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Photography Lessons

Photo Editing: Sky Replacements

Sky Replacements or not? Extreme photo editing or just slight tweaks to preserve photos as true to the original as possible? What is your opinion on this?

Gulfstream Business Jet on final approach to SXM Airport, Sint Maarten in the Carribean – Date: May 2014 – Camera: Nikon D800 – Photo edited in Adobe Lightroom – Sky replaced with Luminar 4 by Skylum

Personally I prefer going with a “close-to-the-original style” when editing my photos. I shoot my photos in RAW format and retouch all of them with Adobe Lightroom, but I’m only doing this, because I know that cameras rarely capture a moment the way you saw it with your own eyes. So when I’m editing my photos, I just try to make them look like how I remember a certain scene.

The same photo as shown above, original sky, with minor edits done in Adobe Lightroom.

And sky replacements? I have definetly problems deciding if I like them or not. It feels way to extreme. It is not what the camera captured. But then, what about a photo were the sky is totally blown out, because the sun was way to bright? Or in a sitution with a grey 100% overcast cloud layer?

The same photo again, with a more subtle sky replacement. I think this one is very fitting for the photo and would be my favourite of the three…

I guess it boils down to the question if we see a picture as an “art form” or if a picture should be a photograph which should be as true as possible to the moment it was captured; a time-capsule reminding us of what we saw, ignoring all the shortcomings of camera-technology. A difficult decision for me. Personally I’m more a true to reality guy, but I also realised that I love a lot of photos I see on Instagram which clearly have undergone extreme editing.

So currently my stance on this is, light editing and a sky replacement in certain situations is okay, if the original sky is blown out. But I’m against radical edits. And I can’t tell you why. Yet, on the pictures shown here, I took against the sun into an overcast sky, the sky-replacement rescued some horrible pictures…

Five story pagoda at Sensō-ji Shrine, Asakusa, Tokyo – The sky is backlit and totally blown out, the foreground objects were underexposed (too dark). A horrible photo by myself!
– Date: October 2013 – Camera: Olympus E510 – Photo slightly edited in Adobe Lightroom.

The program I used to to the sky replacement is Luminar 4 by Skylum, which allows you to replace a sky with a few mouse clicks. It then gives you expert tools, to adjust the sky layer, in case the problem makes errors auto-detecting what is sky and what isn’t. In the pictures shown from Japan, the program detected the sky perfectly, but in the picture of the Gulfstream Jet taken at Maho Beach, Sint Maarten it detected part of the white jet as part of the white sky. So I had to remove the jet as part of the sky layer (what was a task of one or two minutes).

The same photo as above, but I replaced the sky, added a sun behind the top of the pagoda and activated the “golden hour mode”, thus making the colours a bit warmer. After the inital edit in Adobe Lightroom, all further edits were done with Luminar 4 by Skylum.

Regarding both pictures shown in this thread, which definetly weren’t my best shots, I’m amazed how easy it was to “save” this photos with Luminar. The sky replacement and advanced retouching features definetly give photographers new options to improve their photos and even rescue some bad shots. For people who are equally amazed by these results and want to get started with photo editing, but don’t know where to start, I will soon record a tutorial video how to get started in Adobe Lightroom and Luminar by Skylum.

If you don’t want to wait, get Luminar 4 here and get started right now:

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