The Overdub

I’ve received a little feedback over the past few weeks concerning the rationalizations for replacing skies in some photos. Mostly the typical arguments and sentiments regarding maintaining originality or integrity of the photographed scene. Some photographers get it, others don’t. I don’t begrudge anyone their opinion, but I have my own and I’m sticking to it.

From my perspective, the only time you shouldn’t edit a sky in your photo if you feel it is needed is if you are required to not edit the sky. It’s that simple.

I have quite a music collection, mostly old guy stuff from the rock-n-roll era, but some classical and jazz. A lot of my music catalog is live recordings. If you’re a true music aficionado, you’ll know that many of the most popular live music recordings have been modified from their original. How so? The record producer and sound engineers and artists are often brought back into the studio to overdub studio instruments into the live tracks. Usually to augment the live recording or to clean or improve the sound in weak spots during the live performance, or to even add extended portions to the songs on the live recording. It’s an old practice and when done properly, you never hear the difference, because you never heard the original and its weaknesses. You buy the overdubbed music and bask in the glow of a live recording. It’s commercial art and it helps the sales of the material.

Photography as commercial art is the same basic idea. For most purchasers, it’s the final image that matters, not how it was derived. I’ve found that from a stock photography perspective, a typical landscape photograph will sell 2-3 times better than a typical wildlife photo. There are exceptions of course, but landscape photography is by far the more commercially profitable of the two subjects.

One thing about landscape photography though. You plan your trip and when you get there, sometimes the elements don’t cooperate with what you want to achieve. Most recently and relevant from my perspective is the blue sky syndrome. The last two autumn photography trips I’ve made in Colorado consisted of days with clear blue (bald) skies. Most photographers I know don’t like bald skies. They are uninteresting for the most part. I like clouds or dramatic skies at least. Skies make or break your photographs. They can also make or break your sales of images.

I’ve been working through my landscape photos for images that have bald blue skies. Most of them were never offered for sale or even edited, as I simply didn’t want to try selling what I considered to be generally boring images.

I’ve found a couple dozen images so far that were great candidates for sky replacement. Having a good tool to change a boring image to something a little more interesting will increase my bottom line. I know because some of my recent edits are already selling on the stock agencies.

From my view of the road, what is most important about editing the skies in your photos is to make it look realistic. One must pay attention to the scene and the technical aspects of the photo such as color temperatures and natural light hitting the subject of the photo, selecting a sky replacement that keeps the perspective, color and mood correct for that image.

I will also admit to you that I fibbed to you earlier. One of these images has the original sky in it. Tell me which one it is and you win an all expenses paid trip to your back porch while you hunker down during the Pandemic.

Lizard Head Wilderness, Colorado


Have you figured out which photo has the original sky in it?