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by Bart Arondson

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For this question, I am mainly interested in architecture photography, but it may concern other subjects.

When I go for a day or two to a city, I try to limit my weight and for this purpose I usually only take one lens with me. Sometimes I choose to take wide-angle lenses.

When I use wide-angles on cloudy days and try to take architecture photos, the result is dull, wih a lot of diffused light and little contrast. It is a pity, because where I live, the sky is actually very beautiful on cloudy days, with a lot of tones and shades, but the contrast with buildings makes that all this subtle shades of white/light grey are lost when trying to find a correct exposure for the scene.

I am looking for ways to overcome this issue or more generally for advices on what to do with wide-angle lenses on these cloudy days (like "just avoid to take the sky and concentrate on building close-ups")?

I try to avoid post-processing fixes as long as I can, just as a personal choice (but I still use basic post-processing like histogram equalization), so I would appreciate non-processing issues maybe a bit more, but all advices are welcome.

I use mainly prime lenses, and have no hood for them. I suppose it may help to limit the issue to use one but I suppose it won't completely fix it. Also this issue concerns digital cameras - film is great on cloudy days!

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2 Answers 2

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It sounds like the light metering in your camera is the prime source of problems on cloudy days. You should be able to take great pictures too in overcast weather. In fact, clouds will often bring the entire dynamic range of a composition down to a range where you stand a better chance to capture it all in a single photo, from the deep shadows to the brightest areas, and with more saturated colors to boot.

If your camera has multiple metering modes (spot, center weighted, average), then try to experiment with each of them to see the result. Also, if you are not already using the histogram functionality, learn to use that too in combination with exposure combination. The light metering modes in the camera will attempt to compensate for average situations, so in any given composition, you ultimately have to trust your own eyes and your own artistic direction. Use the exposure compensation dial or manual mode to adjust the decisions made by the light metering algorithm. Then you are completely in control of the image the camera captures.

Higher end cameras will have dedicated buttons or dials for quickly setting the exposure compensation, or for controlling both aperture and shutter speed in manual mode. On a lot of entry level dSLRs it is possible to program other buttons to serve as metering mode selectors and exposure compensation controls.

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First off, turn off any automatic modes and try to manually take some shots under exposed to different degrees, so see if that bring out the detail in the clouds without making the architecture too dark.

If manually taking shots doesn't help the overall picture then I would also suggest taking bracketed photos (a few shots above and below as well as the correct exposure). These can then be combined in photo software afterwards so that the detail from the sky is added to the rest of the detail from the buildings etc. I try and avoid post processing myself, but sometimes it can't be helped if you want to get the full dynamic range in from a tricky lit situation.

With wide angle lenses often being a problem for ND grad filters etc, getting the shot how you want in camera isn't always easy and some post processing may need to be done

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