Sky replacement in photos was never easy. It required advanced knowledge and precise, time consuming techniques. Until recently. Skylum’s Luminar was the first software that used AI to automatically replace sky in a photo. And now Adobe Photoshop followed and I decided to give it a test. Here are the results and my thoughts on this.
First step is to update Photoshop app in Adobe CC. In the new version, the sky replacement is found in Edit>Sky replacement. This opens dialog and the last used sky is automatically applied to your photo. You can choose from default skies that are included in Photoshop or you can open your own skies. You can even purchase a sky replacement pack for unlimited use. Let’s take a look how this works.
Sky replacement examples
In the above example I first expanded the canvas to add room for more sky. Then I simply selected one of the included skies in Photoshop. No additional adjustments to sliders in the Sky Replacement window. After that I painted in the mask to the point where I wanted the sky and applied original 3×2 ratio crop. Less than two minutes work. The AI did a great job blending the two images. I cannot see any mistakes on 100% zoom. There is discrepancy in light though – the direction of the sun is different, but the image still looks realistic enough.
For this photo of a WWII monument I used one of my own skies for replacement. I simply chose “Add new sky” and imported the starry sky photo. Again, no additional adjustment needed.
For my third try I deliberately went for something more dramatic. Again, I imported one of my Aurora shots as a sky replacement photo. This time I had to fiddle with sliders to make it more “realistic”. I dragged the sky to a better alignment, played with Temperature and Brightness sliders for sky and with Lighting and Color sliders for foreground. The AI did a great job with blending the edges.
This image above was a little trickier. First, the layers of hills are fading away and this usually requires precise manual work with brushes. And second, the white balance of the two images is very different and I would probably need to edit the sky to match the landscape first. I was able to bring these two parts closer with slider in Sky replacement window, but I am still not 100% happy.
My thoughts on replacing skies
Replacing skies in Photoshop or Luminar got much easier with AI assisted technology. There is still much room for improvement. For example, photos where there is no clear separation between the landscape and the sky, the software struggles. Also water surfaces with reflections, this looks obviously fake. Luminar already announced that next version will solve this problem. For the best results one has to (loosely) match white balance, focal lengths and direction of light.
This technology is now part of our world and as with every other novelty there are arguments for and against it. Some people will argue that there is too much fakery in photography already. But this is just a neutral tool. It is up to us how are we gonna use it.
Pro real estate photographers will find this feature very handy. Instead of hoping for luck when time is limited, they can now provide their clients with better images at lower cost. Same goes for tourism photographers. What to do when you are on assignment to photograph inviting destination images and the sky is totally hazy and without any clouds? And many enthusiast photographers will find it easy to improve their photos – this was a domain of skilled individuals until now. On the other hand it will be even more important to be genuine with your intent. We should never be misleading and use this techniques only where appropriate.
What are your thoughts on sky replacement technology? Will you use it in your photography? Comment below to let me know your thoughts! Thank you!