Chapter 16: Replacing a Sky

A professional photographer can spend a good part of a day waiting for the perfect sky and weather conditions. Sometimes though, no matter how patient you are, skies will often be washed out and appear missing due to overexposure. One solution is to take pictures of the sky when it looks its best, and then use a few techniques to combine two or more images into a new composited photo.

These technique can be done using Layers, along with the Gradient Mask and Transform tools.

  1. Open a photo that needs a new sky. Use any filters needed to enhance the image to better match the style with the sky you’ll add.
  2. Click the + symbol at the top of the Layers panel and choose Add New Image Layer....
  3. Navigate to a sky image on your hard drive and click the Open button to add the file to your document. The layer is automatically named with the filename of the selected file.
  4. Once the file is opened, it will obscure the layer below it. 
  5. To add back the sky image, one technique is to apply a Gradient Mask, which will have the effect of pulling back in the sky with more emphasis on the upper part of the image. 
  6. Resize or move the gradient as needed for the best fit and click the Done button to apply it.
  7. Sometimes the horizon line can be slightly harsh, so to tackle that by clicking on the Transform tool. Move the bottom handle to re-position the sky more to your liking.
  8. You can also touch up edges of the Gradient Mask using a brush with decreased exposure and set to a low Opacity such as 20%. Brush over any areas that need additional blending. 

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Note

The desert or the ocean is the best place to shoot the sky. This is often because the amount of environmental and light pollution is greatly reduced and you often have a strong horizon line. Don’t worry; just keep your eyes out for a great day with beautiful skies and remember to shoot them. 

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