Photographing and Editing Tips + Lightroom Presets for Cloudy and Overcast Days

Editing photos that were taken on cloudy days or in overcast conditions can be a struggle, so I’m going to share with you some tips to make your Lightroom presets work for you and also tips for shooting in good light when there are overcast skies.

mom holding son while daughter hugs them, edited with cloudy day presets

Start with photographing people in good light

If you’ve taken photos in bad lighting, there’s really nothing you can do to make it look amazing, even with the perfect Lightroom preset. So be sure to put your subjects in great light while photographing them. If it looks like the sun won’t be coming out, I typically start 2-2.5 hours before sunset to be sure we have enough light. Do not shoot midday, even on overcast days because the light is coming from directly above and that will really create raccoon eyes.

When the sun is blocked by clouds, I have my subjects facing where the sun would be. This helps to keep them evenly lit. If you have the sun behind them when the sun isn’t out, that will result in dark shadows under their eyes so if you want to do this for some shots, have them turn so you see their profile instead of facing you.

I also absolutely love having my subjects lay down and shooting from above. On overcast days, the sky is a giant softbox coming from above, so this is the most perfectly lit shot you can get!

Don’t go deep in shadows. On dreary days, this is a bad combo. You want to be out in the open where your subjects have an open sky in front of them because that is what is going to reflect back onto their faces and keep them nicely lit. If you face your subjects towards trees, there’s nothing to reflect back onto them. On especially dark days, look for light, neutral-colored ground to have your subjects stand close to. That will reflect back onto them and also help to light them. Putting them in a field full of vibrant, green grass will reflect green onto them so make sure there’s a path in front of them or something to help reflect light, neutral color. A white blanket can help, too.

Shooting on cloudy days can be beautiful if you know what to look for and what lightroom presets to use! Read on for editing tips!

Add some warmth in Lightroom

When I’m getting photos taken on overcast days where there was no sun out at all, I usually have to make the photo warmer than I normally would. So move that temp slider more towards the yellow until it’s looking right. Pay attention to skin tones and make sure they don’t look muddy.

Family hugging on a cloudy day

Lower highlights and raise shadows

This will definitely depend on the image, but sometimes it helps to lower your highlights a bit and raise the shadows while editing overcast photos in Lightroom. If you’re familiar with the tone curve, you can also adjust that slightly to raise the shadows or lower highlights.

Brighten up faces while editing

In Lightroom, I couldn’t live without adjustment brushes and radial filters! I use them with every session, but especially with photos taken on overcast and cloudy days, I make sure to brighten up the faces of my subjects. The way I do this is to grab the radial filter and make a circle over the subject’s face (make sure the invert box is checked), then I will raise up the shadows and whites a little. Some might think that raising exposure is the way to go, but I feel like it looks more natural to raise the shadows and whites instead. I will often also use a radial filter with similar settings and put it over the entire subject(s), too.

Kids running to parents with clouds behind them

Make cloudy skies stand out with a graduated filter

In Lightroom, you can use the graduated filter to darken the sky and really make it pop! Grab the filter and drag it down from the middle of the sky to just below the horizon line. You can adjust it to where it looks best, but I usually like the middle of the three lines to be on the horizon line or just above the tallest mountain peak depending on the landscape. The settings for this filter will vary but typically I bring the temp slider towards blue, lower exposure, bring up contrast, lower highlights (sometimes all the way), bright up texture and clarity a tiny bit, and raise saturation a touch. I have a sky filter preset that comes with my Inner Light Lightroom Presets to make it super easy for you to make your cloudy day skies more vibrant!

Little girl hugging her mom tight

Choose the right Lightroom preset

Some presets make the shadows super dark, or have settings intended for sunny days that just don’t work on overcast photos. So either get a Lightroom preset that you know works great for cloudy days or be ready to do a lot of tweaking. My Inner Light Presets have 5 different color presets and they look amazing in all different kinds of light. All photos on this blog were edited with them. I personally recommend number 5 for cloudy days, called Punchy Warmth, which gives skin tones the perfect warmth and glow. You can find out more about them and purchase my Inner Light Lightroom Presets here.

Beautiful pregnant woman standing with wind in hair on a cloudy day edited with Lightroom presets
Woman dancing with husband, lightroom presets for cloudy days

Here are some images by other photographers that were submitted for me to edit using my Inner Light Presets:

From Meghan G Photography:

From CC Portraits:

From Alyssa Ashley Photography:

From Rebecca Marie Photography:

I’m also participating in a blog circle this month! Be sure to check out my friend Michele’s blog, Fresh 48 Photographer in MN, who wrote a post all about must-have photos at a Fresh 48 session.

And lastly, don’t forget to grab my Lightroom Presets that look amazing for cloudy day sessions! All the photos in this article were edited with them.

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