In The Desert
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There are a lot of filters for enhancing the blue coloration in the sky in most imaging programs. Just correcting the levels adjustment will sometimes help if the sky has a light blue coloration to begin with. See this Page ( under the heading Using Levels ) for more on using the Levels Adjustment, you can also use the Dodge Tool ( explained in the link above, also ) to darken a sky that's too light and sometimes if you use a low setting the Enhance Contrast brush will help. All of these methods only work on some images but you take a chance on deterioration of the variants in the sky by doing this. The alternative to this is to just change out the sky completely. Here's an example of a good candidate for a sky change.
This is a good candidate for 2 reasons: One - the sky can't be fixed by any of the methods above because of the variations in the sky. Mostly white but there is some pink and quite a bit of blue that's going to show pixilation in the areas where the blue merges with the white causing it to turn purple in smears. In the rock photo above we wanted the sky to look nice. We added a little brush work to the rock with a Dodge tool to lighten up the area in the Ghost rock's mouth and added a little more contrast to the lighter areas of the rock. The second reason this is a good candidate, there are no trees or bushes sticking up into the sky to make this a real time consuming project. Next we'll show you how easy it was to achieve the desired effect.
The top one was our first try and it looks okay - certainly better than the original. The one below that with the Compliments of in-the-desert.com on it is what we decided on. It's a little more dramatic. Now you've seen photos like this on the Internet and wondered how they could have gotten that photo? Were they just there at the right time? Maybe? Or maybe not. Some people call this cheating -- it's art -- and it's the digital age so take advantage of it. This picture doesn't lie about anything, the rock formation is there just as you see it above. But which one would you rather look at or print for a wall hanging? Remember your eyes see the interior of the cave ( his mouth ) so why not make it look like the eye would see it? Is that cheating? Of course not. We've all tried to or would like to enhance our photos to some degree. This is just another way to make the sky look good. Here are a few candidates for the sky replacement.
We keep a folder in the computer called sky backgrounds. Here is a small collection of several different variations of backgrounds. When your out with the camera don't hesitate to take photos of the sky, when you have pretty cloud formations or threatening storms approaching. Save them for later use to enhance a photo with a drab looking sky. Using the mask mode - next.
There's too many imaging programs to get into the details of how to make a mask. This one ( inside the dotted line ) was made by color selection. You may have to go to mask mode and use the paint brush to make the mask. The area of sky that's red is where the mask is. It needs to be inverted so you have the rock available to move over to a sky background. Play with this in your imaging program, it's worth the short amount of time it will take to learn how to use it. Try different setting if your using the select by color mode. Then put the rocky hill into the sky background and you have a striking image with some character.
One other thing we should mention here. Make sure the sky background you choose works with the base image. The one to the right DOES NOT! Make sure the light on the clouds is coming from the same direction to blend in with the base image. The image on the right was taken on a cloudy overcast day and if the sky had looked like it does here then the walls on the sides of the wash would have been colored an orange to reddish color also. So this doesn't look natural at all. Be careful when you pick a background. Take a lot of different background photos at different angles to the light so you'll have something that will work.
While this sounds like a lot of work and time -- it isn't. Getting a large supply of backgrounds will take a while, just remember, when you're out with the camera to shoot some nice skies when they're available. Making the change, like the Ghost Rock photo above, only took about 25 minutes of work and it was worth it. Give it a try and practice doing this, you'll find it very rewarding.
Don't let all this get you down, it's extremely fun and with a little help you'll soon get the hang of it. Imagine programs today are easier to use than in the past. And a lot of times you can save a photo that you other wise might have deleted..