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Sky Replacements for Real Estate Photography

I want to introduce some newer methods for doing sky replacements using Photoshop, but not necessarily the techniques you may have seen. 

Let’s delve into some of the new features that Photoshop introduced, for instance, in 2021, aside from their sky replacement tool, which I’m not particularly fond of. However, they have added some other features that can be helpful. Traditionally, I would use the color range method, as I’ve demonstrated in other videos and throughout my books. In this tutorial, however, we’ll explore a couple of alternative options, with three different examples, providing you with tools that you can employ depending on the situation when you need to do sky replacements for real estate. Let’s get started.

The three examples that I’m going to run through in this episode, we can see this real estate photo here. It’s definitely needing a sky replacement. Little overcast too, looking a little gloomy. But the thing is here is that we’ve got these branches, these twigs, these leaves. That is what really makes sky replacements a challenge right to get around this. If you’ve ever done the other methods of sky swap like I show with the color sampling method. By the way if you’ve never seen that I’ll have a link to that video in the description for this video and I’ve also got links down there for on my books that cover this and other pertinent links you might find of interest as well. So check out all those links in the description for this video. But this will be our first example and then the next one is here where it’s a semi-sunny day but we’ve got some challenges because some things will appear will blend into when we try to do a sky swaps. What do we do about that? And then the last one is a unique example where I’m doing an exposure blending.

So you can see at the top here I’ve masked in a brighter exposure, one stop different, so that the back of the house was better lit. Also we have a unique type of sky here, low horizon sun across a blue sky that I want to keep blue. So we’re going to be using two different sky replacements for this real estate photo. This is going to be the first one that we’re going to use, which will be for the first two examples, which will be for this one and also that one we’ll be using this sky. The next one where we want to have a blue sky, I’ve got a blue sky swap. 

 Now, it’s important that when you shoot these sky replacements for yourself, so when you have a chance, you see a sky. capture it. But if you want to save countless hours or time going out and photographing skies, then you can purchase our Sky Replacement Pack

The option that I’m not a big fan of that Photoshop put in was their ability to do a sky replacement. I’m going to show a better alternative with some of their newer tools but what they have here is they have the ability to say go to edit and go to this sky replacement tool. Now in here they’ve got a selection of skies that you could choose from and you could add your own in here if you like. And it does a fairly good job of putting in a different sky as you’d need to. Once you do then you would have a different amount of layers with some other stuff that you could edit manually yourself. I wasn’t really a big fan of this because I would like to have a lot more control over what I’m going to be doing especially when we see some of the caveats that are going to be coming up. So anyways. Let’s just get rid of that.

We’re gonna go back to somewhat of a more traditional approach, but using a new select option. Under the Select menu, there is now Sky, and it does a really good job of selecting the sky, especially when we get into these bits that we’ve got to worry about around these edges of branches and twigs and leaves and stuff. So let’s get started by grabbing our first sky. Now, a lot of times I’ll drag this in from Bridge or something else, but here I’m just gonna go Control-A to select it. Ctrl C to copy it, go back over here to my image, and when I go to Ctrl V, it pastes it as a new layer. Now I’m going to change the layer opacity down to about 50% so I can see where I want to move it, because now I want to use the Move tool and just drag that up to where I don’t see the ground but I’m getting close to the horizon. So let’s say that looks good enough. I’m going to change that opacity over here back to 100%. And then I’m going to add a layer mask. I’m just going to go up to the layer menu and I’m going to go layer, layer mask, and then hide all. So, so far so good. This probably looks very familiar to other sky swaps that you’ve done, that I’ve also shown throughout the books and videos.

Now that we have that sky in place, we can go back down here to this layer and then we can go up to the select menu and select the sky. Now it does a pretty good job. It’s working there. we can zoom in and you can see it did a pretty good job of selecting it. We do have some bleed that came over here, but it’s not really that bad. It missed a little bit in this area, but some of that also is because it’s going to feather that. So let’s zoom back out here. I’m going to go back up here to this top layer, our sky, click on the mask. I’m going to reverse my colors over here instead of being white and black. I want to black and white. So I’m going to press X on the keyboard. And with this mask selected, I’m gonna press Delete. Then I’m gonna reverse my colors back by pressing X again, and now they went back to white and black. I’m gonna press Control-D to deselect that selection. Now I can go in and start seeing, did this do a pretty good job? And you can see here it bled a little bit on the white here. So that can also happen when you’re doing a color selection. So easy way to get that is to just go down here to our layer here, not the sky layer, but our layer here, use a quick selection tool up here. Quick selection. Make sure that you don’t have sample all layers on. Otherwise, it’ll also try to grab the sky and then just do a quick selection here. And you can see we can go quick select it, go back up to the skies mask, press delete, and that’s gone. So let’s inspect some of this at 100% and see how we’re doing. So not too bad, it did a good job getting around the leaves and even here across these palms which are very tough. It’s pretty good. We’ll turn that on and off so we can see how it did. Covered up the very fringes of the palms which is completely okay. So that’s looking like a pretty natural sky swap and there’s before and then after. So here, once again, we’ve got some issues of the trees that are around there, but the sky is really blending into this top of the chimney because it’s hard to see, but there is a tint of blue. If we were to sample that sky with a color picker, you can see it’s not really white. 

There’s a tint of blue, especially when we get around here. That’s why we’re in the blue hues over here when we take a look at this HSB model that’s inside of this color picker tool. same sky over again. So it’s already selected here. If not, it would be Control A, Control C. That selected all and copied it. We’ll go over here and do Control V to paste it. We’ll change the layer opacity down to 50% so that we can take the Move tool and we can then move it into place where we’d like it. And let’s say that looks good right there. Change the opacity of that layer back to 100%. And then we go up to the layer menu and then go to Layer, Layer Mask, and then Hide All. Once again, we go down here to our bottom layer and we do a Select Sky. And when we do that, we can see once it comes up that it selected also around the edge of this chimney. Now, at this point, I could use the Quick Selection tool and get rid of that. but you can also see it did a little bit on this neighbor’s chimney here. But we’ll just go out here. Same thing as we did before, we’ll go to the mask, reverse our colors so that they’re black and white by pressing X, press the Delete key, reverse our colors back again by pressing X, then Ctrl D to deselect. Now this did quite a job of selecting that chimney. It’s almost gone, so it’s best to turn this off for a second. Go back to our layer here, use the quick selection tool, and in here then select that chimney. It does a pretty good job here. Quick select in Photoshop uses a good amount of intelligence to find edges and exposure. Now I go back up here, turn that layer on, go back to our sky mask and press the delete key. That’s all gone. Now I should do the same thing over here.

Now, if I go down here and as long as I’m using the quick selection tool with Sample All Layers turned off, I can just turn that on. I can just click that and that’s fine and go back up here to the mask and hit Delete. You have to remember to go back up to that mask, though, as you do it. Remember, selections are from your base layer. And then, of course, deleting and adjustments are done on the mask over here. So you see, that did a pretty good job. Not bad of blending that. in. So a little bit simpler than trying to do that color range method. Now let’s go on to the more difficult example, or I should say unique example, where we’ve got multiple layers going on here in a very bizarre type of sky. So the same thing would apply just a little differently. I’m going to grab our sky here by doing CTRL A to select everything, CTRL C to copy it. I’m going to go back over here and do CTRL V. Same thing again, I’d reduce that layer’s opacity down to about 50% or so. Take the Move tool and then move this up so that my horizon is starting to near that horizon. So if I change that layer’s opacity now to 100% or maybe about like 80 so you can see better, I’m getting some of that atmospheric haze that would be down here near the horizon.

So anyways, we’ll put that back to opacity 100%. then we’ll do Layer, Layer Mask, and Hide All. Now we don’t want to now go to this layer and select the sky because it’s this bottom layer that has the sky. So you want to make sure that you select whatever layer is using your sky. In this case it’s the bottom layer. This other layer up here was once again for exposure blending and I just used it for the house and a little bit over here The house would be very deep in shadows. So anyways, select that bottom layer in the same thing. Again, you go to select sky. And after it selects the sky, you would go up to the sky layer and then you would reverse your colors over here by pressing X that they’re black and white and then press the delete key, reverse your colors again by pressing X and then control D to deselect. So we can zoom in here and we can see that this has done a really good job around all these leaves. Go in here 100%. We can see here not bad around all these edges. We turn that sky off and on. We can see that it even got rid of the glare that was across the palm fronds. So got rid of that so we don’t have to worry about the edges and it feathers those edges in very nicely. A little bit was missed over here, but that’s really more of a glare. And I can live with that. And you can see that it even added a little bit of blue and it feathered it. So a little bit of that sky was actually added in there. So the rest of this is looking good. Now, if it wasn’t, if there was some that you wanted to bring out a little bit more natural tone to it, then you could bring in a little bit of that lower layer atmospheric haze that would naturally be there by selecting the eraser tool, make the eraser kind of large. and take your flow for the eraser down to about oh 10% or so. So we’ve got that lower down quite a bit. And when we have that eraser tool at that low flow, if you take just one swipe across the horizon and you can see what happened, it changed that a little bit grayer at the top. So this was before we erased it, this is after we erased it. You can see now I’ve got a little bit more of a natural atmospheric haze down at the bottom. where before I did that, it was rather blue down there, but still very acceptable.

But that bugs you, you need to bring out a little bit more than just a one swipe across the bottom with the eraser and that’s it. So definitely the new sky replacement feature that they have, I’m not a fan of, but Photoshop is doing a pretty good job of recognising where the sky is. If all else fails, you can though go back to doing that colour sampling method. So that will work no matter what especially if you’re doing the window pull sky swaps. Anyways I hope this video is useful for you and that you can use some of this in your photography as well. If you did like this video and you want to see more you can subscribe to my YouTube channel. It won’t cost anything and as soon as one of these videos is posted you’ll be the first to know. Thanks so much for watching. Until next time take care, be safe and get out there and shoot something.