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Photoshop saves the sky from falling down

Photoshop saves the sky from falling down


Ok Photoshop lovers. Do you ever take a great photo of the sunrise or sunset, and it didn’t come out as good on the camera is it should have? It’s not your fault…it’s the camera (blame the camera). Even if you shot everything the way you should have, or even if you didn’t, sometimes our photos could benefit from that extra boost in Photoshop. Have fun with Photoshop. Don’t be afraid to try out all the tools. Just try not to overdo it with all their fancy filters or you’ll end up with a photo that looks too fake. My end result with this photo borders on fakeness. I would tone this down if I were planning on selling it or something, but personally I like the color that results from all this work, and I’d hang it on my wall if I could.

First of all, save a copy of the original image and rename it. That way you’ll always have the original in case you wanted to start over.


As I have showed in my previous tutorial (Basic Photoshop Tips) the most important tools I would use are Levels, Brightness/Contrast and Color Balance, within the Adjustments section. You can always stop modifying your photo right there, but since I just got CS4, and there are whole lot of new tools to play with, I’ll show you some more steps I’ve used.

Image — Adjustments — Levels


Image — Adjustments — Exposure

I gave the Exposure and Offset a tiny itsy bitsy nudge, increasing exposure, and decreasing offset. It boosted the clarity of the photo, and made the colors less muted.


Image — Adjustments — Vibrance

New tool called Vibrance added onto the Saturation tool. Using the two together boosts the colors up a notch. Play around with it.


Image — Adjustments — Shadows/Highlights

I wanted to save the sky from the bright highlights so I increased the percentage to 9%. That way I have more detail in the sky to work with now.


Magic Wand Tool

Use this tool to select the entire sky. Just click the sky, then hold shift to select the remaining areas of the sky until you’ve selected one giant shape of sky.


Magnify closer to select areas you have trouble seeing.

Selecting will probably be the most time consuming step of all. So take your time and be careful in your selecting, or you might not be happy with the end result.


When you are finished selecting, go to Select — Modify — Feather

Feather 1 to 2 pixels, so you won’t have a sharp outline around the selection area after you modify the colors. Feathering will smooth out that harsh line and make modifications look more natural.


Feathering 1 or 2 pixels will not look like much of a difference in a photo this large, but when you magnify you will see that it has.


Now, play with Levels, Brightness/Contrast, and Color balance as you had in the overall image before. Except now, you are altering the sky specifically.

The Levels in the sky specifically are way off balance. This is why I specifically selected the sky in order to balance out all the tones within the sky. I moved the black arrow towards the positive part of the chart.


I played with Vibrance and Saturation again. Just cuz I felt like it…


To give the sky that extra drama, I boosted the red and blue in the Color Balance tool.


Deselect and save.


I tried to be as thorough as I could in these steps. If I haven’t, or I’ve thoroughly confused you, here is a summary of what you should do in order to enhance an image:

1) Save copy of image to work on and rename it. That way you have the original image in case you wanted to start over.

2) Under Image — Adjustments — play around with Levels, then Brightness/Contrast, then Color Balance. Play with Vibrance, Saturation, Shadows/Highlights if necessary.

3) If you believe there’s more work to be done within a specific area of the photo (the sky) select the area with the Magic Wand tool.

4) Feather 1 or 2 pixels of the outline around specific area you Magically Wandidly selected.

5) Repeat step #2 within this specific area.


It’s a lot of information to take in. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t get these steps to work. You might not need all these steps, this was just one solution to a very specific photo I’ve just showed you.

If you’re still not happy with the results blame the camera.

*runs away*

4 thoughts on “Photoshop saves the sky from falling down”

  • Wow – great photoshop tips! I need to find a photo and give this a try now… I have some photos where I attempted to shoot the purple/orange sunset @ the beach this summer. I’m sure they would benefit from these tips, since they didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped (they never do).

  • Jen – You’re welcome! Sunrise/sunset shots are really difficult to capture, I think. Theres always too much or too little light, and the timing has to be perfect, etc. And how many of us are really masters with the camera?

  • Another tip when taking sunset pics (if there are no people in them) is to trick your camera’s light settings by aiming at the clouds in the sky, pressing the button halfway down, then composing your photo and then push it the rest of the way down to take your picture. This slightly darkens the photo so an orange or red sunset appears more intense and similar to how your eye sees it.

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