The Importance of Photographing Clouds for Outdoor Photography

Use dramatic clouds to enhance your landscape photos.

Clouds are especially great for landscape scenes. With the image below, massive storm clouds built up over the mountains in the background. The clouds created dramatic shapes, enhancing the composition. When the setting sun found a gap in the clouds near the horizon, the storm clouds started to glow with a warm, colorful light. If the sky had been empty, I probably wouldn’t have even bothered shooting.

Photographing Clouds can be great for wildlife photos, too.

Although inclusion of the sky is less common with wildlife photography, I’m always looking for opportunities to use wide-angle perspectives when photographing wildlife, which means I often need to think critically about what is going on in the sky. Similar to landscape photography, clouds can really enhance wide-angle wildlife photos. For example, with this photo of a male lion lit by a spotlight at twilight, I went wide to include the dramatic storm clouds. If the sky had been uniformly overcast or devoid of clouds, I would have included very little of the sky, or excluded it altogether. Instead, the clouds add great texture and interesting color to the scene, so I went extra wide to include as much of the sky as possible. I used a spotlight to illuminate the lion, and underexposed the clouds to enhance the dramatic mood they helped create.

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