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Making Your Skies Look Great

Lesson 9 from: Photoshop and Lightroom for Landscape Photographers

Matt Kloskowski

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Lesson Info

9. Making Your Skies Look Great

Lesson Info

Making Your Skies Look Great

Let's talk a little bit about our skies here. So, we know why they're dead. We know why I won't use 'em. We talked a little bit about, earlier today, when we were covering all the different sky options. Let's take a quick look at a photo. Going to the Develop module and as I start to develop these photos, I open up the exposure and everything, and, obviously, we start to lose the sky. So, going back to our grad ND filters. Talked about there being a better way. We know we can go over here, reduce the exposure, bring that back. Just kind of a quick recap. I can also, because of the nature of what I'm doing, I can also open up the shadows, because what happened? As we start to bring that down, we darkened it and now I can open up the shadows inside of those areas. What I said wasn't really trying to be mean when I said there's a better way of doing it, but we don't get that flexibility when we were to use a regular filter. And we also don't get the ability to go in here and add a little ...

bit of tint to the sky. So if you look at the difference, that's before. That's after. There's a lot of flexibility in what we're able to do with that. So I'm not saying go home, throw them away, don't ever use them again, but maybe don't ever use them again and maybe sell them on Ebay to somebody that doesn't want to use a light room. So, here's the thing, you guys are here in a Photoshop and light room class for landscape photographers, so my guess is you're not morally opposed to editing your photos inside of Photoshop or Landscape. So if you're not morally opposed to it, then I would highly suggest that you try to take a look at doing things this way. Okay, let's see here. So, let's go ahead and reset that. You know what, no resent, but I'll quickly finish the edit. Open up the shadows a little bit there. I hate to leave a photo half-edited. Whites and blacks, Option or Alt-click. Get the whites, Option or Alt-click. To get the blacks just adds a little bit of contrast. Little bit of clarity here. I'll probably warm the entire photo. Okay, gives it an overall warmth to it. And as you start to go through here you'll notice I kind of revert to the workflow because it keeps me from having to bounce up and down, vignette light, vignette medium, vignette strong. What's cool about the way that I set up my workflow presets is they stack. So I did that purposefully because when I apply one thing, I don't want to have to kill what I just applied before, and a lot of presets, as they stack on top of each other, one effect kills the other effects. So you can see that I can experiment with white balance, cloudy, shady, warm, very warm. I just threw that one in there. But I can experiment with white balance. It doesn't kill whatever else is in the photo. I can experiment with all my exposure settings and not kill everything else in the photo. I even have a whole toning setting so lighter shadows, HDR light, so a lot of different things. So it kind of helps my workflow, just as I go through there, it almost takes me logically through it, so you saw the vignettes pretty much where I would kind of finish it off. Once in a while when I have a photo like this, I wish I could give you the formula. Every once in a while, a photo just says an effect to me. You know, like some of the more film-like effects or something like that. A lot of times I'll process as true as I can to what I felt that I saw there, but every once in a while, it's kind of fun to play with the retro, the cross-process, hazy, the matte look. So, sometimes it's fun to play with. I wish I knew why one photo says that to me and another one, I just process it true to what I saw. So, lots of different stuff we can do right there. All right, so let's talk about when we have clouds in the sky. That's, to me, that's kind of the epitome of landscapes. Once you get out there and you get good light, I don't know about you, but I want clouds. If I get out there and I do a shoot, I'm happy if the light's good, but I get really happy when I see clouds start to happen in the sky. And it's funny because it used to scare me. I used to get up in the morning, I used to hope for a clear day. As long as the sun's out, I'm good. Now, I almost want a partly cloudy, stormy day, because good light is good, but dramatic light is great. That can really take a photo to a whole different level. Landscape photography, we're talking about it at dinner with some people last night, landscapes, in some ways, with the access that we all have to cameras and all the sharing that we're doing, it's commoditized in some ways, right? Now, it's so easy for anybody to go to Yosemite and take a great picture. And what I get excited about now was when I go to some of these places and I see dramatic light happening, because that's when you get a really different picture from something. So I'm always looking for clouds. I'm always looking for ways to enhance my clouds. Let's take a look at a couple photos inside of here. Got a whole folder of cloudy stuff. Let's take a look, I got so many. Cloudy, you know it's funny, you get clouds when you don't want them. And then when you do want them, like yesterday when I was out shooting, they're nowhere to be found. So just kind of the luck of the draw. Let's go with, where's a good one? So sunset out in the Alvord Desert. And you can kind of see the sun's already gone behind the peaks here. So how do we want to process something like this? To me, the clouds are actually already on their way. I want to probably open up the exposure a little bit just to kind of bring some light up here in the foreground. In fact, we can open that exposure a little higher. Because what happens here, and it's important, when the clouds already look good, and your foreground's dark, shadows don't necessarily do what you want to the photo, right? Exposure is what I want to do, is to bring that up into the foreground here. Shadows aren't doing it. So, when I bring the exposure up, that's good, but what I now have to do is go to my grad filter and start to pull back that sky. I'll just go to a couple of my filters here. So, I'll try the hard filter. I like the soft one a little bit better, but one stop pretty much did it. And I'm going to try the blue hour because that's exactly the time that this was, which kind of works. Maybe pull it back just a little bit here. All right. Back on the shadows. So it's added a little bit of a blue tint to it, because I want to go with that. This was post-sunset. Everything's starting to turn blue. Everything's starting to get that blue tint to it. I might pull back just a hair just to bring some more color into there. And you can see whenever I do that blue hour preset it actually adds a little bit of magenta. So when I'm thinking twilight, I'm thinking blue and I'm thinking add a little bit of pink and magenta back into the sky. All right, a little bit of clarity that we can kind of adjust there. So, now that we got the sky looking pretty good, the next thing that we want to do is work a little bit on the foreground here. I'd probably just brush a little bit of it in here. Let's go with brighter foreground. I don't know that I need to do too much to the water. We're gonna try to leave it out of the reflection for now. I'll click new, and I'll paint inside of the reflection. The reason why I left it out of that is I don't want it to be quite as bright. Because the reflection shouldn't be as bright as everything else. That's kind of the telltale sign that you've done some work to the photo. You see these really, really bright reflections inside of everything. So we don't want to get the reflection too bright there. But that's looking good, and we will go to our detail panel, crank up some sharpening, let's zoom in. And then finally, finish it off with a vignette. Okay? So let's hit the backslash key here. So that's before. After. Before, after. But what we're trying to do is just kind of take the color in the sky, make it a little bit more of what we felt or what we saw when we were there, and also with some of the clarity, bring out a little bit more of an edge to some of the clouds there.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lightroom Presets
CreativeLive Sky Pack

Ratings and Reviews

Barry Walsh

Great class Matt! I am about two-thirds the way through the class and have learned a lot about Lightroom and the objective of this course. I must admit I was over-whelmed by the amount of material covered and that was probably due to not having prior knowledge about Lightroom. I have since signed up for the 7 day trial of Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan and then went through their "beginner's" tutorial. If you are contemplating taking this course, I would highly recommend taking the Adobe Lightroom tutorials first. They cleared up a lot of confusion on my part and I now have a better understanding of the concepts Matt covered. I'm actually going to go back and retake what I viewed to help reinforce both what Matt initially covered and the basic concepts tutorials offered by Adobe. Again, great job Matt and thanks for all the useful information!

a Creativelive Student

Matt is the best and he his the same in person. I had the fortunate opportunity to run into Matt on the side of the road at Dallas Divide in Colorado a couple of years ago.... he is the real deal. I have learned almost all my LR post processing from him when he was with Kelby and have continued to follow him over to On1 as he is the best teacher out there when it comes to Post. Great class and bring him back again. Another great CL class ....... bravo!........ Johnny Boyd @

Student Work