicago’s PROjectUS initiative and Digital Youth Network’s Digital Diva’s and Chicago City of Learning programs.