A Photographers guide to Photoshop.

I was once told that the camera never lies. However the person saying this had clearly never used Photoshop. The following is a guide to help whoever is interested to learn some of the finer points to cheating in Photoshop to improve a picture.

Now before I get going a word of warning. The methods described in this guide will not turn your pictures immediately into works of art worthy of acceptance by the Royal Photographic Society. They will merely enhance what is already there.

Okay enough with the words and let’s get on with the show.

from this


with the help of this

Replacing the sky.
The process described here replaces the sky entirely with a new sky. Further guides will detail other sky enhancement methods.
Whenever I go out I end up taking a shot or two of clouds or particularly dramatic skies and add them to a bank of sky shots that I have got back at home. Frequently in England I find that when you get the shot that you want you are invariably let down by the weather, a featureless sky in blue or white can detract from the shot. Alternatively you end up blowing out the sky as you concentrate on the foreground subject.

1. Always shoot in RAW that way in Photoshop you can recreate the same settings for different images.
2. Open the Foreground interest image (in this case the deck chairs) and take note of all the Raw settings, then while leaving the Foreground interest image open, open the sky image you want to use and in the RAW editor screen apply the settings that were used for the Foreground interest shot. Note, these settings are just a guide and if you may find yourself adjusting the RAW settings to produce a more dramatic sky.
3. Once both are open in the main Photoshop window take a selection from the sky shot of the part of sky you wish to use. It doesn’t have to be the same size as the foreground image so larger or smaller doesn’t matter. In the Layer menu select ‘New Layer’ and then ‘Layer via Copy’ (Ctrl+J) and in the layer menu your sky selection in now a new layer floating over the background.
4. Resize the images so that you can see the contents of both but ensure that the sky image remains the active page. From the ‘Layer palette’ bottom right of screen, highlight the sky layer that was made previously and then whilst holding down the left mouse button and the shift key drag the sky layer to the foreground image (holding the shift key down merely centres the layer in the foreground image). You can now close the sky image as the layer is now part of the foreground image.
5. Select the ‘arrow’ (move) tool from the tool palette and drag the sky layer to roughly where you want it. Then from the ‘select menu’ select the transform tool (ctrl+T). Transform allows you to grow, shrink, rotate or manipulate the layer in a variety of ways. In this case you want the sky layer to cover the area that you want as sky (make sure it overlaps the foreground image and other edges) when you are happy with the size and position of the sky press the tick in the active toolbar (Photoshop will not let you do anything else until you confirm you are happy with the transformation)
6. With the sky layer still active change the blending from ‘Normal’ to ‘Multiply’. As long as the sky layer in the background layer was pretty featureless (i.e. blown out) then the replacement should fit. Well okay we still have to blend the edges in but that’s easy…
7. blending the edges, firstly with the sky layer still add a layer mask to the layer. This is from the layer palette and is the rectangle with the circle inside, once you click on it you should see a white box in the palette next to the sky layer and there should be a thicker black line surrounding it (this signifies which bit of the layer you will effect, clicking the little thumb of the sky and then the white box next to it should make the black square jump) .
a. if you have a horizon line such as in a seascape or landscape then the easiest way to blend is to select the gradient tool and from the menu bar select foreground to transparent and then play about drawing gradient transitions on the layer mask. Clouds don’t go to the horizon they sort of disappear into a haze just before they get there so that is what you are trying to duplicate.
b. more complicated shots where you have buildings or trees need a different approach. It takes longer but the effect is quite easy to achieve. Select the brush tool and make sure that you have black and white selected as the foreground and background colours respectively. You need to select 100% hardness from the brush menu and with a medium sized brush paint black into the layer mask, taking your time to only paint black where you don’t want sky. As you get closer to the edges you need to reduce the brush size and it helps to zoom in and take your time. If you go over the line simply switch the brush colour to white and paint where the sky was.

For tree’s it’s a little trickier to get a clear line on all the branches. To do the trunk and larger branches the method detailed at b. works but for the small branches simply reduce the opacity of the brush to about 40% and with a large Soft brush (hardness at 0%) simply paint over the parts that appear most unbelievable (most probably where colour from the sky shows in front of the branches).

Bish Bash Bosh, job done! Sky replaced.

A Photographers guide to Photoshop.

Andrew Walker

Joined June 2008

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

A guide to manipulating photographs

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  • MKWhite
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