I’ve heard about the AI Sky Replacement feature in Luminar 4 for quite a while. ‘Ho hum,’ I thought. Many disappointments over the years from software makers saying this is going to be the next great thing. But it’s finally here and I’ll share the processing I used to take an image to another level.


I was hiking in West Fork Trail above Sedona, AZ in Oak Creek Canyon. I came across a red rock outcrop that captured my imagination. As with many canyon scenes, there was contrast galore. As you can see by the screen capture of my Adobe Bridge window no single image would tell the story properly. I made a five-image bracket with each one stop apart.


Adobe Bridge window showing image start and five image original bracket

Ultimately, I choose two images to meld together using Aurora HDR 2019. I use Aurora because it gives me the most neutral final image without halos and an ‘HDR look.’ Once the images were combined, detail was evident in the sky as well as the shadow areas of the rocks.

Image after HDR and Luminar 4 adjustments massing the tone, color and structure.

Time for a bit of massaging for enhanced color, tone and texture using Luminar 4. I prefer to use Luminar 4 as a plug-in. For extra control I make a Layer copy so that after processing I can still mask or change the opacity of the changes.


Then it was time to change the mood of the image by changing out the sky. Replacing the sky can make the entire feel of an image drastically different. In the past making selections was a tedious, time-consuming process and even then with spotty results.

Sky replaced with white puffy clouds — note the selection of the sky around the pine needles!

The AI Sky Replacement tool was nothing short of incredible. It made the selection around the tiny pine needles without breaking a sweat. A feature I wasn’t aware of until I fired up the tool is the relighting of the scene to match the colors and mood of the sky. I’ve seen many makers miss this step for a convincing sky replacement. The light from a sky washes over a scene. The software makes this process painless as well. A slider is dedicated to relighting the foreground. There is a control for flipping the sky. Remember that the light and shadows on the clouds need to match the scene or it will feel off.

Sky replaced with a more moody look. Note the color and slight lighting change on the foreground rocks and shadow areas compared to the image above this one.

The AI Sky Replacement tool currently comes packaged with a little over 26 images with which to get straight to work. You can also prep and use your own sky files.


Remember I am creating art, not documenting a scene. I would not use AI Sky Replacement in documenting a scene for news or historical purposes. For creating art? No problem.

Nature files I have worked on have been quite receptive to the change in sky. I am quite amazed at the ease with which the sky selections can be made, altered and replaced. It fell just a little short in working with urban images in that it did not add reflections of the sky in glass areas. Something to look forward to in the future. Even then there is a time saving in the initial selection of open sky. If you do a lot of nature artwork or other work that needs sky replacement I would think about getting Luminar 4, if only for the AI Sky Replacement tool. And then, enjoy all the other adjustments available as a bonus.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob