The following is the first of a 51 page PDF tutorial written by John McBay that you can download here. For those who don't know John's work, he has written the e-book, Image Editing for Real Estate available here and created the video series Image Editing for Real Estate available here. Note: John updated the tutorial on 10/7 to include some reader suggestions.
I have been doing sky replacements for many years and have written about them in my e-book, Image Editing for Real Estate Photography, and have also created videos to show the same techniques in my video series of the same name. The method I have been using (creating a selection of the sky using Select > Color Range) is fairly quick and produces good results in most situations.
But recently, I was made aware of another sky replacement technique that usually produces better results, especially around very small items silhouetted against the sky, such as twigs, small branches, and distant foliage, and is just as quick.
I want to thank Ryan Christian, a member of the Flickr Real Estate Photography forum, for pointing out this technique.
- This tutorial uses the Windows version of Photoshop CC 2018. Many versions of Photoshop, going back quite a few years will have the tools to successfully use this technique. Lightroom and Elements can't be used.
- Once you have mastered this technique, you should expect to insert a sky in about 3 to 4 minutes. If there are issues that make the selection difficult and that need careful correction, it might take a couple of extra minutes. For the example I will be using in the tutorial (which required several adjustments to the initial selection), it took less than 6 minutes.
- References to Photoshop shortcuts such as CTRL + a would be entered as CMD + a, ALT + a as Option + a, on a Macintosh.
- We will be using layers in this tutorial. Make sure that the Layers panel is visible on the right side of the Photoshop workspace. If it is not, go to Window > click on Layers. You can use this technique even if you are not proficient using Layers. However, Layers are one of Photoshop's most powerful tools and when you have the time, well worth studying.
- Make sure the Adjustments panel is visible on the right side of the Photoshop workspace. If it is not, go to Window > click on Adjustments.
- If you don't have your own sky library, you should create one. In the meantime, feel free to download a copy of mine: Sky Library