As photographers, we are not always graced with the perfect sky. In fact, I have found that more often than not, I get to my destination and find perfectly blue, clear, no clouds, not even a whiff of clouds in the sky! If you have the luxury of being in a single location for a few days, you may get lucky to have the sky change, but that is not always possible. So no fear, there is a solution! So shoot away.
Through the magic of masking, you can add the perfect sky to any image. Some purists (and I used to be one) will say that is cheating. But the way I see it, if you are an artist creating a pleasing image, you have the right to manipulate your image in any way you wish; whether that be making it an abstract, making a color image black and white, using selective color, or even adding a better sky. Images are your creation, and unless you are just recording the location as a journalist, you should feel free to modify and improve upon it.
So with that in mind, here are some tips…
Tip 1: Shoot the sky. If you are out and about and see an incredible cloud formation or sky structure, shoot it. If you see an amazing sunset or sunrise… shoot it. I can be found taking sky shots through my car sunroof, if I see something that I may think will be useful later. I have a collection of over 2500 sky images readily available.
Tip 2: Shoot at varying degrees of angle. For example, don’t just shoot straight up, because if you have an image with a distant horizon, a sky shot facing nearly 90° to the horizon will look out of place, so collect distant horizon shots as well every possible angle of sky.
Tip 3: Collect sky images with all types of hues and saturation. This will allow you to select a sky that most “easily” fits your image, reducing processing time.
Below are some examples to illustrate my point. The original images were ok, but by changing the sky, I believe I have improved the mood and therefore, the story behind the images.
For masking techniques, check out this tutorial on YouTube!
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