How to swap skies in Photoshop for dynamic photography | Ruthie Henderson | Skillshare

How to swap skies in Photoshop for dynamic photography

Ruthie Henderson, Conceptual Photographer

How to swap skies in Photoshop for dynamic photography

Ruthie Henderson, Conceptual Photographer

Play Speed
  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x
6 Lessons (28m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Making selections

    • 3. Using Layer masks

    • 4. Color Adjusting

    • 5. Adding the stars

    • 6. Final Color Adjustments

  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels
  • Beg/Int level
  • Int/Adv level

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Have you ever had white and over exposed skies in your photos? This happens to me all the time! When I expose my photos for my subject it leaves my skies blown out and boring. Learn these simple compositing techniques to add in a new sky to any photo. I also talk about my coloring techniques and how I get bold and vibrant photos that are full of life and color. You can follow these methods whether you are new to Photoshop or are a seasoned pro! 


At the end of this class you will be able to turn any photo into a masterpiece!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ruthie Henderson

Conceptual Photographer


Hello, I'm Ruthie! I'm a conceptual photographer based out of St. Louis, Missouri. I'm a self-taught photoshop wizard. I taught myself by watching photoshop tutorials online and wandering my hometown with a camera.

Conceptual photography, to me, is altering reality and art to communicate or exaggerate ideas. I find it really difficult to express my thoughts through language, so photography is how I share my ideas. But most of all, it just makes me happy.

See full profile

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • Exceeded!
  • Yes
  • Somewhat
  • Not really
Reviews Archive

In October 2018, we updated our review system to improve the way we collect feedback. Below are the reviews written before that update.

Your creative journey starts here.

  • Unlimited access to every class
  • Supportive online creative community
  • Learn offline with Skillshare’s app

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.



1. Intro: Hi, My name is Ruthie and I am the photographer behind rethinks Magical Camera. I am a conceptual the talker for So I like to use Photoshopped to play with different images and combine them in a way to create a new concept. It's a very surreal style, and this tutorial is all about sky swaps. So if you've ever noticed taking a picture where used to setting the exposure for our subject. But sometimes that usually leads this guy to be too bright and blown out. So this technique is really great for adding a new sky back it. It adds lots of new details, and you could add a lot of more colors and especially if you add a sunset to your sky. So I'm going Teoh, go step by Step on, how exactly have made this photo? And I will have the files bailed over. The serial is perfect for anyone to shop, or even if you've been using it for a while, of just playing around. This is a great way, Teoh. Here, I'm gonna be showing you how to use later mass and how they use different adjustment layers . I do a lot of building of adjustment layers to Can I get my salary? You can use the techniques that you learn from this in your own photos to creates a really beautiful scenes. This is a really fun project that we can all together, So join the class and then let's get started. 2. Making selections: This is kind of the layout of my work space. I have my tools panel to the left. I have adjustments to the right and as well as, ah, layers panel. If you are missing any of these windows, you just select window and you can choose which ones you want. So I'm always make sure tohave adjustments and layers, and it's always helpful toe have history available because if you ever mess up, you can just back up into the history instead of having toe hit Undo, you could only undo one step at a time. So when you have a history, you could kind of go farther back. So, um, that is my workspace. Okay, So open up the start file into photo shop. You'll see here that the sky is a lot brighter than anything else because you usually, um, said the exposure for your subject. So a lot of times, that leaves the sky really white, which is really good, because it makes it easy for our selections. Okay, we're going to drag and drop the new sky file over your picture here. And if you see, um, this is a smart object. If you don't see this little square here in the corner than you could right, click and select. Convert to smart object. And what that does is it allows us to create adjustments to the bile to the photo that are non destructive. That means they aren't permanent and you can redo it or alter in any way. So I put a curves adjustment over this. And if I don't like that curves, I want a dark air or brighter, I can click that curves again and edit it. I'm gonna make set the skies blending mode to multiply. Now this guy's can mostly only be seen over the white areas of the sky and depending how complex your images. This may be all that you need to dio to add your new sky, but since I have these trees in the background, I need to create a layer mask over them. Since my sky is really white, that's gonna be really easy. So I select the background layer and I go select selected mask. You will see that my view mode is overlay. Everything is red, so whatever isn't selected is red, and whatever is selected is theory Journal colors, So I'm going to select the sky by just clicking and dragging, and it'll kind of select everything that is really light and close to the sky. So now you'll see my whole sky is selected. I can see that some of my fine details got selected as well, and I don't want that to happen. So I'm gonna select the refine edge tool, and I'm making my brush a little larger And what they're a fine edge brush will do. Is it Will some select the tiny little details you need. So, like, if you have hair that you need to still life but you don't really want to, like, draw around all the hairs, it'll just, um, select and, uh, clean up your selection for you. So I'm gonna go around the trees with it and around her hair with it. Now, I also have this little spot of white in between her arms here that I need to select. Or so I go back to my quick selection tool. And then I clicked right in that little white spot between her arms and now that is selected. Then I go back to my refined edge brush tool. I'm using the shortcut right bracket and left bracket to make my brush larger or smaller. But you could adjust the size up top if you want Teoh. And so I made my brush a little larger and then rush around the trees there. And it also leapt kind of all of the branches and the leaves, the big parts of the trees so that I get a really clean selection here. Okay? And after that, you can kind of play with your refinements if you see that your edges aren't very smooth, Um, you can up the smoothness, you could feather it or on up. The contrast. All kind of depends on what image you are using for that. And whenever you're done with your selection, hit, OK, and then you will see marching ants, or these lines are around the whole sky. So I will select the sky layer down here at the bottom of the layers panel. You will see this, but in that is the add layer mask. It's a little rectangle with the circle in the center, so click add layer mask and it will create a layer mask, and I will explain in depth what a layer mask is. But you will see that in the layer mask. There is all this white where the sky is and black, where my subject and the rooftops are on all kind of explain in the next section exactly what that means. 3. Using Layer masks: Okay, so we're knowing to talk about layer masks and exactly what they do. They are awesome. Awesome tool to use. Um, let's start off with creating a curves adjustment layer. Make it a little lighter. You could kind of play around with the curves to kind of see exactly what it does, but it kind of just makes things lighter and darker. The right side of the curves, uh, panel is lights. Left side is darks. So kind of made a quick adjustment here. Now, every adjustment layer you'll see they have this little white square next to it that is the ah layer mask and with layer masks. Anything that is white is visible, and anything that is black is hidden. So if I were to paint onto this layer mask with a big brush and I paint black onto it, you'll see it erases it. And if I paint white onto it, it adds it back. So this is a super helpful tool to make adjustments on just very specific spots onto the image. So I wanted to lie in my subject and kind of everything in the foreground. So using that selection that I made a little bit using that curves layer that I made a little brighter. I am going to paint the whole layer mask black with this paint bucket tool so that all of it is hidden. And I'm going to go in with white and a bit in a round brush with the low hardness so that it's soft and I'm going to paint white the areas that I want to see light end. So that's my subjects A little bit of this rooftop. You'll see me a lot in this image world. Create an adjustment layer, and I'll delete parts of it so that it's only seen in the sky or that will only be seen in my subject. It's a neat tool to at it just specific spots on your image. So I photographed this image with a pretty wide aperture. So if you see the buildings are kind of soft and out of focus, I need my sky to match that and be kind of soft and out of focus, and you need to make sure to click the actual photo here so that your editing the photo and not the layer mask, so I'm going to go filter blur and Ghazi in blur. I'm going to set my blur to five. And that looks good to kind of be soft enough that it matches the buildings. But it doesn't mean we don't want it to soft so that it's not realistic anymore. And again, since this is a ah, smart object is not it is nondestructive. So I can go back and change my blur if I wanted add more blur less blur. Okay, I am going to create a new curves layer to create a little bit more contrast. I'm gonna This is what A S curve is kind of like where you raise your highlights a little bit and lower your darks, and it creates more contrast. Um, there you could see before and after adding the curves layer. And if you don't want it quite a strong, you could also lower the opacity. So I lowered my opacity down a little bit to make it a little more subtle. Now I did another curves layer. I want to make the sky darker, so I'm just gonna drag this down Now you could see there's too much darkness. Now my subject is too dark, so I want to erase that. So I'm going to paint my whole layer mask black and kind of ad in the dark spots. Ah, just to the sky. Um, my brush opacity here is down to 43%. And if you want to even darker, you could go in with, ah to with two, um, curves layers. Make sure you are using a really soft brush with the hardness of zero to so that you're not getting any hard edges when you pay anything white. Now I'm gonna add kind of a Grady in effect by only adding some of my darks to the corners of the image, so it really draws your focus to the center of the image. 4. Color Adjusting: next thing I'm going to do is play with the color a little bit by using the selective color adjustment. It's a really fun adjustment tool because you could, um, at it just one specific color out of time. So I have a lot of scions in my sky. It's very blue. So I'm gonna kind of pump up the blues and drop the magenta so it gets more of a teal blue and this part is really up to you and your style. You could kind of play around with it. Um, I'm selecting the blue color here, taking out that magenta so it's more teal, adding a little bit more yellow to it. Really play around with the selective color because there's a lot of fun stuff you could do here. You can add or take away colors and really make it vibrant. So I'm gonna make my yellows a little more vibrant. Little more, um, read so that it looks more like a sunset and you could even play with your wives. You could add color to your whites, play around with it and really see what it does and you might not like it. And what's cool is you can readjust this later. So this is a really extreme view of what? It kind of conduce. So I'm gonna set everything back to zero. Okay, so now you could see that's before and after adding thes selective color. Another fund adjustment layer is thedc Uhlir balance tool. Um, there you can adjust your mid tones, your shadows and your highlights. So I always start off with my mid tones. Um, you could add more red, um, really play around with the colors. So I like to make, um I liked toe add more teal to this image. So I added some green to the red to the mid tones and a little yellow to the mid tones. Um, and then you could go to your shadows or your highlights. This part is kind of just playing around as well. Whatever matches your style Nets, he added a little red and yellow to the shadows and then go to your highlights. I want it to look like it's really sunset here. So I'm gonna try to add some warmth to my highlights. What, by adding yellow and red and maybe even a little magenta so that it's really like a sunset and I d selected preserve luminosity so that, um it didn't blow out my whites too much. Now, at this point, I noticed that there was a little building or something at the side of my image, kind of blocking peeking into my sky, and I kind of want to get rid of that. So I selected my background image. So I used the patch tool and the petrels really need you. Just circle your item, and then you click and drag, and it'll clear that little peekaboo spot right up if you have any. It's really good for large areas that you need to, um, conceal or get rid off. Okay, I'm going to do another selective layer, and I'm gonna play with some of my whites here. Sometimes if you want to add a lot of color, you kind of need a build up your adjustment layer so you could see I already have a good deal. Amount of adjustment layers, but it's kind of building it up so that you get a really natural result and you're making small, incremental adjustments at a time. So I wanted the whites to be more reminiscent of a sunset where sunsets are usually really have really red cloud. So I added a lot of color into my whites. You could also, I lower the opacity. So is a little more subtle. And then again, I went in with the color balance and played with the highlights. So if I were to change the, um, order of these layers, it would affect, um, how this image would look. So now that my this color balance is above my selective color, it's adjusting the whites as they are now with a little bit more color, so I can't add a little bit more reds and yellows here. Now. I thought that this was affecting too much of my image. It's gonna wacky, so I only want this viewed on the white clouds. So I went and played in my whole, um, layer mask black on this color balance layer and went in with a white brush to Teoh paint in my color balance. And now you can see the color is on, Lee adding, where I'm painting white. And then I lowered my A pass ity so it's a little more subtle 5. Adding the stars: all right. Now for a really fun part, I'm going to add another layer to my, um, sky here, and I want to have stars in the darker parts of my image. So dragon drop in my star file, stars will. And then I make the blending mode screen. And now that the blending motives on screen, you could see that on Lee the light parts of my image are seen. And so that means mostly all of the stars. I am going to go image adjustments and play with the curves a little bit so that I can make the lights lighter and the darks darker so that more stars are seen unless of the atmosphere of the sky is seen. I need to add a blur to my image so that it looks like the stars are in a distance and they aren't focused in because it's the background. So I'm going a filter ghazi and blur and keep it about the same as the blur that you used for the sky. Maybe a little bit more kind of whatever. Now I want to kind of erase some of these stars out from over my subject, so I create a layer mess now going in with a black brush and I'm going to use a brush with full pastie painting black on the areas. I don't want to see the stars so the stars aren't gonna be really peeking outside of the clouds. The clouds should be blocking the star's. And then I'm going to go in with a lower opacity brush to kind of blend out my edges. So it's not just the harsh, uh, edge of stars and then no stars. So there you go. And I kind of wanted some more stars, especially around the edges. So I duplicated the layer and I flipped it, so it wasn't the same starts in the same spots. And I'm gonna you is a black brush to kind of paint it out in the middle so that it's really just kind of around the edges so that it looks like the top part, the stars air really showing through. Now, if you want to add a moon, you can I just drag and drop in my moon file and made it a screen blending mode again. And then you can resize this and place it where you need Teoh and same thing. You add a blur to it. So filter blur, cosy and blur. And there you go. Then you have a moon. 6. Final Color Adjustments: whenever I add after I add all of my elements to my image. I like to do a really final passed with editing the colors and the contrast of everything. Once I have, then I can kind of blend all of the elements together. So add some color to the stars and fun things like that. So we'll be doing that in the next segment. I created another curves layer to kind of dark in the sky up even more that looks good and I'm going to brush it away. Does it really only wanted affecting the sky? So, with a brush with 100% capacity, I brushed it away from my subject. So my bread subjects he's nice and bright and again using a very soft brush. So it's a subtle line and then going in with a lower rapacity brush to kind of blend it and more. Now I'm going to do another color balanced layer. A lot of this stuff A lot of these layers are kind of up to your own interpretation on, based on what your image looks like and your style, I like a really bright and colorful image, So I'm doing a lot of adjustment layers and a lot of, um, color balance layers and selective color layers to kind of build up my color. So that's before and after the color balance. Now I'm going to create kind of a lens flare or really just light ray of the sky peeking out from behind my model. So I'm going to use a bright orange color and brush it onto a new layer and then use that blending mode, make the blending mode of that layer screen and then lower the opacity a little bit. And so now it looks like this cool kind of sunray coming next to my model. So I'm gonna, um I'm gonna do the same thing, um, for next to her elbow here with a proof orange brush turn into screen. And, um so the opacity make it look really natural. And then also, I want a little sun peeking from inside of her elbow to, and I'm putting each dog onto a new layer so that if I wanted to move each little sunray around, I could or make some brighter and some not quite as intense. Um, makes it a little easier toe manipulate so That's before the sun rays, and that is after I think it's a really cool effect and really easy to. After looking at this, I decided I want even more orange in my white. So he created another selective layer and made my whites really orange. And then Onley added it to the clouds. So I kind of played around here a little bit, Um, playing with those same adjustment layers until I got something that I really liked once. Okay, Make sure you're saving throughout this whole process, But once you feel like you got all of your colors the way you want it, you can flat in your image by right clicking any layer and flat ending it. Now you only have one layer. You could stop. Stop here. Say this as a J peg. Call it good, but I like to do this to every photo before I save it. I like to add a little sharpness to it. So I'm going to duplicate my background layer again, and I'm going to use filter, other and high pass. And this creates a high pass filter. Uhm, I'm going to set the radius down to 3.7 and I'm going to set the screen mode too soft. Light, a soft light, Okay, on Zoom. And here you can really see the effect that this has in sharpening it. If you want it even more detailed, you can set your blending moto hard light, and you could really see the difference here. But I like to keep it out down. T. I like to keep the blending motor soft light so that it's kind of soft enough to look natural, but it's still crisp enough that adds a lot of really good detail, but it's really up to you and your preference. So whenever you done with that, then flat in that image again and then save it or than save as a JPEG, name it whatever you want and make sure to save Oliver image with the largest quality. I ended up cropping my image because I wanted to make it square for Instagram. But there is before and after. Thank you so much for joining me for this tutorial. Let me know if you ever have any questions, and I love to see anything you guys create. Tag me in any If you're on instagram, I'm at Ruthie's magical camera. Thanks again and have a great day