We have tested photoshop’s new sky replacement feature – here’s the verdict
The major Photoshop upgrade of October came with several new features. For landscape, cityscape, and architectural photographers, the most interesting update is the Sky Replacement feature. Luminar has had this feature for about a year already, and finally, Adobe has caught up.
I have a rather tricky waterfall image shot on a gray day with a more or less blown out sky, and I am keen to test out the new feature on this image. How will Photoshop handle all the branches protruding into the sky? Will the algorithm recognize what is the sky part of the image? Blending a sky into this image by hand using masking techniques would most likely have been very time-consuming.
The image is captured in Rondane National Park, Norway, at the end of September 2020. It is a panorama from several verticals.
This is a close-up of the sky, and as you can see, there are quite a few branches set against the sky.
It is time to replace the original sky. You will find the Sky Replacement option under Edit–>Sky Replacement.
A pop-up window appears, which offers various settings or options for the sky replacement.
The very first thing I did is to pick a sky. Photoshop offers various alternatives, but I can also upload my own skies. In this instance, I used one of the pre-installed skies and opted for a cold blue sky.
The next step is to fine-tune everything. I opened up the Sky and Foreground adjustments and played around with the various sliders to see what happens. You can darken the foreground or brighten the sky, or perhaps adjust the sky temperature. If you want, you can make the sky colder or warmer. Since the waterfall image is a panorama, I had to scale up the new sky a tad to cover the old sky.
I also played around with the Fade Edge and Shift Edge sliders to see how that affected the branches protruding into the sky. It is also possible to flip the replacement sky. This option comes in very handy if you would like to use a sunset sky, and it doesn’t match the light direction in the original image.
The Foreground sliders will adjust the area closest to the sky. The brightness slider for the sky and the luminosity slider for the foreground are also important adjustments to avoid edge halos where the sky meets, for example, a mountain.
It is now time to zoom into the image and examine the result.
Preview turned off:
Photoshop has done a marvelous job replacing that old sky. I was happy with the results and clicked OK.
Sky replacement group
Photoshop neatly gathers all the adjustments in a group.
You can now adjust the entire group’s opacity and even add a group mask if you want to. If necessary, you could use a white group mask to paint-out unwanted effects with a black brush. It is possible to adjust each of the layers in the group to my liking. This is what happened when I double-clicked the Sky Temperature icon.
It is a Color Balance adjustment layer that you can fine-tune even more. The down arrow means that the layer is clipped to the layer below, so it only affects that layer.
Here is the Sky mask (alt/opt-click on the mask):
Remember that white reveals and black conceals. It is now easy to see how the mask selects the sky. You can further fine-tune the sky mask if you want to. The trick is to set the brush to the Overlay blending mode and use white and black to paint on the mask to enhance either the darks or the whites.
Just for the fun of it, I also tried a warm sky. Which do you prefer? Warm or cold sky?
It only took me a few minutes to understand the Sky Replacement feature basics, so it is very intuitive and easy to use. I gave Photoshop a challenging image, and the software did a great job adding a new sky to the image. I can only imagine how easy it will be to replace a sky where mountains or buildings constitute the blending line. All in all, I am very happy with the result, and I will not hesitate to take advantage of this new functionality when necessary. What about you?