Sky Cheating Hell

Learning The Ropes

We had a beautiful Sunday morning sunrise here today. I managed a couple of nice sky photos for future use.

As for other photography, I’ve haven’t really been out for the past two weeks. Most of my spare time has been spent in the office working at the computer and brushing up on a few things. I’ve created a check list for things I want to revisit with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Lately, I’ve been in Lightroom playing with the new Color Grading tool and watching tutorials on editing techniques. I’m thinking this winter will be more of a classroom environment for me. I’ve gotten a little rusty and haven’t been keeping up with the new editing tools, tending to rely more on my old tried and true methods.

I’ve given the new Photoshop Sky Replacement tool a good run around the track and here are some of my suggestions for those of you who think you’ll be making use of this new feature.

  1. Import your sky images into folders by sky type. It will make looking for them a little easier when you’re editing. IE… Horizon shots, sunrises, sunsets, drama clouds, focal length, etc..  For example, if you take a photo of a sky where you are looking up above the horizon, say at an angle you’d see a bird flying, keep those separate so when you have a bird in flight image you want to replace a sky on, you’ll have suitable images taken at that elevation angle. Try to organize them for things of that nature.
  2. When you photograph new skies, use your highest resolution camera. In my case, that’s now a Nikon D850. Reason being, Photoshop will scale those images to your master shot when selected. If your master shot is a high resolution image, ie 24-50 megapixels, and you are trying to use a sky photo taken on a lower resolution camera, you may generate artifacts in your sky when importing.
  3. When taking sky photos, use ISO 100 to keep the noise and dynamic color range optimal.
  4. Check your sky photos for sensor spots. I tend to forget to do this and occasionally, I’ll find a little blob in there. Cameras these days do a better job of cleaning the sensor but don’t fall in to the trap of thinking there aren’t any sensor spots in your skies.
  5. I don’t sharpen my sky photos. I export them as jpg files without sharpening and without a lot of changes to saturation and contrast. You can always edit the final image to tweak things if needed.
  6. When you save your master composite image with a sky replacement, save it as a PSD file with all the original layers. You can always go back to those images and work on the layers if you find something that needs tweaking. Lightroom will give you a composite view of a layered photo and when you export that image as a jpg or tiff file, it will flatten the image at that time and the original layers won’t be disturbed.

I’ll touch on another aspect of “Sky Replacement” again. Sky replacement has been a staple of photography since the day photography was invented. There’s nothing cheating about it unless you’ve agreed to not do it and then do it anyway. Photojournalism is one exception, perhaps photo contests that prohibit it, or a client who demands you use existing skies. Otherwise, if you consider yourself to be an artist, there are no rules to creating art.

I knew the “Photo Police” would be weighing in on this subject as soon at the tool was added to Photoshop. Here’s an example of Photo Police in action, a post on Peta Pixel.

Placing some noble bullshit sentiment about how art is constructed is limiting by nature. If you are trying to sell commercial art and aren’t using every tool in your toolbox, remember this, you are going to be competing for sales with those who do. Ignore the photography police. Make your art look better when you can. There is no sky cheating hell, unless you live in the photography forums of Peta Pixel or DP Review. Me, I live in the Rawah Wilderness. My photos are my business. Keep your photos your business and do what you like to them. My customers are my judge.

Today’s photo is a group of young bighorn sheep learning how to spar. It is Sheep Sunday after all.