Four Methods for Replacing a Sky in Photoshop

Replacing a sky is one of the most common and useful skills a Photoshop user can have, and there are several ways to go about it. If you are beginning to learn the technique, this awesome video tutorial will show you four different ways to go about it using Photoshop. 

Coming to you from Milky Way Mike, this great video tutorial will show you four different ways to replace a sky using Photoshop. While this video is geared toward astrophotography, sky replacement is a technique that has uses in many genres, including landscape work, weddings, real estate, and more. It can be a bit of a controversial thing, but I think it is a very useful tool, particularly in situations in which second chances or shooting another day are not an option. When it comes to astrophotography, it can be especially useful, as if you want to get a particularly good exposure of the sky, you will have to use an equatorial mount to cancel out the rotation of the earth, but then, you will blur the ground if you do not take a separate exposure without the mount moving. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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kellymckeon's picture

My only question to you Alex, and Fstoppers contributors. Once the sky is replaced, have we lost ownership of our photograph. Replacement seems more like a collaboration, though I understand it’s use and popularity.

Unlike utilizing Photoshop to creat original works of art, replacing a sky with another photograph or algorithm feels like a partnership of sorts, two photographers working on the same image.

Curious how others feel about this.

Richard Tack's picture

Is Warhol's soup can art his or does Campbell's get some of the credit? The Milky Way tutorial composite could make a wonderful fine art print. The only ownership problem is if it is monetized without credit and/or compensation to the creator(s). That said, there are a slew of sellers specializing in skies specifically for sky replacement use.

I've used the handful you get with Photoshop; you can't just throw one in there, it takes a good eye and some skill to select the right one for the image at hand. Then there is the various modifications that need to be done. So, if I bought the sky images, sussed out the best one, modified it to match my image, I'd say I owned the whole thing, but would not mind at all admitting that it was a composite of two photographs.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Campbell's got paid right away from the obvious (at least to me) publicity. I bet the art still sales cans today. In fact if you search, from my quick study, Warhol's name seem to not even been printed, may be in purpose, on his Coca cola or Campbell's art. So yeah, Warhol got Campbell's paid and credited on day one.
I always knew that people replaced skies, but now that's it's an actual tool made easy for the masses, I feel it's very bla. I don't credit any sky replaced image anymore now that it went from cool to expected.
I am more interested in copyright situations in CGI photography than boring sky replacement.

Richard Tack's picture

The comment was not referring to Campbell's Soup Company being compensated, but as the **artist/creator** of the object that Warhol pretty much simply made a duplicate of.

In any event, I find it hard to conclude that Campbell's had any measurable revenue from Warhol's soup can art; prior to the exhibition in 1962, the company already was selling four out of every five cans of prepared soup in the United States.

Further, I would think that the major purchaser of Campbell's Soup was your average housewife who most likely had never heard of Warhol or had seen this particular art. If she had seen it, the impact would have been minimal because she already had viewed it every time she walked into the local grocery store, went to her pantry or kitchen cabinet where the original art, in 3D, resided, on the soup cans themselves.

jim hughes's picture

I prefer option #5: take your best shot and accept your fate.

IMHO, sky replacement hardly ever works, really. It ends up in the "uncanny valley". I have a blog post about it. Feel free, of course, to flame me; opinions vary.

Richard Tack's picture

I think it is simply a matter of developing the technique of matching the donor sky adjustments (brightness, contrast, light direction, focus sharpness, texture, etc.) to the recipient image. The two samples on your page do not really exemplify the correct process, particularly the Venice shot. I agree with your critique and probably no sky has ever appeared like that, anywhere.

jim hughes's picture

Venice? You mean Portland, Maine?

That one is a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Richard Tack's picture

Sorry, effed that one up. Had I looked at it long enough, "image of the harbor," although that sky is probably equally horrific for any foreground except perhaps a nuclear fission event.

Carl Marschner's picture

Want a better sky? Then shoot a better sky.

Richard Tack's picture

Good idea, but somewhat difficult on vintage photo retouches shot by others.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

That's what some people do. They shoot their own collection of skies and then later use those for sky replacement. :P