Sky replacement in Photoshop seemed almost a rudimentary task. There are dozens of YouTube videos on how to do it and I have watched several over the years I have been using Photoshop in my photo processing workflow. But I’ve never done one. It looked easy enough; I just kept putting off doing it.
It’s not that there haven’t been any of my photos that couldn’t have used a sky replacement. Some of my photos have been otherwise beautiful compositions, but for the cloudless sky, or uniquely ugly cloud formations. Sometimes it was just a matter of so overly exposed sky that it couldn’t be brought back in post. There have been too many missed opportunities to bring those photos up from the depth with a simple sky replacement. Unfortunately, I must have had just as many excuses why I couldn’t do it.
A Photo In Desperate Need of Sky Replacement
The excuses stopped working today. Maybe out of boredom, or a yearning for a new challenge, this was the day I decided to replace my first sky. And it was going to be done for a black & white photo just so I wouldn’t also have to deal with color blending – one new process at a time, please. The photo I chose to experiment on was one I shot on an old Olympus E-420 DSLR at the end of May 2012. I wasn’t shooting in RAW format at that time because I had never used a photo editing program that processed RAW files. So, this photo was captured at the wrong time of day (1:22PM) and the sky was almost blown out.
There isn’t a lot of detail to work with in a JPEG file format, but I felt I could improve this photo just by converting it to B&W. Someone had asked me for some photos of Quincy, but she was specifically looking for black & white photos. I was under the mistaken impression I could do something with this photo… without replacing the sky.
My Failed Attempt At Masking a Seriously Flawed Sky
It’s difficult to see in the original photo above that there is more wrong with the sky than just being overexposed and washed out. When I used the software to enhance the clouds that were in the original photo, it revealed an unfortunate shape that was almost obscene. I did manage to, ahem, reduce it somewhat, but there was so few clouds in that sky, I was afraid it would only make it worse if I tried to remove it entirely.
Of course there are many ways to change the shape or placement of clouds in a photo, the clone tool being the most common, but those methods escaped me at the time. There were many photos to prepare for this interested party and I knew they all wouldn’t make the cut. I wasn’t worried about this one, but now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have kept this one in the batch I presented to her.
My First Sky Replacement Using Photoshop CC
This morning I awoke realizing I need to expand my knowledge and Photoshop skills. I realize there are many people, both photography admirers and photography pros who don’t believe things like sky replacements should take place. Like it’s sacrilege or something. That’s not my belief though. This is my art, not a documentary presentation. I learned early on how to remove errant power lines and cables, the odd piece of trash and other obstacles to my vision.
It was a long day of viewing a number of videos explaining and demonstrating how to replace skies and other objects using the various selection tools, brushes and other features I had never tried in Photoshop. I must have tried to get rid of my terrible sky a half-dozen times before I settled on what you see below. I say “settled” because I realize the photo is not perfect. It is, afterall, my very first sky replacement. I will try again on future photos and hope to get better and better in time. I’d like to think, though, that most of my good photos don’t need the sky replaced. I think we can all agree that this one did though.
Please offer you comments and suggestions below.