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Enhancing a Dull Grey Sky

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a regular client to organise a photo shoot of a petrol station they had just completed building. They requested interior and exterior images. After looking at the position of the station on Google maps I thought it would be a great idea to include an evening exterior shot.

So I monitored the weather forecast constantly, looking for the ideal conditions to be able to capture the twilight image. An opportunity appeared so I was set to do the photo shoot on a Sunday evening. This seemed ideal, as the station would also be a lot quieter, allowing me to photograph the interior without being in the way of they customers.

The petrol station seems to be perfectly located, because their was a non-stop stream of customers right thru the golden hour and the blue hour (before and after sunset). This wasn't to be the cause of my headache. The so-called forecast was way off. Instead of intermittent clouds with clear skies, we had a solid blanket of grey cotton clouds.

I double checked the weather forecasts. 3 different apps showed good clear skies scheduled for the following morning. So I captured the interior photos and a couple of night exteriors.

The following morning, Monday, at 5am I packed up my car again and headed out to the location. I arrived about 45 minutes before sunrise and got setup to capture the exterior. But once again the clouds were lingering over head. 

I was out of time. My client had stated that there was an urgency for these images, for press releases. I had to do what I could. In these conditions a normal photograph of the cloud-full sky would look dull and flat. 

Now, here's the tip!

Slow the shutter speed of your camera. This will make the clouds look like they are moving and it will also give them more of a silky look. If your shutter speed can't do slow enough use a Neutral Density filter. Or if you are using a very basic compact camera and the speed is automatically controlled by the camera you can place a sunglasses lens over the front of the camera's lens. Please note: we will need a tripod for this slower speed (long exposure).

(I haven't tried the sunglasses trick with a smart phone camera, so maybe someone could let me know if that is also possible?)

Here's one of the exterior shots I captured at around 6.15am on the Monday morning:-