Beginner What makes a good sky?

Messages
130
Name
Andrew
Edit My Images
Yes
#1
I've done a few landscapes and have come up with a simple question- what makes a good sky in a picture?


Is there anything in weather reports I can look for? Do different types of clouds work better with different types of picture? What makes a sunset look fantastic?

There is lots out there about the bottom half of a picture but not so much about the top. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Andy
 
Messages
925
Edit My Images
No
#2
There’s no such thing as a universally good sky - it could be a stormy sky shooting mountain views or wispy cirrus capturing a harvest scene at sunset - it all depends what your shooting and the mood you’re going for. Sometimes a completely clear sky can work well, especially for minimal sunset seascapes at the coast when you can have nice bands of colour. Sometimes a cloud inversion where mist fills a valley is the sky you want. The sky should compliment the bottom part of the image.
 
Last edited:

StephenM

I know a Blithering Idiot
Messages
2,928
Name
Stephen
Edit My Images
Yes
#3
I'll just add to the above - cloud shapes and positioning should be in harmony with the rest of the scene. Clouds do move (sometimes surprisingly quickly) and I often set up my camera on a tripod and stand waiting for the clouds to assume the position I want before releasing the shutter.
 
Messages
254
Edit My Images
No
#4
Sometimes the right sort of cloud can enhance a picture to a degree. I've tried to use dramatic clouds to add some life to this picture of an aircraft on the ground...

Panasonic GM5_black 8GB 07 _1040742.JPG
 
Messages
370
Name
Paul
Edit My Images
No
#5
This might not help much, but it has to be an interesting sky. A boring sky is a major no.

Interesting is just something generally going on, contrast, cloud shapes or whatever.

Flat, boring, dull is a no. There is a reason we say 'the sky looks dull'

and it will help your overall image if the light through the clouds is lighting up the right part of your landscape, at the right angles.

I've waited hours, days even for the right light when I'm on a commercial shoot and need a specific look. Swapping skies over is very easy to do at a level that looks crap and super time consuming if you shoot in boring light and want to make it look real.
 
Messages
254
Edit My Images
No
#6
Sometimes you don't want clouds at all. I took out the cloud here because I wanted to concentrate attention on the pattern and the smoke trails...

Canon 5D_two 9641.JPG
 
Messages
6,372
Name
Graham
Edit My Images
No
#7
Agree with pretty much what has been said already. As in, there is no right or wrongs here but there is plenty to consider in terms of what works when (and this is personal anyway so not something anyone else can advise on necessarily). Even a totally cloudless blue sky can work wonders if you like to photo in the blue hour or want to sell some postcards!

But also worth mentioning that the altitude of cloud base can have a big bearing on the type of sunsets and sunrises we see. Those super colourful, whole sky illuminated ones will almost always be a result of high cloud or sometimes mid height cloud layers. Low cloud light has normally had all of the colour snubbed out of it by the time it reaches us. There are loads of apps now that help pick through this. I really like Clear Outside myself.

But also something that I'm trying to get better at myself is that, it's not normally that much use to just check the forecast where you want to shoot. You also need to consider what the clouds and weather generally is doing in the direction that you're facing. Clear sky and sun behind and interesting cloud or, even better a storm in front of you can make for some amazing conditions.
 
Messages
940
Name
jason
Edit My Images
Yes
#8
A prime example of a question I asked about the below pictures. I was asking about which panorama people preferred and most went for the second picture as they preferred the clouds positions in the sky. It wasn't something I considered, as I was looking mainly at the landscape.
DSC_3388-Pano
by jason greenwood, on Flickr
DSC_3397-Pano-2
by jason greenwood, on Flickr
 
Last edited:
Messages
220
Name
Trevor
Edit My Images
Yes
#9
You'll generally get more interesting cloud formations in a low pressure system or when there is frontal activity.

Now - i.e. springtime can be the best time of year too.
 
Messages
5,761
Name
Jak
Edit My Images
No
#10
So difficult to determine. If you were shooting for a client as a professional you would shoot what they wanted.
Every other time you shoot what you enjoy and prefer.

If you like the finished image then it's a good image.
 
Messages
9,895
Name
Alf
Edit My Images
Yes
#12
I've done a few landscapes and have come up with a simple question- what makes a good sky in a picture?


Is there anything in weather reports I can look for? Do different types of clouds work better with different types of picture? What makes a sunset look fantastic?

There is lots out there about the bottom half of a picture but not so much about the top. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Andy
Andy
What makes a sunset look fantastic is a matter of taste but I rather like it when the clouds clear at the horizon for a seascape. One thing many do is give up too soon after the sun goes down as that is when it can get really good.
It can be difficult to get the sun to work in a shot but it can after a long dry spell especially with high pressure and a lot of ozone leading to the sun being an orange disk

West Pier sunset
by Alf Branch, on Flickr

Remember to look behind you as the something wonderful could be happening if you shoot away from the sun

Whitehaven harbour sunset 4
by Alf Branch, on Flickr

sometimes a storm is the best time to be out

Ennerdale waves
by Alf Branch, on Flickr
 
Last edited:
Messages
16,965
Name
Steve
Edit My Images
Yes
#15
Messages
925
Edit My Images
No
#16
A good piece. I like try have clouds in front of my camera and a break/clearer skies behind to let the light through. Easier said than done in practice but you want it like his pictures, not too much to be flat and grey, not too clear to be featureless (although I myself don't mind clear skies in pictures)
Clear skies can work very well, you generally get a guaranteed golden hour too. Also noticed cirrus clouds often appear at the end of a clear day. Glorious conditions so far this weekend
 
Top