The sky is one of the most captivating elements in photography, and can be used to create stunning imagery. There are many ways you can capture dramatic skies in photography, and this article will cover some of those techniques. This article will help you figure out when to take pictures for dramatic skies, how to compose your images, and some post-processing tips that will help create a striking image. Along with a few other important details.
When To Take Pictures For Dramatic Skies
Sunrise and sunset are pretty much the best times to get dramatic skies in photography. But sometimes hitting their respective golden hours (usually an hour or two before sunrise and sunset) can also be used to create stunningly beautiful photographs with dramatic skies.
I like getting to my location a while before the sunrise, maybe 1 hour beforehand, to capture those extra oranges and yellows right as they first show up in the sky.
For sunset, I’ll do the same. And hang around about an hour or so to catch lovely purple colors. Mid-day light might be a little too harsh unless it’s a cloudy day and the sun is blocked a little bit.
How To Compose Your Image
If you are shooting during sunrise or sunset, be sure to make the sun your frame of reference and place it in some way (depending on whether you’re shooting a landscape or portrait) that draws attention to where its location is.
Have another object within the frame as well, balancing the sun and the sky.
Maybe, if you’re at the beach, use a pier to lead into the sunrise and beautiful sky. Or an awesome mountain range in the foreground of your shot, with the sky in the background.
Which leads me into my next topic.
What Locations Are Best For Capturing Dramatic Skies?
Find a location with dramatic skies, such as the previously mentioned oceans or mountains. Anything where the sky contrasts or clashes with the land. This will help the image stand out. You don’t want the sky to be same color as the foreground or object you’re capturing.
Even if you’re not shooting during sunrise/sunset, but maybe in the middle of the day, make sure the sky has a handful of clouds. The beautifully blue ocean will just blend right into the beautifully blue sky without them.
Cityscapes can also make for great dramatic sky shots. I’ve got a few places here in Richmond VA, that I’ll go to pretty frequently for this very reason. Here’s where I got for all my sunrise needs in the city. And here’s where I’ll go for all my sunset photography needs.
What Type Of Gear Do You Need?
Your equipment list can be as simple as just bringing your camera, favorite lens and a tripod. Or even just the camera & favorite lens. But if really want to capture a dramatic sky, purchase some filters and a remote shutter release cable for your specific camera.
Filters can help increase the contrast of your sky and foreground, making images pop. But they can also create long exposure images, when combined with a slow shutter speed and tripod.
If you have a few lens, test them both out. Wide lens are most common for capturing dramatic skies In photography but you can also try a zoom lens for a unique composition.
What Post Processing Tips Should You Know?
When shooting images with such high contrast or differences in lighting, it’s best to capture it in RAW format. That way, you get as many camera details as possible and can then make more adjustment in Lightroom.
Which brings me to another point. Do yourself a favor and get Lightroom (Affiliate Link) if you don’t already have it. It makes a photographer’s life so much easier.
When editing in Lightroom, the most important thing to do is adjust the exposure, highlights and shadows. But don’t overdo it. Drag the sliders to the left or right a little bit at a time. If you do it too much, you’re over-editing your images and giving them a fake appearance. Don’t do that!
Lightroom also makes it easy to export your images in bulk so you can send them to your phone and upload on Instagram. I typically send my images straight to my Dropbox, which is sync’d with my phone, so the images are there pretty quickly.
The sky is the limit when it comes to capturing dramatic images. When you want that perfect shot, all you need are some basic photography tips and a little bit of patience. After reading this, I’m sure you’ll get out there and crush your next attempt at capturing dramatic skies!