With the release of Luminar 4, it has become amazingly easy to replace a boring sky with something more appealing. You only need to pick the sky of your choice, and the artificial intelligence part of the program does an amazing job in masking out the sky and changing it into something else. But should you use it?
Replacing the sky in a photo has been possible since the dark ages of photography, or should I say, darkrooms of photography? Although it was a very difficult job back in those days, it has become increasingly simple to replace the sky in almost any photo. Now, you can do it with the click of a button.
Artificial Intelligence Sky Replacement
Masking the sky can be very difficult and time-consuming. At the end of 2019, Skylum released Luminar 4, with an artificial intelligent sky replacement option. It makes it possible to change a sky with just the click of a button. And it does a really amazing job. The program even changes the overall look of the image by adding a color cast that reflects the mood of the new sky. Now, anyone can do this, without the tedious work with layers and masks in Photoshop or similar programs.
I know, there were other programs available that could do a similar task, but it often required the user to tweak the result afterwards. On a lot of occasions, this is not necessary in Luminar 4. You can tweak the replacement nevertheless, making it almost impossible to see the manipulation — at first glance, that is. But I wonder, should you use this amazing possibility for your photos?
Some Results of the Luminar AI Sky Replacement
I have tried to perform some sky replacement for a small, almost random selection of landscape photos I took somewhere in the last two years. With exception of one photo, I used the standard skies that came with the program. It is also possible to choose a sky from a photo you made yourself. And this is a nice thing, because I have already seen the landscapes with the standard skies that appear on the internet. By shooting your own skies, it is possible to build your own unique library.
Let’s have a look at the manipulations I did in Luminar 4. The replacement sky in every photo is a standard available sky. It may not be the best choice, and you might have chosen a different one, but I think it shows what is possible.
I have to admit, Luminar 4 did an amazing job. For the last one, I even changed the position of the sun and added a few sunrays to hide the existing sunrays. Adding sunrays is another cool option Luminar 4 has to offer.
I have to admit, I did not put a lot of work into these replacements, and they might show some faults in the masking. Most are the result of just a click of a button and perhaps a small tweak to change the color of the landscape.
I also have some other examples. These are performed on one of the images in a bracketed series. I have added the original HDR result for comparison, just to see the difference and how it compares to the real thing. Perhaps it is not a fair comparison, but I wanted to see how they would turn out.
Should You Use Sky Replacement in Your Work?
I'm guessing you agree that the results are really good. Perhaps they can become even better with some more tweaking. But the main question is: should you start replacing skies to make your otherwise boring landscape photo more appealing?
My personal opinion about this sky replacement is simple. No, you should not use this often. It might make your photo more attractive, but it isn’t reality. You are manipulating the image instead of post-processing.
I also believe it will always be visible to the expert, because making it realistic is not easy. Although the sky is replaced with a click, you still have to check on the direction of light, shadows, and even reflections. And never use a standard available sky, because you don't want your image to become known as a photo with a Luminar sky.
For the best results, you will need to have your own, personal set of skies that are usable for these manipulations. By using your own sky, it is also possible to add it a second time as a separate layer to be used for the foreground reflections. This cannot be done with the set of skies that came with the program.
I have a quick example below, where I replaced the sky with one of my own sunset skies and used a separate layer with that same sky for the reflection. Although it is fun to do and gives reasonable results, I really do prefer the original image.
Although the results can be pretty amazing, I personally prefer going to a spot when I expect the light to become beautiful. That way, I will be able to capture the real thing instead. It might take a few tries, but it is more fun than just shooting a daylight picture with an overcast sky and replacing that sky with something else. Don’t you agree?
When Luminar AI Sky Replacement Is Very Welcome
There is one thing for which this kind of manipulation is very welcome. When photographing real estate, a boring gray sky is not very appealing to the customer. In that case, the AI Sky Replacement option in Luminar 4 is very handy. With just a single click, most of the work is done, leaving you to do only a few tweaks if necessary.
I am not trying to prevent you from using the AI Sky Replacement option in Luminar 4. Not by a long shot. I only hope photographers will be honest when using this amazing option and not try to pretend it is the real thing when it is not. This counts for all kinds of photo manipulation, of course.
I do love the possibilities Luminar 4 has to offer with Artificial Intelligence Sky Replacement, and I will make use of it sometimes. But I won’t make a secret of it. And for real estate, it is more than welcome, making the workflow a lot easier.
What do you think about sky replacement? Would you use it for your photography, or have you already done so? I’m looking forward to reading you opinion about this in the comments below. And feel free to share your Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement results.