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Macro Photography on Cloudy Days

Some close-up subjects may work best in a very soft light, such as flowers, feathers, liquids, or any subject with a reflective surface. Other subjects may work better in light that’s only slightly diffused, such as certain insects, or subjects that contain qualities of texture and delicacy.

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100mm, 1/60, f/11, 640100mm, 1/30, f/11, 640

Many subjects can be photographed well in any lighting conditions, depending on how you as the photographer want to show them. Your message is as important to the quality of light you use as the subject itself.

Cloudy days sometimes offer inconsistencies that work to your advantage. As the clouds move through the sky, the quality and intensity of your light can change. As thinner sections of clouds roll through, you get light that’s less diffused and more directional. As thicker sections come through, you can shoot with a softer light.

After you set up your shot on a cloudy day, try sticking around a while and waiting for the light to change a few times. See what comes of it and how the different types of light affect your subject. You may think you prefer the softest light possible for a particular subject, but after photographing it in less diffused conditions realize that it works better in harder light.

As the intensity of your light changes with the passing clouds, so does your exposure. Pay attention to your camera’s histogram as you’re shooting and make any necessary adjustments to your exposure settings.

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This leaf was photographed on a cloudy day. The top image shows the subject under a thinner layer of clouds; some thicker clouds rolled in before the image on the bottom was shot. Notice the differences in contrast and the gradations between highlight and shadow areas.

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