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Replacing the sky

From: Quick Fixes with Photoshop Elements 10

Video: Replacing the sky

One of the things I hear quite often from photographers is they wish they could control the weather. And what that often translates into is being able to change the appearance of the sky in a photo. Of course, if you'd like to you can completely replace the sky in one photo by using the sky from a different photo. Here I've opened two images, I have the photo of a windmill set against the sky. And I have an image of puffy clouds, and I think those puffy clouds might make a better background for the windmill.

Replacing the sky

One of the things I hear quite often from photographers is they wish they could control the weather. And what that often translates into is being able to change the appearance of the sky in a photo. Of course, if you'd like to you can completely replace the sky in one photo by using the sky from a different photo. Here I've opened two images, I have the photo of a windmill set against the sky. And I have an image of puffy clouds, and I think those puffy clouds might make a better background for the windmill.

The first thing I need to do is combine these two images into a single document. So I'll choose Window > Images > Tile from the menu so that I can see both of the images. I'll then make sure that I have the Move tools selected on the toolbox and I'll click on the Windmill Image because that's the image that I want on top. I'm going to place the windmill onto the puffy clouds. So, I'll click and drag the windmill over to the puffy clouds image. But before I release the mouse button I'll hold the Shift key, so that when I do release the mouse the windmill image will be centered in the puffy clouds image.

A this point I can go ahead and close the Windmill Image and work on my layered image. You'll notice that I have the puffy clouds and the windmill layer in a single document. I'll use a selection as the basis of identifying which portion of the image I want visible, the windmill in this case. And which portion of the image I want to be not visible so that the puffy clouds can show though, and that would obviously be the sky. I'm going to the use the Magic Wand tool to make my selection, and even though I want a selection of the windmill, it's far easier in this case to select the sky.

I have my tolerance set to 32. That's a relatively high tolerance for the Magic Wand tool, but it helps to ensure that we can get a good selection of the sky very easily. I also want to make sure the Contiguous option is turned off. You can see the there are various areas of sky that are isolated from the rest of the sky, and I want all of those areas to be selected. Since those areas are not contiguous with the rest of the sky, I want that Contiguous option turned off. I also want to turn off the Sample All layers check box in this case, because I want the sample based only on the current layer.

With my settings established, I can click in the sky. And then Shift+Click in various areas of the sky until I can see that the entire sky is selected. Now of course, I actually want the windmill selected. So at this point, I'll choose select Inverse from the menu in order to inverse the selection. So it's now a selection of the windmill. I can now use this selection as the basis of identifying which portions of my windmill layer, will actually be visible.

To change that visibility I'll click on the Add Layer Mask button the circle inside of a square icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. But the areas of the image that were not selected, the sky in this case, will be hidden from view so that the underline image can show through. To help make sure that the two layers blend together nicely it can be helpful to apply a very slight blur to the layer mask. This will not effect the sharpness of the photo, only the layer mask that is identifying which areas of our windmill layer should be visible and which should be hidden. I'll click on the layer mask on my windmill layer to make sure that that layer mask is active.

And then I'll choose Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur from the menu. In the Gaussian Blur dialog I'll set a radius of just one pixel and then click Okay. That will give me a nice blending between the windmill and the new sky that I've replaced in this image. At this point, I could choose Layer>Flatten Image if I want to flatten the final result into a single layered image. And of course save this as a new version of my image. As you can see, it's surprisingly easy to replace a sky in a photo.

In this case, taking a relatively boring sky and replacing it with some nice puffy clouds.

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Quick Fixes with Photoshop Elements 10

35 video lessons · 436 viewers

Tim Grey
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