Replace a Sky

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You can replace a sky in your photos in just a few minutes, and I’m going to show you how to do it. It’s quick and easy using a Photoshop. Here’s the video to demonstrate.

Video: Replace a Sky in Your Photos the Easy Way

How to Use Photoshop to Replace a Sky

As you can see in the video, replacing a sky in your photos is quick and easy. You can do it in minutes. There are two new Sky replacement & Sky Selection features in Photoshop 2020 and later that can handle complex selections, like buildings, trees and other objects.

Instead of trying to brush around everything, you can quickly replace the sky using Edit > Sky Replacement…

The other option is Select > Sky. That’s in case you want to select the sky for processing it individually from the rest of the photo.

How to Use Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Adobe makes this very easy. Here are the steps to replace a sky in Adobe Photoshop.

  1. Open a photograph with a sky you want to replace.
  2. Choose Edit > Sky Replacement.
  3. In the fly-out menu, choose a sky or select one of your own.
  4. Adjust the sliders to blend the new sky color and modify the sky.

I recommend getting your own skies to use as replacements in your photos. Everyone will end up using the images provided by Photoshop, so it’s going to become very obvious that you replaced the sky if you use the same sky that’s provided with Photoshop.

How to use Sky Selection in Photoshop

This is even simply.

  1. Choose Select > Sky from the menu.
  2. Edit the selection using any tool or filter provided by Photoshop.

Unlike Sky Replacement, the Sky Selection doesn’t provide a fly-out menu full of options. The intent is merely to make a selection so you can process the sky separately from another part of the photo.


Adobe introduced a new version of Photoshop at Adobe Max in October of 2020. And this version has a big feature. It's called sky replacement. There's also another feature in there to help you work on skies. And that is going to be a way to select a sky in case you want to enhance the sky that you already have in your photo without going through the sky replacement feature.

So in this video, we're going to take a look at both of those. My name is William Beem. I'm a portrait photographer in central Florida, but I also enjoy doing some travel photography. And even in portraiture, sometimes you need to either replace or enhance a sky just to come up with a look that you're after. So why don't we go ahead and take a look.

I've got a couple of photos here and we'll see what happens when, one, we may want to replace a sky or two, we may want to go ahead and enhance the sky that's already there. All right. For this first photo, you can see this is a photo I like to use for sky replacements. It's because it's just very basic and bland. I mean, by itself

you to show up at a location, sometimes you don't always get the sky that's as dramatic as you would want. So in this case, I just have a bald sky. And when I say bald, I mean, there's no clouds. There's no features. It's just blue. And you can see down here at the bottom, there's just a little bit of orange from where the sunset is going on.

So if we want to go ahead and replace the sky in Photoshop, we will come up to Edit, and choose Sky Replacement. This is going to give us a new interface. By default, there are some skies that Adobe has created. Don't use these. Everybody else is going to use these. So my recommendation is you go ahead and get your own skies,

but for the purpose of the demo, we're just going to choose this one. And there's a couple of features on here. So you can shift the edge. The reason you may want to do this, let's say that you're replacing a sky, but there are some clouds or some features you want in there. You can move this edge up or down,

depending on which way you go with this little slider to reveal some of the existing sky. So the more you move this over to the right, the more it's going to bring in the sky that you're using for replacement. If you move it too far, though, look, what's happening over here on the railing. And over here, you see it's kind of taking over.

So you want to be careful about how far you shift that edge, because you may actually obliterate part of your subject. Now you can also fade the edge a little bit. It was up there on a hundred. Let's see. Yeah, that doesn't help us at all. So I'm gonna bring this back over here to 12, and we'll go ahead and leave the fade edge up there,

but you can kind of fade that out. There are some adjustments. If you want to change the brightness of the sky, we can make this much brighter. We can bring the exposure down and make it much darker. And the same thing with the temperature, we can make it warmer or cooler depending upon your needs. And every photo is gonna be different.

Every sky is gonna be a little bit different. We can also scale the sky. So you may want to make the sky a little bit larger, a little bit smaller depending upon the sky and the clouds that are in there. Again, it's really going to depend on what you need. The flip checkbox is, in my opinion, in case you need to change the orientation of the sky,

Let's say that you take a photograph with a sunset on the left and you need it on the right for your photo. Flip will just let you do that very quickly and easily. So we'll take that off. Foreground adjustments. This is where you can change the blend mode. And it's going to depend upon the sky as to which blend mode is right for you.

So you can go ahead and say, do you want it a little bit lighter with screen? Do you want a little bit darker with multiply? You can adjust the lighting a little bit with spring this over here and then back over there. So you can see there are subtle adjustments in the sky, and then you can also adjust the color. I won't go off to that.

And then you've got the output. I like to leave it as new layers. If you go duplicate layer, you don't have the different layers that you can adjust and use, and that's gonna be important in just a moment. So I'm going to leave that on new layers. We're going to hit, okay, we'll let this process. So you can see over here,

what it's done is created a foreground color, and it's basically taking some of the color from the sky that you've selected and implemented it on your subject. If I take this off, you can see particularly up here in the dome, let me turn this back on. So that's what the foreground color on and that's what at off. So that's a nice feature to make sure the lighting and the color of your sky and your subject blend together.

And you've got the same thing here with foreground lighting. So I'll turn that off and on. And again, mostly it's on the dome. And then of course, you've got the feature where you've got your sky. What you don't see here is in this reflective surface, it's replaced the sky, but there's no reflection. If you want to do that in Photoshop,

you've got to take a few extra steps. So if you look over here on your layers, you'll notice that they're linked. What you want to do next is unlinked this. So you can unlink the layers. And what we're going to do is we're going to make a duplicate of this. I'm going to hit command J on Mac control J on windows. And I'm going to take this bottom one and we're going to change that reflection.

Not that we have to, just so I know which one I'm working with. Now, the purpose of doing the reflection is so that I can go ahead and flip this. So we select this sky and I'm going to get rid of this mask because that's not the one that we're going to need. So we've got that sky selected. We're going to go up to edit,

to transform and flip vertical. And I'm going to select my move tool. And I'm just going to bring this down and I want it roughly about there. What we've got to do next is we've got to take this sky and put it inside of the reflective area. So I'm going to turn this layer off. So it's not distracting our view. We're going to come down here and select the background layer and I'm going to hit W, which is going to give me the quick selection tool.

And what I want to do is I want to select this part that's reflective without overriding this part that's reflecting the building. So we're just going to come over here and we'll probably have to fix this a little bit, but we're just going to try and select this, get that area. And now I've got to go back and just make sure that I've got the reflection of the Capitol dome in here kind of correctly.

And I want to bring this in a little bit tighter, same thing over there, fix this a little bit. Now it's also selected this area, which we don't want someone to hold down my option key to kind of get rid of that. And I kind of want to bring this up right about there. So now you can see the area that we have is just

this part right here. The next thing we want to do is hit Select and Mask. Because you can see over here it's not including this little railings. If I go ahead and use a selection, as it is, when I try to reflect the sky, it's not going to come through that area. And it's just a little bit of a giveaway. So let's hit Select and Mask.

We want to choose this second tool right over here and get a brush and just kind of brush over this area so that we can reveal those little areas inside of there. And you can see that it didn't quite get this just right. So we're going to go ahead and brush over this part of the mask and do the same over here. And we want to get rid of this area and I think that's going to be good enough.

So we want to output this to a selection. So I've already got that here. You can choose the layer, mask or other things. I like to use a selection and we'll see why in just a moment. So let's hit, okay, now that we have that selection, we want to come over here to our reflection. I turn that on and we want to come up to layer Layer,

Layer Mask, Reveal selection. So now you can see that we've got the reflection just in there where we want it, and we can take the opacity and bring that down a little bit. And if your selection, wasn't just quite right, you can go back and you've got a mask. You can go back and brush some of that in where you need to.

I think that this is probably the area that I'm worried about. This other part over here is reflection. I might bring this down a little bit more, maybe about 30, and then that way you've got your reflection of the sky inside. So if you're going to replace a sky and particularly if you have a reflective surface, that's how you can do it.

Replacing the sky, I think works very well, but you need to do a little bit of extra work if you have a reflective area that you might need to mask that in. Now, let's go over to another photo. This is a photo that hasn't been processed, and I don't really think I need to replace the sky. I might need to get rid of a couple of,

you know, sensor dust spots over here. But what I want to do is I want to select this sky to enhance it without enhancing the entire image. There is a new tool called Select and Sky. So you can see it's done the same thing as it would with the sky replacement. It's figured out the lines where the sky is. Now you've got that.

You can use that selection to create a mask anywhere else. So I'm gonna go hit command D or control D on windows to get rid of that. What I'm gonna do instead is I'm going to come down here to my functions. And let's say that we start off with levels. It automatically creates a mask. You could, you could have used that mask that was there.

You can go ahead and delete this mask. And then you might want to come in here and say Select Sky. And you notice it works even on an adjustment layer. And then now you can go ahead and say, Layer Layer, Mask, Reveal selection. So now you've got levels that works on a sky. We can kind of dark and things a little bit.

We can brighten. If we wanted to, in this particular sky, I don't really want to brighten anything. I kind of want to make it just a little bit darker with my levels. And that brings out a little bit of color. Now let's go ahead and let's say, we want to do a few more things. We might want to enhance the color here.

And we also might want to change the levels here. An easy way to do that is just to go ahead and hit command J or control J. We replace that then we'll come over here, select the layer and hit command I or control I to invert the mask. So we've still got the same mask, but now we can go back and change these to brighten up this foreground area.

So we haven't really impacted too much, but let's take a look at our before and after. And it gives us a good starting place. You can continue on with your adjustments. If you want to, you can say Hue and Saturation. Let's go ahead and delete that mask. Then I'll go ahead and Select Sky, Layer, Layer, Mask, Reveal selection.

And now you can go ahead and tweak these, or you can go ahead and use some of the presets. One of the ones I kind of like is this Increased Saturation More, and it's not terribly over the top, but you can see the difference that it made just like here in the clouds and so forth. And you still have all the room that you want.

You can use Hue and Saturation. You can use Color Balance or anything you want, but the nice part about it is you can easily select that sky and then create a mask and then use any of the tools that you want in Photoshop to tweak that selection. And it just a nice and quick and easy way to go ahead and process the sky and your foreground area separately.

I got to admit, this is much faster than what I used to do, trying to make selections of a sky, particularly like for that Capitol building photo. I worked on that photo a few years ago to replace the sky and also to replace the foreground. And it just seemed much more difficult than, than it is now. Photoshop continues to give us great tools for selections and handling features like this.

And I'm really happy with it. So if this was helpful for you, I would love it if you would like this video and please go ahead, share it with a friend. If you'd like to see more of this, go ahead and hit subscribe and click the bell notification icon. I like to do videos at least once a week, sometimes more on different photo post-processing tools.

So if that's the thing that you like, I'd love it if you'd subscribe, we'll see you again in the next video.

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