Filter the sky
Often the ‘correct’ exposure for the land is significantly different to that required for the sky, because it’s much brighter.
It’s therefore necessary when shooting any sky photography to reduce the exposure for the top portion of the frame. The easiest way to do this is to use a Neutral Density graduated filter (ND grad) and align the filter so that the Neutral Density part of the filter covers the sky.
This will reduce the exposure (making the sky darker) and the clear part of the filter will cover the land, which is unaffected. ND grads come in different strengths (typically 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9), allowing you to darken the sky by varying amounts.
Skies can also be enhanced by using a polarising filter. These are normally the screw-in variety, so you’ll need one of the appropriate diameter for your lens.
A polariser has the effect of making clouds stand out and works very well with cumulus clouds against a blue sky.
This works best if the sun is at 90° to the direction the camera is pointing. If the sun is directly behind you the effect will be minimal.
To use a polariser, rotate the outer ring of the filter while looking through the viewfinder until you get the best effect.
For something different, use a very strong ND filter to slow the exposure down to several minutes and blur moving clouds. See our fold-out guide for more advice.
PAGE 1: Why big sky photography carries impact
PAGE 2: Filter the sky
PAGE 3: How to frame big sky photography
PAGE 4: How to cope with dreary skies
PAGE 5: Final tips to help you shoot better pictures of the sky