Enhancing skies

Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 17:57
I was looking at a reader's photo in an old copy of Practical Photography in which the reader observed that the sky in the original was featureless and white (I guess through overexposure). However, through pp-ing they had achieved what was a quite characterful sky that had colour and shade (though little texture) and which didn't look artificial.

Now I'm wondering - particularly with this image in mind: link (#1 in which the sky is a weak point), but also more generally - what tips people might have for enhancing skies through pp-ing (short of replacing them).



Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 18:12
Shoot in raw is one, it has more range and therefore if you clip the sky it might still be recoverable in RAW.

Don't have any other tips though, most things I do in PP is on feel.

K10D, K5
DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135, D-FA 100 Macro, DA 40 Ltd, DA 18-55


Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 18:35
I quite like the sky on that shot actually, it suits the mood of the image - you wouldn't want to take away from the peacefullness with a bright vibrant sky?

Ill have a play round and see what I come up with
K20D, DA18-55II, FA50 1.4, DA10-17
To buy: Metz 58 AF-1, DA*50-135, DA12-24, DA100M


Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 18:45
you could try pulling in the highlights with the highlight recovery tool, then selective ly adding some saturation and contrast... but I kinda like it as is.
Fired many shots. Didn't kill anything.


Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 18:46

darkened the sky and added a slight orange hue to it, while leaving the blue haze intact, suggesting more of a dawn scene, then adjusted colour of ground to match slightly.. probably needs more contrast, but I didnt change exposure

overexposed blue skies its best to darken the blues (if you have lightroom this is very easy) from RAW, add some saturation sometimes.
K20D, DA18-55II, FA50 1.4, DA10-17
To buy: Metz 58 AF-1, DA*50-135, DA12-24, DA100M

Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 19:51
Thanks for the tips all, and in particular cheers Rob for your manipulations.

I like the adjustments you've done to the sky - I think it does work better than the original. More dawn-ish now. Not sure about the ground colour, but I guess as you said you needed to make some adjustment to fit the new sky.

If you have time could you briefly go through how you've made the adjustments (I'm afraid my pp-ing skills are sadly rather basic).

BTW, where have you been - haven't noticed you posting in a long time?



Link Posted 05/11/2009 - 21:30
Well I use Adobe Lightroom, so if you don't then itll be hard to explain
Under develop, you can alter the hue/sat/lightnesss values of each colour range, i altered the blues a bit to make the blue haze more purple, and fit in with the sky. I then selected the neutral density gradient tool (A replacement for using a physical filter, nowhere near as good but got the job done) to slightly darken the sky, and where it says colour I added an orange cast. To alter the ground I went back to the colours section, and fiddled with the oranges and reds.

In photoshop, you could do the same thing. If you press ctrl+u, you are able to alter hue/sat/lightness values as i'm sure you know, but if you look at the drop down menu, you can confine them to single colours, and select a range at the bottom on the slider to confine the values.

As for the sky gradient, if you create a new adjustment layer (layer > new adjustment layer > your choice..) you can change brightness and colour using one layer "brightness/contrast" and one layer "photo filter". By then clicking the layer mask (the white box that appears in your layers pallette) you can drag a black and white gradient over.. where its white, it shows, where its black, it doesn't.

I hope that explains it, i'm afraid im not terribly good at putting my actions into words!

As for where I've been, I figure I've just been too busy to post recently, schools been getting busier with applying to universities and im now coming to the stage of rushing to get photos printed for portfolios, as well as organizing all of my other art work. Fortunately, i've still had time to shoot, I just haven't been posting here as much, though the forums are still in my homepages, so if theres a topic title on the main page that catches my eye, i'll check it out.

K20D, DA18-55II, FA50 1.4, DA10-17
To buy: Metz 58 AF-1, DA*50-135, DA12-24, DA100M

Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 06/11/2009 - 11:13
Cheers Rob, will have a play myself and see what I come up with. I have PSE, but as it's also Adobe hopefully the steps shouldn't be too dissimilar.



Link Posted 06/11/2009 - 13:32
Something like this Andrew??

Used Gimp, but PSE with the addition of Grant's tools does the same.
Copy background into new layer.
Change blend mode to multiply at opacity 60 %
Add layer mask and paint back everything in except the sky. (soft edged brush)
Save to one layer-----> copy layer.
Use gradient tool to put a neutral grey layer over the sky area.
Change blend mode to overlay at 65 % opacity.
Add another layer mask and paint back in everything but the sky.(soft edged brush)

Save out the file, done.

Best regards,


Curious about my photography?? Just Follow the Light.

Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 06/11/2009 - 14:05
Thanks Martin. I like that - it's subtle, but makes a difference.

Currently working on something else, but am going to have to play around with this image to see what I can do.



Link Posted 06/11/2009 - 19:12
I use Photopaint. I enhance things by masking them, adding a feather to avoid an obvious step, and tweak the equalisation, saturations an colour balance until it looks right.

here's an example from a picture I took on 35mm in Norway in 1986


Whole set here ...

[i]Bodies: 1x K-5IIs, 2x K-5, Sony TX-5, Nokia 808
Lenses: Pentax DA 10-17mm ED(IF) Fish Eye, Pentax DA 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8, Pentax-A 28mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-FA 50mm f/1.4, Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7, Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8, Sigma 135-400mm APO DG, and more ..
Flash: AF-540FGZ, Vivitar 283


Link Posted 06/11/2009 - 20:00

Quite similar to Martin.

Added a gradient from black to transparent, adjusted it to have the black bits on the sky, sharpish gradient to transparent. Layer mode overlay or soft light and adjusted opacity.

This is something I do quite frequently with skies. It is like putting on a gradient filter (unless the sky is blown, of course) and does bring out more saturated colours.

In this instance I added another layer with saturation/lightness adjustment. Again I only applied that to the upper part by putting a gradient on the layer mask.

I think it's a great image, just horribly oversharpened.

How inappropriate to call this planet earth when it is quite clearly Ocean. - Arthur C. Clarke
Prieni's PPG page

Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 07/11/2009 - 08:20
Many thanks Ralf for taking the time. It is similar to Martin's - to adapt an English expression: great photographers obviously process alike!

Re. the sharpening - I know, I know. Am making a concerted effort to get to the bottom of this at the moment (see my recent thread of the bridge in your photos), as it really shouldn't be as complicated as it currently seems to be.


Dr. Mhuni

Link Posted 07/11/2009 - 08:25
Interesting shot Smeggypants - the shapes of the mountains remind me more of SE Asia than Norway.

(Thoroughly approve of your avatar BTW - one of my favourite British comic actors).

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