Editing Overcast Images

Photographing during a cloudy day is widely considered to be one of the best possible lighting situations. The sky diffuses the light well and so you can shoot out in the middle of an open field and not need to worry as much about harsh shadows. However, what you DO have to worry about is your post-processing where your photos come out looking… well… like this:

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But for real what do you do with that?! The skins tones are… orange… and there’s no real contrast anywhere! Well, today I want to talk about what I’ve learned.

First, do not give up! Many people before us have figured out how to make this work and so we can too! Here’s a couple examples that constantly inspire me. Look up Amy and Jordan Demos or Katelyn James. Both are incredible wedding photographers and their photographs are all perfectly uniform in style. Now, take a moment and think about it. Do they always have perfect lighting in every situation they work in? Of course not! So, how could all their photos look the same? Here is one specific post Katelyn did where she talks about overcast days. Yet, when I look at this photo, her skin tones are still PERFECT.

What do I deduce from this? To put it plainly, if she can do it, so can I! Her and I are both using Lightroom [for those who don’t know, this is a really good editing software that I’ve talked about here]. We both use digital cameras. The only difference between her and the rest of us is knowledge and experience.

So today I want to share what I have been learning to hopefully help you. We CAN figure this out. To best demonstrate my process, I’m going to simply post before and after photos from a recent engagement session I did with Ben and Geneva [photos found here]. It was an overcast day and, as stated, it made my colors REALLY gross and muted. But, I COMMITTED myself this time to figuring out how to edit the photos in such a way that they could almost pass for being taken during a normal, sunny day.

To really understand this editing process, you have to begin by understanding your end goal. This is my end goal.

 

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I THOROUGHLY love vibrant colors. If YOU don’t, that’s fine! But find a photo you’ve edited that you DO like, and you’ll have a point of reference for what you’d like your overcast images to look when you are finished.

So wit that as my endpoint, how have I learned to get my photos CLOSER to here?

It begins with a little thinking. What are the difference between my two reference photos?

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For starters, on my overcast image, there isn’t a whole lot of contrast or color in general. Everything has a general… YUCK over all of it. It lacks LIFE and feeling. Remember, I mainly needed to enhance two things discussed earlier: CONTRAST and VIBRANCE. In doing so, I knew everything else would kind of fall into place. But instead of going in a wordy explanation of EVERYTHING I did to take that image and make it into this…

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…I will simply just show you the exact adjustments I made in LR.

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Here’s the breakdown:
Exposure +0.90
Contrast +25
Highlights -20
Shadows +45
Whites +15
Blacks -30
Vibrance +60

Hue Corrections:
Red +4
Orange +9
Yellow -1

Saturation Corrections:
Red -1
Orange -5
Yellow +42
Green +41
Blue +27

I’m not ready to declare a preset nailed down for editing overcast photos, but soon I hope to have this totally nailed down and be able to get something out to everyone!

Even if you are feeling down right now, the sun will rise tomorrow morning! Even if your photos sometimes disappoint you, don’t give up! We can do this. YOU can do this. Just take this editing thing one day at a time and never stop improving.

To God be the glory,

daniel jackson