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Scott's Quick And Easy Sky Replacement Technique

Published: 14/06/2011
By: larry

Like Scott Hargis says, there are a gazillion ways to replace a sky. For real estate photography you want something fast and easy. Scott's video tutorial is just that, quick and easy. You don't even have to have a library of skies for this one! You just change the color of the clouds from grey to blue. Great idea!

Scott also describes a nifty little trick for removing the power lines.

This technique will work for any version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements that has the magic wand in it. It's been in PSE since version 6 and I think it's been in Photoshop longer than that. So this is a technique that anyone should be able to use.

Thanks to Scott for this tutorial!

9 comments on “Scott's Quick And Easy Sky Replacement Technique”

  1. Just be careful when you start to remove power lines... Realtors can potentially open themselves up to a complaint or lawsuit if powerlines (or anything else permanent) are removed from a photograph.

  2. @Dylan. While you make a good point about misrepresenting a property, all Scott had to do is move forward a bit and shoot wider. In fact unless that yellow building to the right is part of the sale, I would have done just that so the house itself would fill more of the frame esp. if it is the feature shot for the MLS. I find myself shooting around things all the time, like ugly neighbor properties, power lines and terrible lawns. Am I obligated to shoot and present every negative aspect of a listing? My job is to help get showings and put the home in the best possible light. In the end, it is the agent that decides what they want to market the property. I also think it is the photogs responsibility to keep up with MLS guidelines and advise the client as needed.

  3. If a wire isn't attached to the house, I think it's OK to remove it. As Fred points out (and it's been discussed here and elsewhere many times, with a clear consensus emerging) that's just a matter of POV and focal length.
    There are still gray areas with that, though. For example, I recently shot a house with giant high-tension power line towers looming behind it. Agent wanted me to photoshop them out --- and in theory, if I had shot from a VERY elevated position, looking down, I could have composed them out of the shot....but the fact remains that these towers were a very real presence on the property, and the POV required to avoid them would have been quite extreme. I left them in.

  4. One thing I forgot to mention in the video -- the Levels adjustment I was laughing at at the end is actually pretty good for helping to define the edges of the "clouds". It's possible to work the Hue/Saturation afterwards to get things back to something rational-looking.

  5. That simple change in focal length and the wires would be out of frame, but Scott needed the wires for the tutorial to present an interesting procedure in Photoshop. Thanks Scott.

  6. Thanks Scott
    That was an intereting approach to removing the wires, as I have always used the healing brush. likewise with the color adjustment on the sky. It would come in handy when hue adjustment won't work to the shade you want.

    Where I typically use hue adjustment is turning grass back green again. Northern fescue grasses stay green year round, even when covered with this strange white stuff. Southern grasses - bermuda, St Augustine, bahai, etc turn brown and go dormant with first frost and need attention in Jan and Feb. What I like about hue masking is adjusting the grass to an appropriate green then brush the mask to allow it to show through. Over-brush?, just reverse the mask to correct. No magic wand or other selecting tool required. Then flatten the layers.

  7. @ Fred -- not to quibble, but a longer or shorter focal length (to zoom past the wires, or push in under them) would also have changed the comp, which I didn't want to do....I knew I could remove the wires easily, and a tighter comp would have yielded an un-balanced photo, with not enough framing on the left and right to balance the sky and grass on top/bottom. In my book, a pleasing comp trumps almost any other consideration! Unless there's a crack house next door, or something...

    @ Larry -- I'm specifically trying to avoid creating a layer mask, because the "edges" of the sky are generally much more complex than the edges of the some cases you could get away with it but most of the time the shapes of the treeline and roofline are complex enough that brushing in the mask gets harder to do than magic-wanding in the first place. But in the end, you use the method that matches your skill set. There's a million different pathways to a similar result.

  8. As a Realtor and photographer, I've sold 3 houses this year where the buyer has bought the house without seeing it. So, if I were to crop out powerlines, (or anything else that is a permanent fixture), I would open myself up to litigation. Obviously, POV plays a role. Its up to the agent and the photog to determine what is ethically right.

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