How do you usually correct blown out skies?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by haring, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. haring
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    haring New Member

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    How do you usually correct blown out skies? I know there are so many tutorials on youtube but I want to know which method you prefer the most. Which is the fatest, etc.
    I mainly shoot weddings so HDR doesn't really work for me. People just move all the time...
  2. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    'Correct' blown out skies? :scratch:

    Just don't blow them out in the first place. And if the sky is overcast and bland looking, then compose your shots to avoid the sky.

    If the sky is just a little too bright, then I might reduce the exposure slider in Lightroom, then up the fill to lighten up the shadows again.

    If it brighter, I'll use an adjustment brush to reduce the brightness/exposure in the sky. With automask turned on, it shouldn't take long to make a quick pass over it.
  3. ghache
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    ghache New Member

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    if its completely blown out there is pretty much nothing you can do about,

    to bring skies back, underexpose them in pp a little bit and add some clarity to bring back some details
  4. skieur
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    skieur New Member

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    The fastest approach is to use (create if necessary) a graduated blue filter in Photoshop or PaintShop Pro.

    skieur
  5. Overread
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    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member

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    It depends on the shot. I shoot in RAW all the time and sometimes the sky areas will be slightly (very slightly) overexposed compared to the ground areas - sometimes you can claw this back by processing the RAW twice (false HDR).

    You process the shot normally for the ground areas and save it as a TIFF then open up the RAW again and this time process the shot exactly the same, but slide the exposure slide down so as to darken the shot and show up the details in the sky areas (if they are there to be shown - as said if you totally overexpose the sky then you won't have any detail to restore). Then just overly one shot over the other and use a layermask to remove the unwanted parts - leaving you with the ground from one shot and the sky from the other.

    Other methods are the one that Skieur mentions and also replacing the sky with one from another shot (this latter one can take a longer amount of time to get the proper effect).

    Idealy though you want to get both sky and foreground exposed correctly at the time. Keeping the sun behind you help as does shooting at points in the day when the sun is not as intense. Finally using reflectors and/or flash can allow you to boost lighting in your foreground whilst allowing the sky to expose correctly.
  6. phiya
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    phiya New Member

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    I usually just correct the sky on the raw ignoring everything else, and process it twice, then use photoshop to mask the sky back over the blown out sky on the normal photo
  7. terri
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    terri Administrator Staff Member

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    I'm having trouble figuring out why this thread is in the Alternative section. :scratch:

    No matter; I'll deposit it someplace more appropriate. :sexywink:
  8. clanthar
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    clanthar New Member

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    You can't correct or fix or improve or repair a blown out sky.

    Photoshop can seemingly work miracles with data that missed the mark and needs help, but Photoshop, Lightroom, ACR, etc. can't help when there's no data. If you didn't capture information then you've got nothing and nothing equals zero -- 0 times anything = 0.

    You can replace a blown out sky with a sky from another photo or you can manufacture a fake sky. These operations are not corrections; recording nothing can't be fixed.

    Joe
  9. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I try not to allow them to be blown out in the first place. I use the light meter in the camera, and shoot with the tone curve set to LOW if the scene dynamic range is high.
    Get it as good as you can in-camera.
  10. pbelarge
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    pbelarge New Member

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    Mistakes can be made, or lack of skill could lead to blown out skys. I think that for important images, the chance to replace the sky with some skies you may have shot at another time and layer into the image could be the best result.

    In camera is generally the way to strive, but we all know how well plans sometimes go...;)
  11. michaelleggero
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    michaelleggero New Member

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    you should post some of the pictures you're having trouble with. .every image is different and what you consider "blown out" might simply be an easy adjustment to someone else

    Mike Leggero

    http://www.michaelleggero.com
  12. skieur
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    skieur New Member

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    Sure that is the ideal, but in some situations it can be an extreme challenge when you are down deep between two rock faces shooting up or in the deep, dark forest where the sky is still peaking through in some areas of the background. The ground often is not ideal for a tripod which when combined with a strong ND filter might have been a potential solution.

    skieur
  13. inTempus
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    inTempus New Member

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    It sounds to me like the OP is asking how to prevent blown skies (since he said HDR wasn't a possibility).

    Use a flash.
  14. Dao
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    Dao Well-Known Member

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    Yes indeed!!

    Meter the sky and flash the subject.
  15. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    Yep! Strobed light.
  16. brianT
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    brianT New Member

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    When the subject is a building, or a bridge, or anything large, a flash is not an option. In fact no artificial light is an option.

    Overread's response is the solution for this. Until digital cameras have the dynamic range of the human eye you'll need to do exposure blending.

    Personally, I often take 2 exposures (bracketed) as long as the shutter speed is fast enough if no tripod is being used. Most of the time I find two exposures is enough to blend for natural looking finishing.

    Usually the problem with blending two exposures is the 'blend transition'. With photoshop you can spend a lot of time painting a detailed mask. I don't have a lot of time to create detailed masks, so I use Capture NX2. Nik's Viveza plug-in tools are the same as Capture NX2. What this does is make an instant quick mask. And let's face it, when it comes to post-processing, really the masking is crucial (which is the reason Nik Software's tools are so powerful).

    Here's what you do: You have 2 separate exposures. One where the sky is perfect (but the ground is underexposed). And one where the ground is perfect (but the sky is overexposed). Assuming the different between sky and ground is a few stops difference, using the exposure with the perfectly exposed sky, use the quick mask tools to brighten the ground, adjusting the tone, saturation, and hue of the ground until is matches the other exposure (the one with the perfectly exposed ground) as best as possible. The fact is that brightening the ground will introduce noise because it's an underexposed area of the photograph. The key is to match the underexposed area of the ground as closely as possible to the photograph with the perfectly exposed ground. Also, as you brighten the underexposed ground, make sure the sky IS NOT affected. This is point of using the quick mask tools. They work very, very well most of the time.

    Save each RAW photo as TIFF's. This means the one with the perfectly exposed ground and blown out sky. And the other photo with the perfectly exposed sky and the brightened ground.

    Import both photos into photoshop. Use Auto-Align Layers (assuming you're using CS4 or newer. If you don't have auto-align you can roughly manually align or skip aligning altogether as your manually pained mask will determine what's visible in the photo. It really depends on the photo.). Now all you need to do is paint a fairly rough mask between the two photos and most of the time you'll get a very nice result. Remember this is not HDR! It's just a way to control exposure where the scene in the field surpassed the dynamic range of the camera. Honestly, this works for me most of the time. I process photos this way because a lot of the time the difference between sky and ground exposure is too great.

    Also, using the method I described it won't matter too much if there's moving people in the 2 shots (assuming the people are not running across the frame) because when you blend the exposures in photoshop you can paint the mask around the moving subject -- painting the mask around the movement. Again, this is assuming small movement of people. But if you bracket you're shots and fast enough shutter speeds it shouldn't be a problem.

    Now of course, as Derrel said, you should try to balance the exposure as best as possible in the field and get it correct in camera. But we all know this isn't always possible! But try to use polarizers and graduated neutral density filters to control exposure.
  17. inTempus
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    inTempus New Member

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    Here's an example.

    I used a speedlite to shoot this pic this weekend. If I had not used a speedlite, either the subject would have been under exposed and the sky would have been a brilliant blue, or the sky would have been over exposed (color washed out) and the subject would have been properly exposed.

    [​IMG]

    With the speedlite I was able to balance the exposure and capture both the colors of the subjects and of the sky.

    If you're not shooting a subject that lends itself to flashing (the OP was talking about shooting people though, which are prime candidates for flashing) then a filter will help you get a proper exposure.
  18. RauschPhotography
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    RauschPhotography New Member

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    In LR3- Bring down exposure, exposure gradient applied to sky area. Really depends on the specific picture itself, so I can't really say I have a general technique to correcting it.

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