Replacing the Sky in Landscape Photography
Are you ready to replace the sky? All right. Now, everybody has to raise their right hand, and become part of the...(laughs) Be part of the, (laughs) no. It's like a religious debate when it comes to replacing it. So I need to know this upfront, is anybody, like, anybody oppo-- And it's OK, 'cause, there's a lot of people that won't do it. Is anybody opposed to replacing a sky? Oh, you're not gonna do it?
No, not gonna do it.
Not gonna do it? Why not?
I'll watch, I'll watch. (group laughs)
You'll watch. Just, like-- So let me ask you this, you won't replace-- Oh yeah. I always run into somebody that won't do it. What if there was a Coca-Cola can, you were taking a picture of a beach, and there's a Coca-Cola can on the beach, and you didn't see it ahead of time, will you remove that?
I can have a long, philosophical answer-- (speaker laughs) The truth of the matter is, I've never used Photoshop before, so this is brand-new to me. So I never knew how to do it.
And even ...
though I might have said, "Wow, that would've looked great if, "you know, something." So I've never known how to do it, so, it's kinda--
Oh, so you're not, like, super morally opposed to it.
No, no, I'm gonna watch, and then I'll make a decision afterwards. (speaker laughs) I've never done it before, I--
You just wanna know if it looks real or not.
All right. So, (whispers) I saw another one. Hold on. I almost feel like, just as I come across these photos, another thing you can-- I should have said this before, when you paint on your clouds, you can paint inside the clouds. And you can kind of, you ever see clouds that glow? So what I'll do a lot of time is I'll use, you know, I've got the preset but it's just, it's contrast, highlights, shadows and clarity. And rather than paint all around them, you just paint inside of the clouds. And it really gives it a little bit, it kind of gives them a 3D type of a quality. To it. It's like bright, shiny object, sorry. OK, back to replacing skies. So, the first thing I can tell you about replacing a sky, is you've gotta find the right image for it. This isn't the kind of thing that you can take a picture and not like the photo, and say "Eh, I'll replace the sky." One out of every, probably one out of every 10 images that I go to replace the sky on, does it actually really work? And so, in some ways, I'm with you, like, I don't wanna do it, I'm actually never really happy when I do it, but I will do it. (laughs) But I'm never really happy when I do it, I actually would prefer to go back and re-shoot the scene in hopes of getting a better sky, rather than replace it. 'Cause it really is, it's so touchy. So, what I can tell you is that like, take a photo like this. There's no way that I could take, and I've got an entire, I've got a whole folder of clouds here, I'll show you some, I'm gonna pull up a couple of them. There is no way I'm gonna take those clouds and put 'em into that photo, and make it look realistic. And you're laughing, but I've gotten questions like this before. If you don't see the light, sometimes it's-- You think, "Oh God, yeah, I can replace it." But there's no way I'm gonna take that photo, there's no way I'm gonna take that photo, and put it in there. There's no way I'm gonna take any of these photos and put 'em in there. Yeah, nope, none of them. Maybe some of the blue sky ones, but this is, still, it'd be too noticeable. So, you gotta find the right photo for it first. So things that I look for when I wanna replace a sky. Here is a good example. Let's go and actually open up. Let's go open this one up in Photoshop. Take off the sky. So here I'm at a place which, I gotta tell ya, this is off the Big Sur Coast, I have to tell ya, I was just ecstatic to see it. Because I've been there so many times, and every time I went, it was foggy. Like, I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I'd literally been to this place like five times, never saw it. So, I was just happy to be there and see it. But, of course, it's like, you know, I got the opposite, right? I got clear, clear sky, right at sunset. So, to me, this opened up the possibility to replace the sky. So, as I decided I wanted to replace the sky, I started looking through-- I have a cloud library, and I started looking through my cloud library. And what I do is, I literally just walk around, whenever I'm out shooting, whenever I'm home, driving around, my camera's in my car, if I see cool clouds, I just stop and I look up and I take a picture. So that's how I build a cloud library. But, you know, I'm looking through the cloud library, I'm looking to find, you know, clouds that I think would work. I came across this one. What struck me about this one was the sun was clearly going down over here, and then the warmth fades as it goes away. And as I looked at that cloud, that cloud texture, the sun's going over here and that warmth fades as it goes away. So, thinking, alright, I might be able to make this work. So let's make it work. We're gonna go ahead, we opened up our foreground photo, let's go ahead and open up our cloud photo in Photoshop. I could've selected both of them and gone in there, I just, I had saved the layered photo before. So I'm gonna go ahead and copy, and then paste. Free Transform just a hair, just to get it to cover it. By the way, if you don't know Free Transform, Edit, go down to Free Transform. I just use the keyboard shortcut a lot, command or control T. So, just extend it so it fits the whole canvas there. So now I've got my cloud over there. The biggest part about this, aside from finding the right cloud to put over it, is gonna be the selection. Every once in a while, you have a really simple selection, it won't be any problem. I'm just gonna take you right to the harder selection, which is gonna be trees and anything that's wispy like that. So let's go ahead and take our quick selection tool, and we're just gonna paint right along. Anybody seen, raise your hand if you've seen Refine Edge. So about half of you. The other half of you, be prepared to be blown away. It's literally the coolest selection technology in Photoshop, with literally the worst name possible. 'Cause you never think, like, this is the hair and tree selection tool. And it's exactly what it is. So, I'm gonna click Refine Edge, and we'll zoom in, over here on the left-hand side. So, this is our original. It's got a radius, which basically tells it, start to go outside the line and figure out the edge. I mean, that's essentially what it's doing. Refine the edge, start to go outside of that line, how far do you wanna go out? I just start cranking it up. So, just by moving a slider, that's before, that's after. Let me show you the black and white view. That's before, that's after. Pretty crazy. Look at the detail. Now, the problem is, is the slider doesn't give us a whole lot of control. It's not really letting us finesse it at all, because it's gonna apply that radius to the whole selection, wherever it was. I don't necessarily want it to do it, you see the fade? That fade down here? I don't necessarily want it to do that, 'cause I know that's gonna be a fairly hard line. So what I'm gonna do is pull back on the radius, about four or five pixels, and there's a brush over here. This brush is the refined radius brush. So all I have to do is just paint. And it's done. So that's before, that's after. Not too bad. We can tweak a couple of the settings here, I might go pull my radius back a little bit more, just so it doesn't fade out too much. Smoothing is gonna actually smooth those edges, and we don't want that, we've got a lot of detail there, we don't wanna smooth it. Feather is gonna make the edge softer. Again, we have a lot of detail there, we don't necessarily wanna make it softer. Contrast will kind of firm up the edges a little bit, and then Shift Edge shifts everything. Remember when we expanded the selection on the panorama? You got a selection, you're either gonna shift the edge out, or you're gonna shift the edge in. So we can experiment with that a little, because I do see a couple little black areas there. We'll give that a try. So when we're done, output to selection. So when I save this, click OK. It saved it as a selection. So now, I have a layer on the top. So, before, remember when we were adding a layer mask? And then we'd paint on it with black and white? If I have a selection active and I add a layer mask to a photo, what it does is, it automatically keeps that area and hides everything else around it. It's like we painted it with black. So watch what happens, when I click layer mask, See, it kept what was selected, and it hid everything. So, I don't know about you, but I mean, I think that's pretty dead-on. (audience laughs) Right? Are you convinced?
Yeah. (laughs) I'd never know it was changed. So here's where the other fine art of replacing the skies comes from, and it's kind of in a way, having the vision to see what you would do. Because I knew that this wasn't gonna be the sky that I replaced, I knew that this was what I was looking for. So I have that layer, it's connected to the layer mask. If I go to transform it, go to Free Transform, see what happens? See how it peels it off? That's because the layer mask is following it around. It's because there's a little link icon. Says "Layer mask, follow layer." So what I'll do is I'll turn that link icon off. And now, I can go in here and I can Free Transform, and I can move this around. So now I'll probably expand it out a little bit. Like so. I can even make it a little bit bigger, try to get a little bit more of that warmth. 'Cause I don't necessarily want it to go to the blue too much. So now we're working with something. It's on a layer, so I can reduce the opacity. Would I love it, to get everything at full opacity, with the color and everything like that? I would, but it's not gonna happen, it's not gonna work, so, I'll take anything I can get up there. So I'll reduce the opacity a little bit, it brings back some of the warmth that was underneath there. Probably raise it up a little bit more there. So that's a little bit about replacing your sky. It really is... It's gonna work on very, very, you know... If I get one out of 10 photos where it works on, great. It's not gonna work all the time. You're never going to... You're also never gonna take a photo on, you know, you're never gonna take that photo and make it work with... That sky. You know, that's not gonna work. Probably not gonna work with that sky, or that one. So, you really have to find, it's more of an art of finding the right image to work with. I had one more I wanted to try. So let's go to... I actually found, when I was getting my files last night, I found this one, my disclaimer is I was tired. But-- And it was late. But I did it really quick, and it looked kind of cool. So, we're gonna try it. And it'll be a much easier selection, 'cause we don't have all the trees and everything. So I'm gonna go and I'm gonna develop this photo. Probably open up the exposure a little bit, get some shadows in there. Whites and blacks. It's pretty, I mean, this is the raw photo. It's got some decent color saturation already, so I'm not really gonna mess with it anymore. I think it looks good. Maybe a little bit of clarity. So let's open this one in Photoshop. I'm gonna go to my cloud library. Look at our sky, right? So, any one jumping out at you? I was thinking that one. What grabbed this one for me was the sun was obviously over here. You can see the warmth coming from that side. And there was obviously, the sun was over here, you can see it's casting light over on that side there. So that's kind of what grabbed me about this one. So we're gonna give it a try. Again, I could've really just been tired. So I'll copy that layer, I'll go over to my other image, I'll paste it in. Free Transform, make it a little bit bigger. And then let's just do our selection. Again, it should be pretty painless for this one. It did select that area in the background over here, so option or alt click puts it into minus mode, and get rid of that. Now we go turn on our top layer. Remember, if we have a selection active, and we hit the layer mask icon, it keeps the selection, keeps what's inside of it. So it kept everything inside the selection. And then, from there, from there you could do one of two things. If you pasted it over a blue bare sky like I did, you could do what we did before, and reduce the opacity. If you pasted it over another sky that maybe didn't look as good, if you reduce the opacity, you're gonna start bringing in clouds and stuff from the other sky. So what I do then is command or control L, for layer or for levels, and then what I'll usually do is kind of tweak, tweak that middle slider a little bit. And it'll start to fade that. I might reduce the opacity, but... It's close. I could play with that one enough that that one would work. Again, a much easier selection to do. So, I know you mentioned this, we should probably mention it now, I put five of those into... Five of my top clouds into a little preset zip file, so it's part of the bonus things.
Exactly, I wanted you to talk a little bit about that--
So if you get the course, in addition to the presets, you do get, there's five in there you send? So you get five cloud backgrounds so you can play around with that on your own shots.
And I think, if you like 'em, get those first, 'cause they come with the class, but if you like 'em, I have a pack of like 15 of them on my website, for not Mac A photo, for like nine bucks, so.
You can do it!
Mic? (speaker laughs)
So it looks really good, I have to say. (everyone laughs) And it doesn't take very much to do. But I sort of do like the idea of just going back another day.
Yeah. I don't blame ya.
My internal compass says, every time I go out and I shoot this spectacular, once in a lifetime moment, that I wanna go back and make it a twice in a lifetime--
And then go back every year.
I don't blame ya, I'll do my sky replacements, but, at the same time, I really feel better if I get to go back and re-shoot it and get the shot. And people make fun of me, 'cause I'll keep going back. Like, I went to Bandon Beach, which is southern Oregon, with a friend of mine, and the first day was blah, the second day was a blah sunset, you know, clear skies. And I kept going back to the same beach, and he was like, "Dude, we've already "shot this beach like five times." (audience laughs) Like, I want the shot. He's like, "Replace the sky already!" (audience laughs) Alright, any questions? Thoughts, anything? What have we got, anybody on the--
Cool, what do we got?
So, Photogirl wants to know what camera calibration color profile in light room should a landscape photographer use, given your presets?
Uh, what camera calibration profile?
Yeah, so, the nuts and bolts behind what she's saying is, if you go to the camera calibration panel, you've got all these calibration. They're only gonna work with raw and DNG photos. So, that's the first thing to remember. They're only gonna work with raw and DNG photos, I generally choose the camera landscape ones, but I put them into the work flow preset pack, so, you can see that's actually the very first step. So, Nikon Camera Landscape, sometimes Nikon Vivid, or Canon Camera Landscape. Canon only has Landscape, it doesn't have the same vivid one. Nikon, sometimes, I'll switch between Landscape and Vivid. There's other ones, I just don't use 'em for landscapes, that's why I didn't put them inside of there.
OK. So going back to minimizing haze, Nat wants to know if you'd ever use a UV filter, to minimize haze.
I have used UV filters, and they've never done anything significant to minimize the haze for me. And what happens is, you have that UV filter on, I'm generally using a polarizer. Polarizers wil also help, by the way. But I'm generally using a polarizer more, so now you're stacking a polarizer on top of a UV filter, and then, if you're doing a long exposure, now you're stacking (laughs) and ND filter on top of there, and, to me, the less filters I have to stack on top of each other, the better.
Yeah. Amanda wants to know, how do you fix a polarized image when you don't have a second image?
How do you fix a polarized image when you don't have a second image? One of the things you could do, let me show you, I mean, it's a pretty quick example. One of the things you could do is... Open up your photo, make a selection of the sky, add a new layer, and then what you do is take your eyedropper tool, sample from the top, and what that does is that grabs a sample of that color. And then, what we wanna do is, that sets the sample to the foreground color, what we wanna do is we wanna sample another color for the background, so I could swap these and then kind of click down here, and that would sample the other color. Another quick, easy thing to do is, if you just hold down your option or alt key, when you click, it sets the background color to that. So, sample here sets the foreground color, option or alt click-- Just so you can see here, I'll click down here. See, that sets the background color. So, click once to set the foreground, click again to set the background. In fact, maybe I'll try over here. Foreground, or foreground, and then background. And then we take our gradient tool and we do the foreground to background gradient. I have a selection, I have a new layer waiting for it, so I just click and drag. And you have to play with the colors a little bit. I don't know that I'm totally crazy about that one. Remember that little trick before, where I went into Levels? Levels is a great little tool when you just want to make subtle adjustments to something, command or control L, and you could go into Levels, and I could make it brighter. 'Cause I got the gradient, and that's the key. If you just fill it with blue, it's not gonna look right. So, I could go in here and kind of tweak that. And try to get what I was looking for. (laughs) And so we've-- He's like, "What?" (group laughs) Do you need me to do that again?
That wasn't planned, so I will do it again. OK, remember the question was, if you didn't take two photos and this is what you have, how do you fix it? Same kind of steps as before, right? We make a quick selection of the area that we wanna fix. I'm gonna make a new layer to hold that selection, so now I can adjust it independent of everything else. I wanna sample colors. I could sample 'em from this photo, I could open up another photo, I could do whatever. But I wanna sample colors, so I click once, that samples to my foreground, I option click, that samples to my background. And I got two different blues here, I go to the gradient tool. The very first gradient there is foreground to background. So what happens is, I just click and drag. I just added a gradient. Chances are, you're not gonna nail the colors right off the bat, so, command or control L, and then I can adjust it and try to get it to look right.
So you grab the gradient tool and just brought it down. If you were to go from left to right or right to left, across the horizon?
That would look great.
OK, so that's exactly what it's doing.
Whee! (group laughs) And then... (group laughs) There you go! See that? I mean, come on! You see that out in the desert all the time, don't you?
That looks like a Led Zeppelin album cover. (group laughs) Perfect. All right, I get it.
Oh, the days! (group laughs)
How do you deal with an overcast sky? Ugly but you're stuck with it. I've taken pictures that like, blown out, but it's just blah white, overcast sky. Do you have a preset for that? (group laughs)
A white overcast? So--
Yeah, so not a lot of definition in the clouds, I think, just sort of like flat.
I have something that'll work for it, I think the biggest thing is just, let me find a photo, let me see if I can find something that would help them. It's a tough one, I don't know if I have... This is by no means white, overcast blah, but it's still hazy, I mean, it's not great. So I'll show it on this. But one of the things is, if you go to... I'll show you the preset, and then I'll just show you how I made it. Yes, I have one Blue Sky, so Blue Sky Light, Blue Sky Strong. So it adds a lot of blue in there. What I did is, I created a graduated filter, I moved the temperature over to blue. In this case, I wanted to darken the sky, so they would just have to figure out if they want to darken or lighten the sky, but, even if they don't, they don't have to include that as part of the preset. And then opened up the shadows a little bit, in case there was any definition in the clouds. And then, see down here under Color? If you click on that, you can actually specify a color to go inside of there, too. So, I'm getting a little bit of blue tint, but I'm also able to kind of mix in a little bit of a color tint with it. So there's some presets here, I usually just start with that one, and then just drag it down a little bit. So, I mean, it's not a total white sky like they're talking about, but that will add a little bit of blue back into it. So it's...
That one there.
So Paul H. has a question, do you ever use a color checker passport to get your colors in the ballpark?
Awesome, that was easy. (laughs)
Yeah. If you were-- If you've ever seen them, they're those cards with a lot of the different colors on them. I think if you're working in a highly, highly color-managed workflow, where I'm the photographer and I'm working with the designer, who's working with a layout person, who's working with a printer, I think they're a little bit more important in that workflow, 'cause you wanna make sure everybody's dead on. But the problem is just, I'm the photographer, I'm gonna send it to the lab, the lab's not using the color checker, you know, there's really no reason to do it for just me.