Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Posted on by Jason

This is how I do sky replacement the easy way!

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

There are times when you have a great shot, but the sky looks dull and boring and something more dramatic would turn the shot in to something special. I’ve started to gather a range of sky shots which I can use to drop in to a shot to make it more interesting and I’ve adapted a technique to replace the sky which is easy and quick. I do vary the selection process a little at times, but the basic process is detailed below.

First we start with a shot which would benefit from a better sky. This is completely unprocessed and needs colour correction and brightening up, not to mention a nicer sky. 🙂

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

This is the sky I intend to use to improve the picture.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Start by opening both images in Photoshop and duplicating the background layer of the working file (the church shot in this case). Make sure you have the duplicated layer selected.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Use the eye dropper to set the foreground colour to that of an area of the sky. Then on the Select menu, choose Color Range. Alter the Fuzziness slider, to include more or less colour range. You can also use the eye droppers on the right to select further areas of the image in the Color Range dialogue.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Alternatively, for plain, light skies, you can choose Highlights in the Select drop down. The selection preview will allow you to see the mask applied to the main image. Don’t worry about areas like the wedding dress, we’ll paint those out later.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Click Ok and you will return to the image with the non-sky areas selected. Click the Create Mask button at the bottom of the Layers palette. This will create a mask of the selected area. Hold down ALT and click the mask to see it on the main image and paint black back on to the wedding dress and any areas which should be masked. Don’t worry about detailed areas like tree branches – you don’t have to be that accurate for this to work.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Now copy and paste the image with the replacement sky in to your working image. It doesn’t have to match orientation, but should have similar resolution. Position it to suit and use the transform tool (CTRL+T) to tweak if the perspective looks wrong. It’s handy to lower the opacity a little so you can see how it will look on the final image. Then hold ALT and drag the mask from the duplicated background layer to the new pasted image layer.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Set the blend mode to multiply and adjust opacity so that the sky looks natural.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Then it’s just a case of normal editing to get your image as you like it.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Adding a B&W adjustment layer and tweaking the colours works well, or add a tint to get an effect like this. Don’t forget to dodge and burn the sky area if you are looking for a dramatic shot, or create a curves layer and darken the image, but mask out the bride.

Sky Replacement in Photoshop