4 Simple and Fast Ways to Enhance the Sky in Your Photos Using Lightroom
Sometimes, you just aren’t going to have perfectly blue skies and big, billowy clouds in your photos. Don’t worry, though – there are a few ways to give your skies some zing in a pinch, without having to open Photoshop and make a full-on sky replacement.
1. Graduated Filters
One of the most popular ways of editing skies in Lightroom is using the Graduated Filter tool, highlighted above. It can be found in the Develop Module.
In the image below, we have a typical snow sky – completely white, and, when printed, will have no ink on that section of the print for that very reason: completely white = no ink will be put down by the printer. Plus, blown out skies can be distracting when viewed on a computer monitor.
To apply the Graduated Filter in this image, we are starting in the upper right corner, and dragging the filter diagonally towards the lower left. You can drag horizontally or vertically, depending on where the sky is in your image.
This is a Custom Graduated Filter, with the Exposure reduced to -2.12 to darken the sky quite a bit, with the Contrast upped to 72. This is a fairly drastic adjustment, and you will need to adjust the amount of Exposure and Contrast based on your image. There is also a "blue skies" brush in the Graduated Filters set that can help with this!
An alternative to the Graduated Filter is to add a vignette, which will darken the outer edges of your image, rather than just one section. Under the Effects tab, you will find the Post-Crop Vignetting sliders:
In this case, the vignette also helped to add some detail to the snow on the ground, while also darkening the sky. Just like the Graduated Filter, vignettes will need to be tailored to fit the image, so be sure to tinker with the amount of Feather, as well as the Midpoint and Amount. For this example, I went with an intense vignette to illustrate the point, so it would be possible to lighten the vignette just a bit more than I have for this example.
Now, if you are shooting on a day when the skies look great, but your image comes out overexposed, there is still a chance that there is a great sky in your image, you will just need to reduce the Exposure to find the information within the image.
After reducing the Exposure, I was able to recover the detail in most of the sky. However, the highlights were still just too bright, so I reduced them all the way to -100. Rarely do I ever need to reduce the Highlights that much, but doing so in this case brought out even more detail, which also made the colors pop. I did not adjust the Saturation or Vibrance. What a difference:
Many presets contain Graduated Filters, Exposure adjustments, and Vignettes which will enhance the sky in your photos. The sky in the image below is actually not half bad, but we could still give it a little more punch! To do so, I am using a preset from the Pretty Presets Collections.
I chose the Sunkissed preset, which added just enough contrast in the sky:
Those are just four ways to help you enhance the sky while also saving you some time in the process. Like I mentioned above, be sure to play around with the values for each of the adjustments listed above.