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Adding a sky behind a lighthouse

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Category: Landscape and Travel

Adding a sky behind a lighthouse - How to add a sky to a photo of a lighthouse using Photoshop.

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For landscape photography a dramatic sky is usually an important element but we cannot plan the weather and sometimes you end up with a day with skies as dull as dish water. Fortunately we digital photographers can become creators of more interesting skies. When you see an interesting sky shoot it, take ones at different angles to the sun, in different times of day and with dioffertn cloud formatiosn and build up a stock of them. Then when you shoot on a dull day you can select one that looks natural to the scene you shot and add it later. Here's how to do it on a shot of a lighthouse using Adobe Photoshop CS4.

Lighthouse montage - before and after shot

Step 1: Open the lighthouse and choose a sky photo

Select you lighthouse photo and choose a suitable cloud picture.
Lighthouse montage - locate cloud photo

Step 2: Select the sky area

Make a selection of the sky on the lighthouse photo, use the magic wand with the Add to Selection option with Tollerance set to the default 32 and click around the sky to gradually select it all.

Lighthouse montage - select sky


Step 3:Fine tune the selection

Magnify the photo by holding down the ctrl key and clicking the + key. Look at the selection around the lighthouse. The magic wand is good, but sometimes misses bits or removes too much. If the marching ants (selection) is crossing into the lighthouse refine the selection using the Polygonal Lasso tool in Subtract from selection mode. Click on an edge where you want to start to exclude from the selection and then move to another point and click to draw a line. Keep doing this until you return to your start point and the selection will be removed from the original magic wand area.  Repeat this in various areas until you have am accurate selection around your lighthouse.

Lighthouse montage - select sky

Step 4: Expand the selection

Now expand the selection by 1 to 3 pixels depending on the size of your photo -Select > Modify > Expand. This will make the selection cross over into the lighthouse and horizon areas by 3 pixels. This is just enough to clip off the edges and prevent a halo so the result doesn't look cut out.

Lighthouse montage - expand selection

Step 5: Feather the selection

Feather the selection by 1 to 2 pixels to soften the edges and make it look even less like a cut out. Select > Modify > Feather (shift + F6 shortcut keys).

Step 6: Copy the cloud photo

Open the cloud photo and copy it - Select > All (Ctrl + A) and Edit > Copy (Ctrl + C).

Step 7:Paste the clouds into the sky

Go back to the lighthouse image and paste the copied clouds into the selection - Edit > Paste Into (Shift + Ctlr + V). Notice this creates a new layer, and also automatically a layer mask. Showing the black area as th masked area and white as the show through, unmasked area.
Lighthouse montage - paste clouds into selection

Step 8: Adjust the size of the clouds layer

The image may be smaller or bigger than the selected area. Go to Edit  > Transform > Scale and resize the image using the corner drag handles. Single click and drag to reposition the clouds.

Step 9: Match the colour of the clouds

Once the clouds are in place it's likely that their colour range will look unnatural to the colour of the background layer. Photoshop has a neat trick called Match Color  Image > Adjustments > Match Color. This lets you match the the two by choosing one layer's colour properties to influence the other layer. You can adjust sliders for luminance, colour intensity and fade to fine tune the result.

Lighthouse montage - match color

Step 10: Refine the mask

Now click on the layer mask and use the eraser brush set to white or black to add or paint any badly masked areas. Use a small brush with a sharp edge on straight areas like the wall of the lighthouse and a slightly larger brush with a soft edge on the horizon, especially if there's foliage.

Job done - almost

That would almost be the job done and we could flatten the image and adjust levels to bring it all together, but in this example we have some puddles with reflections of the sky which are now unnatural. So we need to add another step.

Step 11: Select the puddle

Repeat Steps 2 to 9 selecting the puddle area instead of the sky so the clouds are pasted into the puddle. After step 8 go to Edit > Transform > Flip vertically to make the clouds appear as though they are reflected.
Lighthouse montage - select the puddle

Step 12: Alter the blend mode

Change this layer to Darken and set the opacity to 70% so the reflection looks more realistic.

Step 13: Flatten and adjust contrast

Now flatten the image and make any contrast adjustments and maybe even add a filter...I added an 81A warm filter from the Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter options.

Lighthouse montage - final image

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You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.



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