The sky replacement tool in Luminar never fails to amaze me. It surely is a pretty handy tool that saves me from spending hours in Photoshop and achieves better results within seconds.
When artificial intelligence (AI) is implemented right in any software, you’ll be dazzled to experience how convenient your work becomes. With the software taking care of all the heavy lifting, you can then invest your time and energy in pushing your creative horizon. Just think and let the AI take care of the rest. Maybe this was the exact thought process that Skylum, the creators of Luminar NEO, went through when they introduced the AI-powered sky replacement tool. If you haven’t already, check out our full Luminar review and Luminar NEO Tutorial here.
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When photographing landscapes or cityscapes, the sky in your image not just acts as a background. In fact, it has the potential to add drama and take your image to the next level. This is why every pro-photographer pays so much attention to how the sky is turning out in their photograph. But what if you’ve taken a killer image, but the sky is lifeless? Of course, you can replace the sky when processing the image, but if you’ve ever tried to do it using Photoshop, you know how challenging the task can be.
Challenges in Replacing the Sky
When you replace the sky using traditional methods, like using Photoshop, the work has a fair share of challenges. If we were to outline those challenges, here’s how it’d look like:
- You’d have to pay a great deal of attention to the horizon where the sky meets the ground or some landscape. This is to ensure that the blend is as seamless as possible.
- If there are gaps in the foreground through which we can see the sky, then the masking process can get really painstaking.
- Replacing the sky won’t just cut it. The lighting and tonality between the sky and the ground should match too. You’ll need to put some considerable extra effort for that too.
In short, replacing the sky in your images is not as simple as it really seems at first. You need to pay very good attention to detail and dedicate a great chunk of your time for the process.
How to Replace a Sky Using Luminar
The AI Sky Replacement tool in Luminar was designed to overcome all the aforementioned challenges and make the sky replacement process as simple as possible. It does so brilliantly by making the entire process seem like a “one-click task”. And if you need to fine-tune the output to your liking, you can do so as well with the various adjustment tools that are available in Luminar.
Find the AI Sky Replacement Option
Start by opening the image that you want to edit in Luminar and head over to the Edit tab. You’ll then see the AI Sky Replacement adjustment sliders in the Tools.
Select Your Sky
Within the AI Sky Replacement module, you’ll see a Sky Selection drop-down menu which has a good range of skies that you can use in your image. If you don’t see anything that suits your taste, you also have the option to download other sky images or use one of your choice. By default, you’ll see a collection of Blue Sky, Bright Blue Sky, Dramatic Sky, Dramatic Sunset, Galaxy, Starry Night, Sunset, and Sunset Clouds. All you need to do now is to just click on them and cycle through until you find the one that suits your image.
Blue Sky Replacement
Dramatic Sky Replacement
Here, it is important to keep in mind that it is very easy to get carried away when choosing the sky. While the options you can find in Luminar can get overwhelming, make sure that you use the one that suits the mood that you’re going for, and something that appears natural, and not something that’s overly done. Also, pay attention to the position of the sun and the shadows. If they don’t match, there are ways you can adjust them as well.
Tweaking the Replaced Sky in Luminar NEO
After replacing the sky, there are always chances that you might have to tweak the result to your liking. This is essential to ensure that the result appears as natural as possible. Thankfully, Luminar NEO has a great range of controls that allow you to do so.
When replacing the sky, you don’t want a hard edge line to appear in the area where the sky meets the landscape. This is a straight giveaway that the sky is fake. So, you’d want a smooth transition in lighting and a soft blend in the horizon. By default, the value is set at 20. If you want the blend to be more subtle, you can do so by increasing this value.
By default, Luminar’s AI does an outstanding job of identifying the horizon while replacing the sky. But in case you need to shift it either upwards or downwards, you can use this option. This tool also comes in handy if you want to shift the position of the sun.
Image the case you have a sunny foreground but the sky you want to use is pretty gloomy. Things don’t add up in such cases, right? In such cases, you’d want to try adjusting this option. Essentially, the Relight Scene feature tries to match the lighting between the foreground and the sky to give a more natural look to the image.
The Sky Global adjustment affects how the texture blends into the scene. The greater the value, the greater will be the amount of the sky that’s added to the image.
Advanced Settings for Sky Replacement in Luminar NEO
Luminar can sometimes find it difficult to properly set the mask for the image in case there are multiple small openings in the image. Think of trees, wires, or some architectural designs. In case such gaps are not filled by the replaced sky, you can adjust this setting to close the gaps.
If you’re having trouble masking out these areas exactly Topaz makes an advanced masking software called Topaz Mask AI (see our review here). It is one of the best photo masking software options out there for masking hair and more complex situations.
In case you have some good looking cloud formations in your original image that you want to show through in the final image, you can use the Sky Local adjustment slider. This slider influences how much the original clouds are replaced.
This is a pretty straight-forward tool with a pronounced result. If your original image was taken with a shallow depth of field with the subject in sharp focus, you wouldn’t want the sky to appear sharp. You can use the Sky Defocus adjustment to make the sky appear out of focus by adding a controlled amount of blur to it.
Sky Defocus Added
In case the direction of the shadow is not justified by the position of the brighter region of the sky, you can simply flip the sky with this option. It’s as simple as checking a box. No, really!
While a clear sky is fun to look at, some amount of haze can add interest and drama to the image. Using the Atmospheric Haze slider, you can add some beautiful haze that gives a soft look to the image.
Based on the color temperature of the landscape, you can match the sky’s color temperature accordingly using the Sky Temperature slider. The sky’s color temperature can drastically impact the overall mood of the entire image. Feel free to experiment.
You can use this option to control the exposure for the sky. Be very careful when using this tool. You’d want to make sure that there’s a balance in exposure between the landscape and the sky.
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Final Verdict on Luminar Sky Replacement
The sky replacement tool in Luminar never fails to amaze me. It surely is a pretty handy tool that saves me from spending hours in Photoshop and achieves better results within seconds. It’s really that good. And in cases where you feel that the software could do better, you can easily fine-tune it with the available control that the software offers.
Landscape photographers, fine-art photographers, and creative artists can benefit a lot from this feature. But, even if you are someone who doesn’t do this kind of stuff in your photography, you could try this just for fun. I’m sure you’ll be left impressed.