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Replacing the sky in Photoshop CS5

In the age of digital photography one of the greatest tools available to the photographer is post-processing software. In some respects in can be argued that post processing in software is the digital equivalent of more intricate work in the wet darkroom years in the days of film processing.

While I think that tweaking and pushing images a little in software is a good thing if we consider photography as an art, I’m not normally a big fan of too much post-processing. We should still try and get as much right in the camera as we can. Sometimes though Mother Nature doesn’t always allow us to do that if we’re shooting landscapes – sometimes leaving us with dull lifeless skies.

Earlier today I posted some landscapes I took while in the Cotswolds last year. For much of the day walking around the sky was lovely – white puffy clouds against a blue backdrop. For one shot though the sky was not so great – see below:

Cotswolds landscape.

Click for a larger image

I really love the overall composition of this shot – the tracks in the field converging towards the top of the hill and the solitary bunch of trees. And while the sky isn’t a flat grey – it lacks the punch of some of the other shots I took on the day.

So despite my aversion to over-processing images in software I thought I’d have a go at replacing the sky with that of one of the other shots I took on the day.

Step One – Selecting the foreground

After exporting the original image from Lightroom 3 to Photoshop CS5 I used the Quick Selection tool to select the sky.

I then inverted the selection so the foreground was selected and used the Refine Edge tool to fine-tune the selection. This gave me a near perfect selection when zoomed in to 100%. I couldn’t have done the selection better myself manually.

After I’d got the edge refined the output options in the Refine Edge dialog I chose were ‘Decontaminate Colors’ and output to a New Layer with Layer Mask.

Step Two – Pasting in the ‘new’ sky

I selected the sky from one of the other shots I took on the day as a layer behind the Layer Mask and after moving the ‘new’ sky around a little to get what I felt was the right look saved the image and exported it from Lightroom 3. The final result is below:

Click for larger image

Personally I’m really pleased with the result. I don’t think it looks un-natural or Photoshopped in any way. What do you think?

Which image do you prefer?

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 16th, 2010 at 20:21 and is filed under Blog, Images, Post processing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
  • Tim Sharp Photography

    Nice article matey..

  • http://www.allkins.co.uk Dominic Allkins

    Thanks Tim. Which version did you prefer?