Reading
blue-triangle-element

Articles

PFRE is the original online resource for real estate and interior photographers. Since 2006, it has been a community hub where like-minded professionals from around the world gather to share information with a common goal of improving their work and advancing their business. With thousands of articles, covering hundreds of topics, PFRE offers the most robust collection of educational material in our field. The history of real estate photography has been documented within these pages.
All Articles
blue-triangle-element

Latest

Clicking on Show to view the storage destination of your Lightroom catalog

Lightroom Classic CC catalog functions as a database to track and manage your photos. You can store your Lightroom Classic catalog on an external hard drive if you have less space on your internal drive, use more than one laptop, or need access to the catalog while traveling.

COMMUNITY
blue-triangle-element

Forum

The PFRE Community Forum is an online resource for discussing the art and business of Real Estate and Interior Photography.
Join The Discussion
blue-triangle-element

Latest

View Now
Contest
blue-triangle-element

OVERVIEW

For over a decade, photographers from around the world have participated in PFRE’s monthly photography contests, culminating in the year-end crowning of PFRE’s Photographer of the Year. With a new theme each month and commentary offered by some of the finest real estate & interior photographers anywhere, these contests offer a fun, competitive environment with rich learning opportunities. 

Contest Rules
blue-triangle-element

CURRENT CONTESTS

View / Submit
blue-triangle-element

PAST CONTESTS

View Archive
Resources
blue-triangle-element

Resources

PFRE prides itself on the depth and breadth of the information and professional development resources it makes available to our community. Our goal is to help real estate and interior photographers be successful while bringing the community together and elevating the industry as a whole.
blue-triangle-element

Conference News

No items found

Shooting Real Estate: How to Take Pictures on a Cloudy Day

Published: 24/02/2021

The weather is not always nice and sunny, nor is it always ideal for those perfect exterior shots that every agent wants. To avoid rescheduling while providing the best photos for clients, we're going to give you tips on shooting real estate and doing cloudy day photography.

How to Take Pictures on a Cloudy Day

Lighting is a crucial factor in real estate photography because it creates contrast and shadows to highlight property details. When the weather is bad, you can choose the appropriate equipment and camera settings, use the clouds as a softbox, create directional light, and take advantage of cloud breaks.

Client expectations will vary widely depending on your location, so there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Hence, you may have to try various things to get the perfect shots.

Focus shot of man using a camera

Bring the Right Gear

While your equipment would be similar to the basic tools for real estate photography, it's also wise to bring waterproof camera coverings to protect your gear from snow or moisture.

Aside from a camera body, wide-angle lens, and tripod, you would need to use a separate flash and stand to control the lighting during unfavorable weather conditions. Likewise, you can place strobes or speedlights when there's no direct sunlight flooding into the windows for interior shots.

Choose the Right Spot

Bad weather can form piles of snow or puddles of water. Sometimes, the solution is all about going around the property and finding the best spot, probably the cleanest, to take your shots.

Control Your Camera Settings

Cloudy day shooting settings are slightly different because the sun, your light source, will hide and show itself unexpectedly. First, set your camera into manual mode, then work on choosing the appropriate exposure.

  • Set the shutter speed around 1/500th to 1/250th of a second to ensure crisp focus.
  • You can rely on an open aperture, such as f/2.8 or f/4, for exposure adjustments.
  • You would generally use ISO on a bright sunny day, whereas you may need to increase around 400 to 800 on cloudy days.

Use the Clouds as a Giant Softbox

Clouds don't necessarily mean it's a bad day to shoot. Like a softbox, you can use clouds as light modifiers to avoid shadows and diffuse harsh light.

If your client wants to add actual people to the shoot, the flat lighting from the clouds allows you to position the subjects in a bright, open area for more flattering lighting.

Create Directional Light

While light modifiers remove shadows, directional light can let you add shadows to create dimension. Depending on the light source's intensity, you can use a reflector's black side to bounce the directional light onto a property's features for smaller yet snappier lighting.

Add Feeling With Cloud Breaks Or Light Pools

This part requires you to be attentive as there are times when the clouds will shift just enough to let a pool of light come through. When cloud breaks occur, see where the light lands and use it to create drama.

Some agents would also take advantage of the weather to attract clients who are considering particular seasons. 

For example, bright skies give a sense of warmth and happiness, making properties more appealing and inviting to viewers. Meanwhile, big, fluffy clouds create a sense of calm, which can make a property look serene.

Shoot Bracketed Images

There are cloudy days when it would be difficult to find the correct exposure. However, you can counter dark lighting through bracketed shooting and editing in HDR.

For instance, shoot a photo where the exposure highlights the property. Next, focus on a different area, like the pathway. Then, aim for an evenly exposed background or the sky.

After that, you can stitch the pictures together in Photoshop to create an HDR shot.

Man wearing a watch and holding a camera

Post-Process Your Images

Post-processing is a great way to enhance your real estate photos, especially if you want to fix uneven exposure.

  • Brighten up pixels in Lightroom to increase brightness. 
  • Use Photoshop to remove settled snow. 
  • Modify white balance in Lightroom to achieve a warmer tone or mimic the effect of a sunny day.
  • Change the saturation to make grass or plants greener.

Oh, and here is the PFRE sky library (contributed over the years by PFRE readers) if you need some sunny skies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Reschedule a Shoot?

Do whatever it takes to accommodate your good clients in getting a great external shot, even if it takes multiple trips because of the weather. For view properties, it can be worth it to come back more than once to capture what makes a view property so valuable.

Is Shooting Real Estate on Overcast Days a Good Thing?

Shooting on overcast days can be good if you have a light and airy style. Overcast sky creates beautiful, soft shadows that also allow colors to stand out easily.

Can I Turn Real Estate Photos into Black and White?

Turning images into black and white enables you to bring out more contrast. However, it's not ideal to edit your shots into black and white as people would need colors to have an accurate view of a property.

Can I Do Sky Replacement?

As Seattle real estate photographer Dan Achatz demonstrates in this video, most cloudy weather days can be dealt with just sky replacement.

Conclusion

The real estate market is open all-year-long, which means the weather can influence your lighting. You can push through with cloudy day photography as long as you take advantage of the overcast sky, bring the right equipment, and know-how to post-process.

How does everyone handle bad weather situations?

13 comments on “Shooting Real Estate: How to Take Pictures on a Cloudy Day”

  1. A sky replacement is an option although if it's hissing down rain or just too dang cold and snowy, there is nothing wrong with making photos of the interior. It can be even easier to get nice interior photos on a cloudy day since you aren't having to compete with bright window light. The only issue is for rooms that have a great view that you need to show off. I can work through exterior photos really fast and if I still have one or two interior images to make, it doesn't take much longer.

    I have one client that I often make exterior images for in advance of photographing the whole house due to renovations and repairs that need to be done inside. They can use those images to tease the property on their coming soon page. If the home sells prior to me photographing the rest of the house, I charge $40. Since I am making those images when I am already in the neighborhood, it's a very quick and easy thing to do. On the outside, I've invested 20 minutes total which means I'm making $120 hour.

    The trick is to make as many photos as you can each day. Get paid for those jobs up front and complete them as soon as the weather clears. You stay busy and the customer will get the images they need much faster.

  2. What to do when the Weather is bad...make the best of the situation. Sometimes, bad weather will help you produce better photos inside with the ambient light more on an even scale with outside. Yet the outside may be gloomy. Offer the option (at a price) to come back and re-take the exterior shots when the weather is better (if you have time) and/or tune up your PS skills to offer enhancements that will satisfy your clients wishes.

    That said, do not let a "heavy" lister, let alone a one day wonder push you around... if you plan on being succesful. Negotiate concerns, be it an offer for a return trip for $$$, or sky replacement. The fact is that most agents want their photos delivered yesterday, so to wait for "Sunny weather" could be several days and long after the patience of most agents, not to mention the havioc that your current schedule will endure trying to "fit" in a extra stop on your scheudle.

    For those that cancel last minute, your terms of service should be clear, understood......and agreed to. While it may hurt short time, like a band aid ripping off your skin, in the long term it is less stressful. If you are any good, they will come back.

    Bottom line, conduct yourself like a professional, not a servant.

  3. I reschedule if raining or wet.

    If dry I just make the best of the conditions both in image capture and when processing.

    I live and work in England so this is a daily problem to me!

    Thanks and regards

    Rick

  4. Pictures of cloudy days in the Sunshine State??? Unthinkable! Now back to reality.

    Rule #1 - NEVER cancel an appointment due to weather. The way I explain it to the Realtor is that their client went to a lot of effort getting the home ready and arranging their schedule. I can at least take the interior and a few throw-away exteriors enabling them to get it listed. Not stated, if it is nasty weather there it is generally nasty throughout the local area and would have to cancel all shoots for that day which means 1) no pay for the day, and 2) rescheduling would re-coupe but at the same time displaces other shoots that could have been scheduled. The throw-aways...can attempt sky replacement to avoid a return but usually the lack of shadows, wet driveway, or complex treeline impacting replacement just doesn't cut it as it looks artificial. I usually just assume sky replacement won't be practical (but happy if it is) and plan a quick stop by when in the neighborhood on another shoot which is on my own schedule. An interior killer view might have to be coordinated, but usually only one room.

    Rule #2 - Planning. Look at the weather. Shoot the exterior first or last? It can improve or deteriorate while shooting the interior and may end up shooting first and pleasantly surprise with the improvement and shooting again last, or you simply like the shadows with the sun movement. This time of year it is not critical other than hoping morning fog will lift, but hot humid summers prefer shooting exterior last so not dripping wet as I walk in their house but clouds building for afternoon thunderstorms may strongly suggest shooting first.

  5. I help realtors understand I do not control the weather, so I can not schedule around it. They can ask for the date and time they would like and we go from there. I replace sky on almost all exterior images. If a specific home is better off in good weather, we make sure that is part of the schedule info and then we make decisions usually a day in advance of go or nogo. However, when realtors cancel because of weather, they pay a fee for cancellation. I am in my tenth year in this business and I have charged cancellation fees about 5 times. Not really an ongoing problem, and it usually is for a different reason (gravity, lethargy, apathy, etc).

  6. I agree with above posts. Cloudy weather = flat light therefore less shadows and better imagery. Try to shoot so that you eliminate the sky ie: focus more on the foreground.

    I've added pale blue to the sky on some exterior shots but it has to be done in such a way so that it doesn't look phony. Often it's better to leave it alone. If the agent doesn't care enough to reschedule the shoot then ignore it.

    We've had agents wait weeks for the weather to change or months for flowers to bloom before scheduling a shoot. Basically, what it boils down to is it's up to the agent to decide when they want to schedule a shoot.

  7. I give clients the option to reschedule, or I can have sky &/or grass replaced by my favorite retoucher (Shawn Clabough of Expert's Touch) at a cost of $20/image.
    Most clients have front elevation done at a minimum...

  8. Believe it or not, one can pull color out of skies in many circumstances making a dreary day passable. I offer sky replacements (for a fee) if we can't reschedule. I will also let the client know (if I have enough advance notice) that the conditions will not be ideal and we can either re-shoot the exterior at a later time.

    However, there's no substitute for the ambient light which comes from windows on a sunny day. Some clients could care less. Under extreme circumstances, I will come back and shoot the interior for just the window exposure and put that back into the older images. I'm willing to do a lot as long as the client as the budget.

    Although weather is an act of God, one gets brownie points for being flexible and accommodating.

  9. Happens a lot in reality. 99.999% of the time I just go ahead and do a digital sky replacement. The agent generally wants the images online as quickly as possible and this is the quickest method. If the vendor desperately wants the exterior done in sunny weather (and usually the only time I would do that is in the event of snow), I still usually shoot the interiors on the original appointment, simply because that is the longest part of the job. Relatively speaking, it is easier to schedule time to come back just to do an exterior as that is the quickest part of a property shoot. In reality though, it rarely happens.

  10. I always tell them to pray for cloudy days.

    They always look shocked and ask why. Here is my response...

    "Well...I can always put blue skies i to the photos for you..no problem. But that harsh shadow that happens when the sun catches the roofline and puts half your lawn and half the face of the house in shadow...i can't take that OUT."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

magnifiercrossmenucross-circle