Sky’s the Limit(ed)

In my latest Smarter Image column for PopPhoto, I look at three tools for replacing skies in photos.

Whenever possible, I want to photograph a location and get the essence of it at that specific time. So if I’m looking for a great sunrise, that means waking up before dawn, trekking to the spot, and hoping the sky gods reward my hard work with a spectacular light show. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. (In either case I’m still up and outside, so there’s always an upside.)

With AI technologies in software, though, we’re not always so beholden to Mother Nature. In my latest Smarter Image column at Popular Photography, I explore when and why you’d want to swap a sky in a photo, and look at the sky replacement features of three applications: Adobe Photoshop, Skylum Luminar Neo, and ON1 Photo RAW 2022: How to use AI to replace the sky in a photo.

Some of the results are great, some are iffy, and some are almost great but have limitations. As is often the case, a lot depends on the image itself. The photo above, for example, was shot in the middle of the afternoon at Mono Lake:


Still an interesting image, I think, but not as dramatic as a sunset. However, I didn’t make it back to that spot at a better time. I wouldn’t pass off the sky-replaced version as an original, but I think ON1 Photo RAW did a good job—I’d post it online with a disclaimer that it’s an edited image.

My first reaction to sky replacement tools was to roll my eyes, but they can be useful, particularly if you need it for real estate photography, advertising, or other similar needs. Or, you know, just for the artistry of it.

I’ve set up a Substack mailing list specifically for announcing my Smarter Image columns called Photo AI. Subscribe here.

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