Replacing the sky can transform a dull snapshot into a dynamic photograph. There are several tools on the market that make sky replacement quick and easy (LuminarAI is my favorite).

Many of these applications come with a built-in library of skies you can use, but I prefer to create and use my own custom sky replacement library when a sky replacement is necessary.

Capturing sky photos

Sedona Sunset Sky After

Building a sky library starts with capturing photos whenever you see a beautiful sky.

Best practices

  • Photograph in landscape orientation using a wide-angle lens
  • Keep your horizon straight
  • Include only the sky in your photo
  • Show perspective (ie the clouds near the horizon look farther away)

What to avoid

  • Using a long telephoto lens
  • Irregular angles
  • Shooting straight up

Processing your sky photo

Now that you’ve captured a beautiful photo of the sky, it needs to be processed before you can add it to your sky library.

For this photo, I removed a small amount of mountain in the foreground and checked for dust spots, power lines and utility poles to ensure that my final image included only the sky. I also made a few minor tonal corrections to improve color, contrast and detail.

Now that my sky is ready to use, I’ll export a copy with my edits as a full-resolution TIFF to my custom sky replacement library and use a descriptive file name so I can easily find it later, such as Sedona-Sunset.tif.

Organizing your sky library

As your collection of skies grows, it will become increasingly important to keep them organized and accessible. I designated a folder on an external hard drive for my collection of add-on resources that I call Sky-Texture-LUT. This folder contains subfolders for each type of resource so I can easily locate the files I need.

These folders contain my custom resources as well as those I downloaded from other creators. In order to keep my custom skies separate, I designated a special folder at the top of the list for my own library called _Angela’s Skies.

Organizing my Custom Sky Replacement Library with a Sky-Texture-LUT folder

Using a custom sky for sky replacement

Now that our custom sky replacement library is organized, let’s put it to work. For this tutorial, I’m using LuminarAI‘s SkyAI tool, but custom skies can be used in the photo editor of your choice that has a sky replacement option such as Photoshop or ON1 Photo Raw.

1. Open a photo in LuminarAI and switch to the Edit tab.

2. Under the Creative tools, select SkyAI.

Using a sky from a custom sky replacement library

3. In the Sky Selection menu, scroll to the bottom and click the + button, then navigate to your organized sky folder. Choose the sky you wish to use, then click Open. This will add the sky to your base image and save the sky in LuminarAI’s custom sky menu for future use.

Select Sky from a custom sky replacement library

4. Refine the placement and look of the sky to match your photograph using the Sky Orientation, Scene Relighting and Sky Adjustments controls.

Refining a photo with Sky AI in Luminar AI

Seeing the difference

Replacing the sky can make a huge difference in the overall appeal and impact of a photograph. Using your own custom sky library provides an efficient workflow and guarantees that your final artwork is 100% unique.

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