165. Fix a Bland-Looking Sky
Before You Begin
60 Change Image Size or Resolution
125 Repair Minor Tears, Scratches, Spots, and Stains
164 Replace a Background with Something Else
Nothing can spoil an outdoor photo more than a boring, lifeless skyoverbright, cloudless, and lacking detail or interest. Not that the sky is the most important part of most outdoor photographs; frankly, in most cases, it should be a bit bland looking so that it doesn't steal attention away from your subject. The trouble is that our eyes are naturally drawn to light, so we seek out the lightest areas of a photograph first. So, if you have an outdoor photograph in which the sky is extremely light and lifeless, you might find that the sky steals the "thunder" from your subject, in some cases dominating a photograph. In this task, you'll learn how to quiet that light sky by cloning over it with a better-looking sky taken from another image.
Select Clone Stamp Tool
Open the image with the bland sky you want to change in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. Click the Clone Stamp tool on the Toolbox.
Another way to tame a light, attention-grabbing sky is to darken it a bit using the Burn tool. See 140 Lighten or Darken Part of an Image.
On the Options bar, select a brush tip for the tool, and then enable the Aligned check box. Set other options as desired. For example, you might want to reduce the Opacity if you want to blend the new sky with the old, and not change it that much. See 111 About Tool Options.
To make the cloning process easier, select the Darken blend mode from the Mode list. This blend mode limits the cloning to pixels from the source image (the "good sky") that are darker than corresponding pixels in the target image (the "bad sky"). Because tree pixels are dark anyway, a lighter "good sky" color can't overwrite them, so the trees in your "bad sky" image remain safe and untouched.
With the Aligned option enabled, the source point follows the mouse pointer, even between strokes. This helps you copy the sky exactly, no matter how many strokes you take or in which direction. If the option is turned off, the source point follows the mouse pointer until you release the button, at which point the source snaps back to its original location.
Open Sky Image
Open the image that contains the sky you want to clone. If necessary, click the Automatically Tile Windows button at the right end of the menu bar or choose Window, Images, Tile to tile the two images so that you can see them both. Scroll both windows so that you can see both skies.
Adjust and Equalize Images
Objects in a sky, such as clouds, help your mind establish perspective. If the clouds in your "good sky" image are too big or too small to seem real within the framework of the "bad sky" image, this whole illusion gets shot out of the, um, sky. This perspective problem might be caused by one of three things: different zoom factors for the lenses of the cameras that shot the two photos, different resolutions for the two images, and different photo sizes.
If necessary, change to the "good sky" image and match the resolution and/or size of the "bad sky" image you're editing with the Image, Resize, Image Size command. See 60 Change Image Size or Resolution. After resizing, you might have to scroll the "good sky" image window again.
Establish a Source
Change to the "good sky" image if needed. Press Alt and click on a reference point in the "good sky" image to establish a source. I typically click in a clear area on the left side of the "good sky" image so that I can brush from far left to far right in the "bad sky" image to paint in the new sky.
Paint in Sky
Activate the "bad sky" image. Brush across the bad sky to clone in the new sky. Repeat until the sky has been replaced.
You can create your own sky if you like. Just erase the bad sky using the Background Eraser, insert a new layer below the image layer, set the foreground color to the sky color you want, and the background color to the cloud color, and apply the Render, Clouds filter to the new layer.
View the Result
After you're satisfied with the result, make any other changes and save the PSD image. Resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers (if any) intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want. Close the "good sky" image without saving changes.
This photo, taken at "Granddad's Pond," was pretty good, but the sky seemed very white and less than fitting for this dramatic setting. So, I simply cloned in a sky taken later that same day (if you don't like the weather, just wait a minute…). Before I cloned the sky onto the water, I flipped the source image vertically so that it would look like a reflection of the sky I'd cloned above. Look for this image in the Color Gallery.