3 Secrets to Create a Realistic Sky Replacement in Photoshop

Photo of sky replacement tips

A common problem photographers face when shooting outdoors is how to prevent the sky from looking overexposed or blown-out in images. This can be especially true for portrait photographers who are trying to get a proper exposure on their subject – be it a single person or a group—in an outdoor setting.

Often what will happen is your subject will look great but the sky in the background will appear washed out and boring. There’s a simple way to bring life back to your sky using the power of Photoshop, as photographer Justin Laurens explains in the below video.

“In this video I’m going to show you the best, easiest and most realistic way I’ve found to replace a boring or overcast sky with something a lot more interesting, colorful, and visually appealing,” Laurens says.

“This trick is especially useful for outdoor portrait photographers who might wish to replace a blown-out sky with something more evenly exposed, thereby creating a more professional and attractive look. Now when I say this can be done easily guys, I really do mean three simple steps.”

Watch as Laurens demonstrates his realistic sky replacement technique in the below video tutorial.

“Normally when we look at a scene or landscape with our eyes, we take it for granted how easily we’re able to clearly see both the ground and the brighter sky above,” he explains. “Unfortunately, the digital sensors in our cameras don’t yet have the dynamic or tonal range that our eyes do, making it very difficult for both the ground and they sky to be both properly exposed and visible in the same shot.”

Here are the three easy steps to take in Photoshop to swap in a sky that will make your outdoor portrait pop. We’ve included time-stamps where you can see Laurens’ demonstrations of each technique in the video.

Step 1: Sourcing Your Sky Replacement Image (2:08-minute)

Step 2: Cut Out Your Sky Replacement Image (2:57)

Step 3: Blend in Sky Replacement Image: Blur & Lighting (4:06)

Step 3.2: Blend in Sky Replacement Image: Colors (8:19)

Bonus Tip: Blend in Sky Replacement Image: Grain/Noise (9:42)

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