This fun little photo garnered a bit of attention over on Instagram, including a feature on one of my favorite Hubs, @Camera_Mama.  @Camera_Mama is a fun one because the mods always ask for tips on how something was shot or processed, so I get to learn a lot and usually try to scroll through their pictures often.  For this one, I was asked about adding in the sky.

For reference, here’s the SOOC (straight out of camera) shot:

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Even though it’s far from great right out of the camera, I chose it because of a couple elements.  First, I loved the glow of the setting sun.  When I was actually there, the color of the light was very warm and golden.  That didn’t come through in the shot unfortunately, but that’s what Photoshop is for.  I liked my daughter’s cute expression, the fact that you can see my other daughter behind her with the beachball, and that my daughter appears to be kinda the star of the show here.  I wish there weren’t so many “mergers” going on here – the boy behind my daughter and the other beachball merging into my other daughter’s legs.  I’d have loved to have them clear of merging with anything else, but it was really crowded and this is the cleanest shot I kinda had, so I’m going to go with it.

My settings:  Shot with a d5200 and Sigma ART 18-35 1.8 at 18mm f3.2 1/320 ISO 100.  The reason my settings were this way was because I was shooting and trying to get both of my daughters in focus and I also wanted to retain a bit more detail in the sky, which is why I was at 3.2.  I could have bumped my ISO a little bit, but I probably wanted to stay at 1/320 at least here.

The first thing I do is raw processing in Lr.  I used to do it in ACR, but it’s just easier for me, with my uploading and organizing workflow, to do it in Lr.  After raw processing, we were here:

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Definitely not quite there yet, so I open it up in Photoshop and add my sky.

I am definitely no expert on sky replacement and there are so many great tutorials out there.  I’ve probably seen a dozen and while I don’t subscribe to one method, I just pick and choose from what I’ve seen over the years and have developed my own quick way.  There are even actions which help you place and modify the sky (I have some but I don’t use them.)

But here’s a couple tips from what I’ve learned so far… First, I’d do the sky before anything else.  You don’t want to edit a picture til it’s nearly finished and then decide to add a sky.  Do it first so that all the edits/layers on top have a cohesive look.

Then, you have to have sky overlays to use.  I’ve actually never purchased a sky overlay, although I think the best ones are probably for sale and I’d love to buy a pack when I have some extra cash.  But I’ve gotten all of mine via free downloads, that you can find easily just by googling around.  I was part of a Facebook group that had a member post her personal skies in a dropbox folder.  Then, many people from the group started adding their own skies to the folder, so we all shared what we had.  I wish I could remember that group!  Maybe jump in a few of your favorite photography FB groups and search around for “sky overlays.”

Here’s the overlay I chose:

sky overlay

You need to choose an overlay that has the sun in about the same position in the sky as your photo, for it to look realistic.  This way, the shadows will look accurate, and rim lighting, etc will match up from where the sun is in the overlay.  You can use the transform – flip horizontal to line up an overlay too, if the sun is in the right position, just opposite.  I scroll through the overlays quickly looking for the same “distance from the center” relating to the sun, knowing I can flip the image if needed.

Either before or after you apply the sky overlay to your image, you should probably go into Image – Canvas Size and create a larger workspace for the crop and composition you’re looking for.  As an example, my pictures always come in by default at 20 inches wide and 13.333 inches in height.  So, I might fill in the new size, in inches, as something like 30 width, 23 height.  This will create a big white workspace and you can easily move your sky around.

When you feel good about your sky placement, you can press the keyboard short cut C for Crop.  Then, crop out the white space (or fill it to create a part of the image using the clone tool.)

You can play with blend modes, but I usually use Darken, because it will allow the “darker” color of the leaves in the trees and other silhouetted details to come through, only if the overlay has a darker color than the base layer, will that color information come through. (I’ve also heard Multiply mode might work well on some pictures.)

Then, play with the opacity, I usually lower mine a decent bit until it looks natural.  Then, I work on any areas where the masking didn’t work out great.

I’ll usually take a big soft brush on low flow, maybe 5%, and sweep it along the horizon until the blending looks clean.

I’ll also brush the sky off of the sun area, using low flows, maybe even as low as 3% around the sun so that it’s glow comes through.  If I need a little help in the sun department, I’ll create a stamp visible layer (shift option command E on a mac) and then go under Filter, Render, LensFlare to add a sun.  Sometimes I throw on a mask and brush off the greenish flare rings if I just want the sun.  I will also play with a warm, peachy colored gradient (radial) around the sun.  Lastly, I kinda love using starburst brushes (I found mine for free by googling) and I like to create more sun rays for fun.

Once my sky is all done, I’ll work on the rest of the picture, and obviously you can tell I warmed it up and brightened it a good bit. Here is is one more time, the finished (or almost finished, as I could definitely improve upon the skin):

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little before/after in photoshop!  You can see my other ones here.

As I mentioned on @Camera_Mama, if I had more time to edit it, like if I were going to print it, etc, I would actually work more on my daughter’s skin.  It looks too dark and orangey still to me, so I’d work on it to make it look a good bit better.

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a couple other notes…

For the most definitive tutorial on sky replacement, check out Damien Symonds.  You can go to google or youtube and search for sky overlay or sky replacement and find a million tutorials with different tricks and tips.  You can also search for free sky overlays and I’ve found a ton and try to shoot my own whenever I see a great sky.  The key is keeping them all in one folder that’s readily available.  I’ve taken all but one of Damien’s classes and they’re amazing to get your editing started off on the right foot (and avoid developing bad habits.)

I’ve got my eyes on this sky overlay pack from ClickinMoms too!  I’m also dying to take Mickie DeVries Photoshop class, I know she’s got a ton of tricks.  I actually learned a ton of photoshop tricks, many of which I used in this picture, from Sarah Wilkerson’s Composition & Creativity and I also love anything from SallyKate Molhoek for Photoshop fun.  I’ve also taken many of Meg Bitton’s webinars and workshops.  Hope that helps!

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photographers in gwinnett countyHi there!  I’m Amanda Myers of Crane Creek Photography and you’ve stumbled across my personal blog, which is a random assortment of things that I love.  I am a mom and a photographer in Gwinnett County, GA.  For more information about me, click here.  For pricing information, visit my pricing page.  Click here to contact me directly, or you can email me at amanda@cranecreekphotography.com or call/text 404-838-8997.  Thank you so much for stopping by!

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