How To: Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

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Cloud photography is undeniably beautiful, even when shot casually. Add a little technical knowledge, and you can push it even further. Some of the submissions to this week's Giveaway Tuesday Cloud Photography Challenge demonstrate impressive technical mastery, resulting in some amazing shots.

For those who have yet to submit, you only have a few days left. Below, a tutorial round-up to get you started, from the basics to more advanced techniques. 

Master the Basics

You can always count on Digital Photography School for the basics, and for a beginner, their general tips can be quite useful. Their Cloud Photography post covers the essentials of composition, and while their 12 Tips for Photography Stunning Sunsets isn't specifically about clouds, it does offer some technical tips that are applicable. If you're interested in capturing clouds from above, you may also want to read their brief advice for shooting out of an airplane window.

How to Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

Use a Polarizing Filter

If you're ready to graduate from "beginner" to "intermediate", you may want to consider picking up a polarizing filter. When shooting clouds, overexposing the cloud and underexposing the sky is a common obstacle, and a polarizing filter will reduce the amount of light that enters your camera.

How to Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

For a lengthy explanation, Cambridge in Colour has a great guide, complete with explanatory diagrams (shown above). For a brief explanation, check out the video from DSLR Tips below (accompanying text here). When you're ready to purchase, there's some great advice here.

Go Cloud Hunting

There is a stunning amount of variety among cloud types, and seeking for and identifying these types can result in some interesting range.

Weatherscapes is a site dedicated specifically to weather photography: atmospheric optics, lightning, clouds, astronomy and more. The techniques page has much to offer, including advice broken down by specific cloud type (mammatus, noctilucent and common clouds). Check out the equipment & techniques section for some solid information on getting started.

How to Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

Capture Blurred Movement

Once you've mastered the polarizing filter, it's time to start playing around. Flickr user Johan J. Ingles-Le Nobel offers some brief advice on capturing cloud movement, geared towards those who already have some experience under their belt:

"To get this effect, you need some fluffy clouds moving either directly towards you or directly away from you, not too many (you want to leave some blue in there). Then experiment with various slow exposures - at night allows longer times. During the day, use strong ND density filters or stack polarizers. 

How to Shoot Clouds Like a Pro

Yes, it takes a fair bit of experimentation but it's worth it once you get something nice out. Often, because of the color temperature and the need to use heavy ND grads, b&w seems to work better as a final print. For example if this had more contrast it'd have more punch."

Do you have a great tutorial to add? Comment below or post it to the corkboard. We look forward to seeing more submissions as the week winds down.

You have until Monday, October 9th, 11:59pm PST to submit. Details here.

Thumbnail photo by moonjazz; airplane window photo by betta design

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