How to replace or darken the sky in the landscape — replacing background in PS

Looking at the photo below, you might think that this beautiful sky is native to this landscape. However, these wonderful, expressive clouds were inserted here with the arc of my photo. If you want to get the same level of background replacement (sky), read on...

Autumn landscape with a beautiful sky

Photo collage is not a photo

The image you see above is not a photo, but a photo collage (photo manipulation, photo deception). For, in my understanding, and not only mine, photography is an image that was exposed on some photosensitive material (photographic plate, film, matrix, etc.). In our case, we are dealing with an image that is created in a graphic editor. And despite the fact that initially these were two photos, now it is a collage of photos, but not a photo.

Roughly speaking, a photograph is a source code, for example, a raw file with a RAW or JPG extension, which contains the whole range of unchanged exif data. A photo can naturally be edited in a graphic editor, for example, color correction, retouching, cropping, and other such interventions, in addition to replacing native objects with alien ones.

Why I focus your attention on the status of images

The fact is, if you want to send your insanely beautiful work to some landscape photo contest, in case of victory, you will be politely asked to provide the source file of this photo (usually the organizers ask RAW, that is, raw raw file).

And if you cannot send this coveted file to them, most likely, someone else will get a cash or valuable prize. However, if you do not care about any photo contests, and you want to make beautiful photos for other purposes, then I will not abuse your attention, and turn directly to the process of creating photo photogroups =). We sit down more comfortably, we begin...

First, we’re looking for a suitable sky in our photo archives

Using other people's photos in a collage is unacceptable

Although, if you decide Collect the collage not for publishing on the Internet, but, for example, you wanted to update the wallpaper on your desktop, in this case, there is no need to search for the author of the work with a chic sky. But if you still want to upload this photo collage to the Web, think carefully about whether it is worth it, because it is a gross copyright violation, with all the consequences... Therefore, away from sin, it's better to use your photos, in fact, as I do.

seascapes with a beautiful sky

Having opened an old, abandoned daddy from a summer sea holiday, I found these two photos (we look above), with quite expressive clouds. I decided to use the first photo for this article, it hooked me with its texture. As a guinea pig, I decided to take one more photo of myself, but already from the rest in the Carpathians, see the photo below.

source photo for collage

This is the original photo, as you can see, does not shine with autumn grace of colors. Scanty colors and clear blue sky do not give this shot an expressiveness. Such a dull, autumn landscape, suitable only for the HF (home photo album), and even then with great stretch. To turn this HF into a potential PD (photo of the day on some thread photosite), you must perform a series of simple manipulations in Photoshop.

Let's start this wonderful transformation with a general color correction, the correct horizon, geometry and crop source file if all this is necessary. So, the file has been edited; we can change the dull sky of the source code to an expressive one from another file. We load two photos into Photoshop, and we start working with the main file.

Replacing the background in Photoshop — how to make a high-quality clipping

To replace the landscape's native sky with another object, you need to make clipping (selection) along the contour of each leaf and twig. You understand that the problem is not very trivial, given that the foreground tree flaunts against the background of a blue gradient — the sky. Unfortunately, in such a difficult case, like ours, no "Magic Wand" will help. She is simply powerless here. Therefore it is necessary to use heavy artillery. And we will begin artillery preparation with a wonderful channel panel.

channel panel in Photoshop

Channel bar — channel selection and copying

With the channel panel open, select the one that gives the most contrast B/W picture. Make a copy of, for example, the blue channel, which, in my case, turned out to be the most suitable in contrast.

Your photo may have a different color scheme, therefore, you should not take blue as constant in channel selection. Perhaps in the green channel your photo will be more contrast. So, make a copy of the selected channel, and go further.

add contrast levels

Levels — add contrast

For better clipping, we need to blacken out the dark elements of the image, and make the celestial grayish gradient as uniform as possible and light.

Open the Levels tool Ctrl+L, and move the black and white sliders, making the picture more contrast. Make sure that small details of the image, such as thin branches and leaves, do not merge into black spots. They must remain legible.

The bottom of the picture, where the forest, mountains, road and bushes, should fall into impenetrable blackness. If there are any small gaps in these places, they need to be painted over with a black brush.

If you leave such small gaps, a new bright sky will appear in these places, which is not quite buzzing. Therefore, we carefully go through the black brush across the black field, leaving no gleams.

At the end of the rubbing procedure with black, we begin to lighten the gray sky. For without a uniform white sky, we can not do here.

gradient brightening

Clarifying the gray sky with a gradient

We press the letter “G” on the keyboard, and in the top left menu of Photoshop, click on the gradient icon. After that we will see such a window with default gradient sets. Select the second from the left, then set a white fill for it.

That is, switch the main color from black to white, or simply press the letter "X". Thus, you should see this picture in this gradient panel, which is shown in the screenshot on the right.


white gradient fill

If everything worked out, move on, and set the blending mode of the linear gradient "Soft Light" to 100% opacity. Starting with the tool from the corners to the center, we smoothly lighten the gradient gray sky, see the screenshot to the right.

You need to use a semi-transparent white linear gradient until all the gray of the sky is uniform. light or white. It is necessary to carefully apply such clarification, make sure that the thin branches of trees and small leaves are not clarified by the action of the tool. As an alternative to the gradient, you can use a white brush with the same blending mode.

By switching the main color from white to black (pressing the letter "X"), in the same way we darken all the darker snapshot elements. But now from the bottom corners of the frame and from the left side. Or, go around the contours of branches with a black brush in the “Soft Light” mode.

When you enlarge the image, check if there are too light areas on thin branches and small leaves. If there are any, they need to be darkened. Dark gray color of some thin branches, in principle, is admissible, but it is better that they are not, or at least the number of the latter was minimal.

Return the color of the B/W image

RGB channels

In the channel panel, click on the topmost item, called “RGB”, see the screenshot to the right. Our picture on the desktop of Photoshop immediately recovered the color, well, great.

Now we need to create a layer from our image. To do this, we open the “Layers” panel, double-click on our picture called “Background”, click “Ok.”

In this simple way, the “Background” picture changed its the name is on “Layer 0”, which means that our file is ready for further work. Wonderful, let's go further.

Remove the blue sky

Go back to the already familiar channel panel, and press the Ctrl key, click on the copy of the blue channel (when clicked, it should not be highlighted in blue — it should be gray without an "eye", as in the screenshot above).

add a layer mask

After clicking on the copy of the blue channel, in the picture we finally We will see such a long-awaited clipping, which will be fun to flicker with the lights of the Christmas tree. Without hesitation for a long time, we immediately go to the Layers panel and, while holding down the Alt key, feel free to click on the icon to add a new layer mask, see the screenshot to the right.


layer mask added

So, we got a mask that miraculously hides the selected area, under which the dull sky is hidden. And now, in the Layers panel, another black-and-white icon appeared near the color icon, see the screenshot on the right.

In addition, the sky disappeared in the photo, leaving itself is a gray-white checkered layer of the substrate, resembling a chessboard. Branches with leaves after all these shocks were not injured and did not crumble. So, we did everything right.

How to get rid of halos around objects

Very often, when clipping branches with leaves, thin objects remain around selected objects bright areas resembling halos. This looks pretty cheap in the image.

specify the mask

To remove this halo around thin objects, use the Refine Mask tool, see the screenshot above. You can call this tool with the right mouse button by placing the cursor on the layer mask icon. The screenshot above shows the settings as an example, which is not suitable for all images. Therefore, you should independently, individually for each job, select the optimal parameters.

perfect clipping of the object

Actually, this clipping is completed. All you have to do is to slip a photo with a new sky under this layer, see the photo on the right.

As you can see from this greatly enlarged crop, high-quality clipping has not left any traces of the cut, and has allowed new clouds blend harmoniously into the collage landscape.

The detailing of the thin branches is well preserved. Soft contours of leaves and branches give a collage of naturalness and naturalness.

This method of clipping complex objects and then cutting the background can be successfully used in subject photography, architecture photography and even portraiture. Today, I chose tree clipping as an example because of the high processing complexity that many landscape photographers encounter. It may seem that the process of replacing the background is too time-consuming and takes a lot of time. In fact, it is not. Replacing the background in Photoshop, presented in this article, I can complete in one, maximum two minutes. With the right skills, you can do it even faster.

Darkening of the inexpressive sky in the landscape

Halos around trees spoil the landscape

Very often on the Web you can see landscapes with halos above the forest or around a tree. This is a consequence of poor-quality darkening of the sky in the process of post-processing. Many photographers do not know how to do this qualitatively, and simply draw with a brush or gradient across the sky, leaving horrible halos around trees and other objects at the horizon level.

In most cases , photographers are trying not to replace the native, dull sky in the landscape, but only to darken a little, giving it more expressiveness. And here the method described above will help to cope with this task very qualitatively, without leaving all sorts of halos around the branches of trees or elements in the area of ??the horizon line. Naturally, you do not need to cut anything, but just darken objects in the selected area.

Make photo collages realistic

One source of natural light

To make the picture realistic, watch the light source and the proportions of all the elements included in the composition. If the trees are illuminated by sunlight on the left, then the clouds should also be illuminated on the left. Otherwise we will get two sources of light, which is not observed in wildlife yet.

Perspective in the landscape

Do not forget about the perspective, it is very important when creating landscape-collages. If there is a large sky area in the composition, then the clouds should have a natural, linear perspective, see the first photo in the article. In addition to the linear perspective, you should also use a tonal (airy) perspective that will emphasize the depth of the composition, making the picture realistic and artistic.

Reflections on a water surface

If you decide to replace the sky in the seascape, it is very important to monitor the reflections of new clouds or other objects that are near the water surface. They must be reflected in the water to one degree or another, depending on the brightness of these elements. You should also pay attention to the horizon line, which creates a water surface. It should not be too clear. Water, in most cases, should be a bit darker than clouds.

Given all the above points, you can create a really high-quality photo collage that will be very difficult to expose. But do not deceive anyone by giving a photo collage for a photo. Sooner or later, the truth will still make it through the reinforced concrete of lies. That's all. I hope this article was helpful to you. Questions on the subject write in the comments.

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