5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Nov 30, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Nov 30, 2023

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

I was browsing the subreddit for photography recently, and one particular question from a new photographer caught my eye. It was worded in an amusing way (presumably because English wasn’t their first language). However, it was a very valid question and one that I feel merits some discussion.

“I had a lot of fun learning how to take pictures in sharp sunlight, golden hour and in general playing with light,” the Redditor says, “how to take good pictures when there’s no light and only sadness?” Indeed. How do you take good photos when there is “only sadness”? Well, luckily, I can think of a lot, and maybe this will help get someone out of a rut.

I grew up in the UK and spent several years studying in Manchester in the North of England, so I can relate. Manchester is famous for its rain. Certainly, there are many days when you don’t even want to go outside, let alone make photographs.

The northern parts of Europe and North America can definitely create some blocks due to the short daylight hours and generally miserable weather. However, there are still plenty of things to photograph, you just have to be a little more creative and try a little harder.

Portraits

If it’s a dry day, those overcast cloudy grey skies make a perfect diffuser for portrait photography. The lack of shadows means that you’ll have a much easier time creating beautiful soft even lighting on your subject’s face. Instead of worrying about harsh shadows, you can concentrate on perfecting your directing poses and composition.

Bring along a reflector and experiment with using the silver or gold side for even more zing. Or try using an off-camera flash and balance the ambient light to create a little more drama. It’s actually far easier to do when there isn’t strong sunlight to compete with.

5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Also, you can try shooting indoors using natural light and reflectors. You’d be surprised how beautiful the light can be, even in winter.

Embrace blue hour

If there’s no sun, then there is no golden hour, that’s true. However, even the greyest days usually have a blue hour, which can be absolutely beautiful. It’s one of my favourite times of the day to shoot.

5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Combine blue hour with long exposures and experiment with light trails and cityscapes. The orange and red street lights juxtapose nicely with the blue colour of the sky. Bonus points if it’s rained recently, and you’ll get some lovely reflections from the wet ground.

Go minimalist

Winter landscapes lend themselves to minimalism. Bonus points if you have snow. Sure, autumn leaves are beautiful. However, bare branches create their own kind of beauty. Play around with abstract forms and composition. Have a go at converting your images to black and white for very stark, minimalist images.

5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Get up early

Ok, so in the winter in the north, it doesn’t get light that early. But you often need to be up and out at a timely hour to find interesting subjects such as fog, frost, and ice. Hoare frost is particularly beautiful to capture, even if the light is not especially working in your favour. Look for texture and patterns.

5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey

Try a macro lens and get in really close, find frost or dew on spider’s webs. You don’t even need to go far, the local park or your back garden can be full of interesting subjects, even in winter.

If it’s really cold, you can try this soap bubble trick and shoot snowflakes inside the bubbles.

Redefine your idea of what makes a ‘good photo’

“How do I make good, pretty photos?” the original poster asks. I would argue that perhaps they need to reevaluate what makes a ‘good’ photo. In their eyes, if a good image is only an epic landscape with a pretty girl, shot at golden hour with the sun setting behind them, then they are going to be disappointed.

It is possible to create interesting, dynamic images at any time of year, at any time of the day, in any location. The only things limiting you are your beliefs about what makes a good photo.

To challenge these beliefs, set yourself small challenges and goals. Take away the pressure of having to take a good photo, and instead try out different techniques and fall in love with the process of photography.

By doing this, your world will open up, and you’ll start seeing opportunities for photographs everywhere. You don’t even need to have a camera in your hand when you do this.

That, or do what I did eventually and move to Spain. There’s no sadness here, just 300 days of sunshine a year!

What are your favourite tips for shooting in winter?

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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4 responses to “5 ways to find inspiration when the weather is sad and grey”

  1. Fred Stafford Avatar
    Fred Stafford

    Winter in a warmer climate would be my way of finding inspiration.

  2. Fred Stafford Avatar
    Fred Stafford

    Winter in a warmer climate would be my way of finding inspiration.

  3. Dunja0712 Avatar
    Dunja0712

    “Only sadness” will always be my favorite for describing winter weather (especially since I live in Serbia, that adds extra sadness). Great article Alex!

  4. Vincent Reyna Avatar
    Vincent Reyna

    Sad and gray is my inspiration!