I'm sure everyone has seen those beautiful pictures that are taken in the early morning light or the soft evening light just before dusk. And yes, more often than not if you can get a subject to pose at either of those two times of the day, that soft lighting can make an average picture breathtaking! Unfortunately when shooting animals in the wild, they don't necessarily pose when the light is right. A lot of people get quite discouraged because of poor lighting, but poor lighting is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are advantages to an overcast day.
- You don't have to worry about any shadows. Shadows can be very distracting in a picture. Sometimes you can have a great shot, but the shadows can get in the way even if you have perfect light.
- The picture won't be harsh due to bright or harsh lighting.
- You can use fill in flash easier to bring out the highlights in eyes, hair and or fur.
- If you feel your picture is too dull due to the lighting, you can raise the saturaton, or temperature of the picture or both in post production software.
- If the weather conditions show overcast all day, you can shoot for hours on end all day long without worrying about bright light and shadows.
This picture of a siberian tiger is a really big seller for me. It was a pretty dark February day at about 3p.m. I was disappointed as I thought the photo shoot would be a flop due to the lighting conditions, but I was determined to make the best of it. This picture was taken in the mountains in a field. The sun was going down over the mountain on an already dark overcast day. On the bright side, there are no shadows and the sun isn't interefering with the picture with harsh tones that are difficult to fix in post production software. It turned out really nicely. See here for more pictures from the photo shoot from that day in Montana (click on tigers in winter, the tigers in the summer are another example of light that is just too bright). To compare, I photographed a cougar in the early morning light the next day. I was lucky as the light was very nice and so I had both extremes in 12 hours. On the contrary, in Africa, photographing cheetahs, I got away with a few good shots, but the light was too bright and many of the pictures of the cheetahs running just didn't work out as well as I had hoped they would. They were just too harsh.
The moral of the story is, don't stay home just because it's cloudy out. Some of my best pictures have been taken on an overcast day, where the light is actually quite bright (but not harsh). Another good example of that is from last Sunday. I was taking pictures of the tigers at the zoo. Once again, no shadow, lots of good light providing nice easily edited pictures.