Look to the Clouds

Clouds are one of the most important parts of landscape photography. I can't tell you the number of times people have ask me if I'm going to go out and shoot because there are "no clouds in the sky." Normally I would, but in my opinion a sky without clouds is like a portrait shot without a model. Clouds make everything more interested from reflections to (this may come as a bit of a shock) the sky. Take a look at my photo below. This shot would have be completely boring if it wasn't for the clouds.

Clouds also make the "magic hour" even more magical by reflecting colors you would have never seen without them. Below is an example of two sunset shots I have taken in the last month. The one on the left has very few clouds. I ended up putting more in the foreground to make up for the lack of a background. The shot on the right has so many deep, dark clouds with colors breaking through them. To keep the viewers eyes on the sky, I only kept objects that lead to the sunset. I am proud of both shots, but you can see a distinct difference between them.

Very few clouds

Lots of clouds

Clouds can make all shots (not just sunsets) even more beautiful. However, since we can't control the weather, we are left with days with either too many clouds or none at all. Here are some tips for those days that have help me in the past:

Cloudless Days:

  1. Try to include more in the foreground that leads your eye into the scene.
  2. Try using the sun to create sun flares or silhouettes.
  3. The sun on a cloudless day will make hard shadows which look great if framed correctly.
  4. You'll have enough light to increase your shutter speed in certain situations

Nothing, but clouds:

  1. Try taking an HDR image. The clouds will looks a lot more dramatic.
  2. If the clouds aren't too thick, you'll have nice soft light for portrait shots.
  3. Thick, dark clouds work nicely in the background of your shot.

Hope that helps!