I got the opportunity to try out LuminarAI for the first time. Not only that, I explored the new sky replacement feature. Let’s start with a little backstory. Who doesn’t love a little backstory?

There I was shooting a swimsuit session at the beach …

That’s got to be good right? It was. October in Santa Cruz, CA is our secret second summer. Nature has mercy on us, apologizes for the fog from June through mid-July, and graces us with warm sun perfect for beach bonfires, surfboards and, you guessed it, swimsuit models.

I had everything I could ask for: Good lighting, a sunny cove, Katie Belle to model and a helper! There was a problem: The sky was boring. I mean it was really boring.

For much of the session, I tried just working around the bland sky. As evening approached, I pushed that little speedlight to 100% and lit her up to match the ambient light for one good one.

What to do with the bland sky?

Two years later I get to try out LuminarAI with its sky replacement feature. And guess which photos I pulled out of my library?

I need to be totally upfront; some photos worked better than others. For example, photos where there is a clear delineation between sky and subject work great. Photos with lots of depth of field also work great. Photos with shallow depth of field pose a challenge that can be overcome either by tweaking the edit sliders, or with a little extra help in Photoshop. I tried one that was asking a little too much, but I think it might be possible to get there with some time.

This was an interesting one to try because it’s a fairly shallow depth of field. If I chose the default with the well defined clouds then that would have looked unrealistic. LuminarAI provided a slider that adds blur to the sky. All I had to do was select a degree of blur that matched the photograph.

The second example is probably the ideal situation. The foreground and the sky are pretty easily identified. LuminarAI had no problem at all with this. There wasn’t much need to edit further especially since there was more depth of field. The clouds could keep their default detail.

The only quirk was where the replacement sky met the very real fog bank a couple miles away from shore. It only took me a couple of minutes to find a slider that adjusted how the sky blended into the horizon. I think I spent five minutes on this image. Remember, this was my first time trying LuminarAI. I was impressed.

I may have gone a little too far with this one. I was having a lot of fun and honestly I thought LuminarAI would have a tough time. It worked out much better than I expected.

I tried one that I knew would be the nightmare scenario. I had no serious expectation that this would work on the first try, and it didn’t. Again, I think five minutes was spent on the edit. With some more effort this one might work.

Does AI eclipse human control?

This was my first time using LuminarAI. I’m a control freak and I spend most of my time in Photoshop getting everything just right. I sat on these photos for two years because I knew fixing the sky would be so much work that it wouldn’t be worth it.

LuminarAI made this easy, but you need to know what you want from the end result. Keep your depth of field in mind. A shallow depth of field in the initial photograph combined with a sky full of detail will just look wrong. Be willing to finesse the final image. It’s really good, but it’s not magic.

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