This winter, both halves of Foto Ruta left the city of their dreams (our beloved Buenos Aires), to return to their respective homelands, Canada and England. The plan was, aside from the usual seeing family, catching up with friends to spend our trips taking as many photos as physically possible.
As the British half of Foto Ruta, I eagerly awaited a couple of months of photographing london basking in its summer glory, picnics in the park, music festivals, Wimbledon and the frenzied run up to the 2012 Olympic Games. Disappointingly, but not wholly surprisingly, my plans were well and truly scuppered by three solid weeks of dismally grey rainy days. Sure, English summers can be unpredictable at times but this one was a cruel joke of an English summer.
After three weeks in the country and the clouds maintaining their dark, low and rain filled trajectory over London, my photo count was nil. And so was my motivation to get out on the streets to photography my beloved city. Which got me thinking about how much I hate taking photos on the grey.
At Foto Ruta, we’re always challenging people to fight against their laziness and take themselves out of their comfort zones. Time to follow my own advice and get photographing the grey.
First of all, lets look at what the challenges are of photographing on grey and dull days?
- Low light
- Lack of contrast
- Lack of color saturation
- Difficult bringing out qualities of happiness, warmth and light (i.e. if you’re photographing holiday destinations, real estate or commercials, you’re in trouble)
All of these challenges however, can be used to their advantage; here’s how….
1) Seek the detail, people, emotion and mood
Grey and cloudy days can be great for enhancing the mood of a photo. Look for the detail; the expression on people’s faces or the cracks and holes in the pavement, or in this case, the rips and detail in a decaying piece of antique furtniture.
2) Look for pattern and texture in the sky
You don’t get this on sunny days, so make the most of the dark rolling clouds and use them to add texture to your composition
3) Shoot in black and white
Set your digital camera to its black and white setting, so you’re seeing them as you take them in monochrome. On grey days you get a wider gamut greys in between black and white, than you would on a sunny day in harsher light,.
4) Make the most of your manual settings
Because the light will be far more even in every place you shoot, you wont need to keep changing your settings. A great opportunity to master your manual settings.
5) Make the most of capturing movement
Less light means you can shoot on a slower shutter speed without over-exposing. Great for capturing movement
6) Photograph things you wouldn’t usually photograph
On a sunny day during the so called magic hours, you have the advantage of exploiting the light to give your ideas life and color. In the words of Foto Ruta’s other half, Jocelyn Mandryk, ‘you could photograph dogshit and make it look good’ (easier to find in BA than London!). When its grey you should allow yourself to be drawn to subtleties you wouldn’t normally photograph. The diffused light can be great for capturing details and patterns in things
7) Take pictures of things that are ugly
Let the greyness add mood to your photo. Wallow in how depressingly grey your summer has turned out and let a bit of darkness into your life by taking photos of ugly things like urban decay, death and deprivation….ugly comedy animals
To my delight and relief my sad London weather story ended on a happy note. The clouds parted and the sun came out just in time to capture London, just the way i like it…..