Cloudy Day Portraiture

by | Feb 18, 2020

Today Post by Joe Farace, photo by Mary Farace

I’ve never taken a photograph of someone and created a persona, I’ve just discovered what was already there.” ― Anthony Farrimond

For the past several weeks the weather around Daisy Hill has not been photographer-friendly, or maybe it is if you like heavy overcast days, snow and sub-freezing temperatures. I’m at the point of my life and photography career when this kind of weather does not get me excited about shooting outdoors, yet I am finishing up a Shutterbug review of the Nikon D780. (You can read my review of the camera on Shutterbug’s website.)

There is, however, one sort of not-quite Sunny 16 weather that is great for shooting and that’s the subject of today’s post:

There are all kinds of cloudy days, especially this time of year when there is always a threat of snow.

Then there are the heavy overcast lighting conditions that produce what I like to call “muddy light” that I have been encountering all to frequently in February and used to deal with all the time when I lived on the east coast. On those kinds of days it’s challenging but not impossible to create good looking portraits. A little supplemental lighting sometimes helps.

On the other hand, there are those cloudy days that back in the heady days of film that Kodak (above right) famously referred to as “cloudy bright” that are the best days for photographing people outdoors because the light scattering through the clouds produces wonderful wraparound lighting that is soft, non-directional and bright enough to keep the subject’s eye sockets unshadowed without having to worry about them squinting or any unpleasant side effects of backlighting. It’s the best of all worlds.

Above right is the Kodak film data sheet for their Gold 100 and 200 color negative films that are “designed for general picture-taking situations in daylight or with electronic flash.” Notice the different lighting conditions that Kodak mentions, including “cloudy bright” that is the subject of today’s post.

How this shot was made: On this particular October day, Mary Farace made the above “cloudy bright” portrait of a photographer’s wife in the front yard of another friend’s home. In a typical cloudy bright setting the subject will be relaxed while soft light wraps around them and leaving their eyes bright with no dark shadows. Mary shot this when she was still an Olympus shooter, before she switched to Nikon, using an Olympus E-1 and 14-54mm f/3.5 lens (at 52mm.). Exposure was 1/125 sec at f/4 and ISO 200.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to buy Joe a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, thank so very much.

If you’re interested in learning how I shoot  available light glamour portraits, please pick up a copy of Available Light Glamour Photography which is available new from for $26.96 with used copies starting at  the bargain price of $5.69, as I write this. The Kindle version is really cheap at $3.68 for those preferring a digital format.