Bringing life to a gloomy sky

I love the Oregon coast, and it’s a perfect playground for photographers. Although there are a lot of gorgeous rocky formations to find and photograph, the weather does not always cooperate. An overcast day can be perfect lighting for certain aspects of the scene, but sometimes it’s nice to have a few clouds in the sky, too. In this chapter, I will take a nice photo of the coast and give it some life with some clouds and coloring.

This is an excerpt from Nicole’s new book, Luminar 4: Step by Step. If you would like to follow along with this tutorial, please go here to access the image files.

Step 1: For this photo, the very first thing I’d like to do is add a new sky. I’m doing this first because I want to make sure that all of my other edits mesh well with the sky addition.

So, I open the image into the Edit view and then go into the Creative category where I activate the AI Sky Replacement Tool. I also click the Advanced Settings button to reveal all of the options in this set of adjustments.

Step 2: Next, I click the Sky Selection drop-down menu and, at the very bottom, choose Load Custom Sky Image. Then I access the nicolesy_rocky_coast_sky.jpg file and click Open. This adds the new sky to my photo, but it still needs some work to make it blend better with this scene.

I’m not concerned with the reflection in this particular scene, so I won’t be adding the sky to the water. There are a lot of ripples and the color will match when the sky edit is complete, so I can get away with it as-is.

Step 3: The first slider I adjust is Horizon Position. I set this to –41, which reveals a different part of the clouds in the sky.

I also notice that some of the sky did not fully cover the background on the left portion of the frame. To fix this, I go down to the Sky Local setting and increase it to +44, which is just enough to fill in that empty space.

Step 4: Now I want to adjust the look of the sky itself. At the bottom of the panel, I increase the Atmospheric Haze setting to +72. There is a touch of haze in the photo already, so this helps to neutralize it and make it mesh better with the foreground.

I also decrease the Sky Temperature all the way to –100, which balances the color of the sky better with the image.

Step 5Now I need to go back to the Essentials category and make some adjustments using the Light Tool. The image is very cool, and I’d like to add a touch of warmth. So, I increase the Temperature slider to 8726, which cuts out some of the overpowering blue colors.

Step 6: Still in the Light Tool, I go down to the tonal adjustments. First I increase Smart Contrast to +28, which adds a nice touch of contrast to start off. This adjustment adds some darkness to the rocks, so I also increase the Shadows to +24, which brings back some of the detail in the rocks and sand area while still maintaining some of the contrast from the previous adjustment.

Step 7: I’d like to see a bit more contrast in the image, so in the Light Tool I click the Advanced Settings button to reveal more settings. Then, in the Tone Curve, I click the upper-right intersection of the graph and drag up to add brightness to the image. I then click the lower-left intersection of the graph and drag down, creating an S-Curve which adds darkness and contrast.

Step 8: Next, I move my attention to the AI Structure Tool. This image has a lot of rough rocks, and adding some structure can help make them really pop. So, I increase the Amount to +20 and the Boost to +12, which intensifies the texture in the rocks.

Step 9: When processing landscapes one of my favorite tools to use is the Mystical Tool, located in the Creative category. I set the  Amount to +29, which adds a touch of contrast and subtle glow to the photograph.

Step 10: Still in the Creative category, the next step is to use the Film Grain Tool, which will help blend together the newly-added sky and the main image, making them look cohesive. To enhance the illusion that they were photographed at the same time, I set the Amount to +10 which adds a touch of grain to the entire photograph.

It’s a subtle change, so you may need to zoom in to 100% (or more) to see the difference.

Step 11: The next thing I’d like to do is add some custom dodging and burning to “sculpt” the light in the scene. I start by accessing the Dodge & Burn Tool in the Professional category and click the Start Painting button.

Then, in the toolbar at the top, I keep the setting at Lighten but change the Strength to 10%. Then, with the Brush Size set to 172, I make several brush strokes on the sand and the large rock, trying to focus the brush strokes on areas that are already light.

Step 12: Next, in the toolbar, I change the setting to Darken and again set the Strength to 10%. Using the Brush Size set to 100, I paint over some of the darker areas in the photo, particularly the rocks.

Adding this adjustment (including the Lighten painting from the previous step) helps to add a customized type of contrast to the photo.

Step 13: One thing I like to do is stylize my photos with the Color Styles (LUT) Tool in the Creative category. Using the drop-down menu, I set the LUT style to 1960. Because this particular LUT file adds some fade to the photo, I also increase the Contrast to +20 to bring back the original contrast in the photo.

Step 14: I head back over to the Essentials category and focus my attention on the Landscape Enhancer Tool. This scene still has quite a bit of haze to it, so I increase the Dehaze slider to +26. This does a very good job of bringing out the color in the sky and also making the rest of the photo look a little more clear.

Step 15: For the final step, I go down to the Vignette Tool to darken the edges and give the photo a nice finish. I make the following adjustments to this tool to help draw the eyes more towards the center of the frame:

  • Amount –48
  • Size +60
  • Roundness +13
  • Feather +29
  • Inner Light +5

Learn more about Luminar 4: Step by Step and Save 20% with the code SKYLUM20

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