We all love a great landscape under an amazing sky. Clouds, sunlight, sunrays, and colors are often preferred over a simple and dull sky. But sometimes, nature doesn’t show us the things we like to see, something that can be frustrating if we can’t go back a second time. Is there a solution?
Almost every landscape photo can profit from a great-looking sky. If the sky isn’t filled with amazing cloud formations, lovely sunlight and sunrays, and tantalizing colors, we’re often not happy. For this, we scrutinize our apps to choose the best time and circumstances to increase the chances for the best possible skies.
We set our alarm clocks hours before dawn to be on time at the right location. Or we stay out late to catch the last light of the day. We look at the humidity to predict the chances of a light ground mist, or we look at the clouds cover at certain altitudes.
No matter what we do to choose the best moments for the perfect sky, Mother Nature will surprise us nevertheless. The clouds vanish just before sunset, or a thick layer of low clouds obscures a sunrise. Despite all the apps, it’s not always predictable.
This is also fortunate, because it means we often end up at great locations with all sorts of light. It prevents us from photographing the same landscape and sky as everyone else. Besides that, if the situation isn’t to our liking, we can always return on another day. Well, not always. Sometimes, we can’t go back so easily.
Go Back When the Light Is Better, Unless You Cannot
No matter how many preparations we make to achieve the landscape photo we have in mind, there is a chance it won't work out the way we prefer. Don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t, because you can go back another time. It also has a benefit, because you learn how the light and season changes the landscape you want to shoot.
If the landscape is nearby or at an hour's travel distance by car, going back is no problem. Just go and see how the sky turns out. But if the travel distance is more than a few hours by car, the situation is completely different. Although you can go back in theory, it takes some planning and determination.
What if you are on a guided photo tour? In that case, the chance of going back to that specific landscape is nearly impossible. There is a travel schedule you have to stick to. It means you’re at that specific landscape at that one time, no matter what the weather situation is. You have only one opportunity to shoot at that location.
This also applies if you’re on a holiday. Perhaps you stay at one location for a few weeks. This will allow you to go back, but often within limits. If the weather situation is stable, it may not change a lot during your stay. Perhaps another season would be better. In other words, you can't always go back at the best time.
Solution One: Use a Sky Replacement
If the sky is boring, just use a sky replacement tool. Software like Photoshop offers an easy and quick way of changing a sky into something more interesting. Luminar is another one, as you may know, since it’s something they advertise about a lot. Just push a button, choose one of the available skies, and you’re done. You can even buy new skies packages or use your own.
The sky replacement result from Luminar AI. It looks nice at first, but it is recognized as a Luminar sky immediately And the light doesn't match at all. It's clearly a fake.
Although it may seem like a great solution, I don’t like it one bit. This is just photo manipulation, which has nothing to do with photography. It mimics a light situation, but a keen eye will see it’s not real. Although the masking is advanced, it’s often far from perfect, and the light direction doesn't match that often. But most of all, the skies that are used are often seen in other images also, meaning sky replacement will become obvious. Bottom line, I don’t think sky replacement is a good solution at all.
Solution Two: Don’t Capture the Sky at All
If you don’t like the sky, why use it in the frame? I never capture the things I don’t like. If I don’t want a subject in my landscape, I try to avoid it. If I don’t want an ugly tree or bush in the frame, I change my composition. If the sky is boring and it adds nothing to the photo, why have it in the frame?
There is no rule that states that you have to have a sky in your landscape photo. Landscapes without a sky are also possible. These may look different, but that’s the beauty of them. You’ll end up with a completely different landscape photo. Use the elements in the landscape, and perhaps you’ll end up with a unique photo of that location.
Solution Three: Use a Natural Window
It will ask a lot of your creativity, but that’s what makes photography so much fun. But be aware, it won’t work for every landscape.
You have to see a photo as a two-dimensional display of a three-dimensional world. There is no depth in a photo, only the illusion of depth. If you manage to look at an image in two dimensions, you will notice how the frame is composed of planes, one of which is the sky. If the sky is boring, this plane will be even without a lot of detail. Why not fill it with detail?
If the plane is occupied by a sky without detail, you can add something — tree branches, for instance. Or you can use silhouettes of the foreground. It is possible to make a sort of window and show the landscape through that window.
You can take it a step further and use black and white to make it more artistic. Don’t get me wrong, black and white is by no means a way of making a dull photo more interesting. Use black and white deliberately to achieve a certain feel to the photo.
By adding elements in the plane that is occupied by the sky, you can make a great landscape photo under a boring sky. This may be more difficult in certain landscapes compared to other landscapes, but you should give it a try. You’ll discover it is possible to shoot great landscape photos under every possible light and weather situation.
Do You Have Other Ideas for a Landscape Photo Under a Boring Sky?
I offered two solutions for shooting landscapes under a boring sky. I don’t count a sky replacement as a good solution, but I mentioned it nevertheless. Do you have another idea that offers a solution for great landscape photos when the sky is not that interesting? Please share it in comments below.