Changing Skies in Luminar 4

There are a lot of so-called “solutions for the modern photographer” that are simply crap. You can see them every time you search for anything related to photography. The biggest issue is that the harder people work on trying to make things easier for a photographer, the bigger the pile of crap gets.

However, this is not the case with the sky replacement tool in Luminar 4.1. Initially, I wasn’t sure about it. I thought that maybe it was cheating or something. The examples seemed too good to be true or absolutely unrealistic. Suffice to say that I was sort of skeptical. Then I went to Japan and had crappy weather.

Why Sky Replacement?

Despite what you may think of my photos, I don’t spend a lot of time in Photoshop. Maybe that is good… or maybe you think that I should spend a bit more time. The main thing is that, I really try not to manipulate my images too much with regards to what I would call “true photoshopping” or rather adding in elements that were not originally there. I just tend oversaturate them as some people have said, but that is fine with me.

However, when I was in Tokyo, I found myself in a situation where I could not really wait for better weather. I had to get the shots at a certain and on that certain day, the weather was crap. The photos paled in comparison to ones that people shot when the weather was good. There was not much that I could really do.

However, I thought that I would test out this feature and see if it was as hokey as the sunrays feature was. Now, I don’t really think that the sunrays feature is a bad thing but it was hard to find the perfect spot or situation that would not scream “FAKE!!” and I was worried that the sky replacement would be the same.

However, after poking around with it, I found that it in fact is a great feature to have when you need a basic sky to complete the image. It’s not perfect but as close to it as a one-click solution can be.

How Good is GOOD?

As with anything, nothing “AI” or “One-Click” is going to be perfect for every situation. I find that you can adjust and tweak this feature to make it work but there are going to be situations where it simply won’t work and you have to be aware of that before you start.

With all that being said, It does work in many situations where you have a relatively uncluttered horizon. You have to keep in mind that not every situation is going to be suitable and not every sky will work.

However, where this works very well is making intricate masks. So having to go around the edges is not an issue here. The AI does it for you and actually does a decent job. This is the hardest part done already in my mind.

The rest is up to you and how realistic you want your sky. With the recent updates, you now have even more control over the so-called “realism” of the sky. Meaning that you can add in atmospheric haze to sort of tone down the sharpness and contrast. This is very useful for places like Korea where you rarely have clear skies and to add in a razorsharp sky over Seoul would look a little off.

How Bad is BAD?

The sky replacement feature is actually pretty good. The biggest issue that you are going to run into is that the AI masking will get confused with some features. That means that in some cases you are going to see patches where the AI thinks it should leave out and it is tricky to fix.

The is probably the biggest technical issue that I have found. I am sure that in the upcoming 4.2 version they might add in further adjustments. As it stands now the only solution that I can find is to create a new layer with the exact same sky and bush in the parts left out.

The another issue that I found was the fact that although the AI software can make a perfect outline for your sky, it cannot detect water or add in reflections. So that means that if you are adding in a beautiful golden sunset over a crystal clear lake, it won’t add the sky into the reflection. You will have to do that on your own but thankfully Jim Nix has you sorted for that.

The bottomline here is that this is a great tool that can really save photos that you may not be able to go back and retake. As with anything, it does not some without a few issues. However, they can be easily fix as you learn more about the tool.

However there is no replacement for finding a good sky like this.

What are your thoughts on the Sky Replacement tool?


  1. Rohan Gillett Reply

    I’ve found Luminar 4 to be the same. If you have cluttered horizons, you could end up with some bizarre results when replacing skies. Occasionally I see some results that are bizarre mishmashes of colour. However, it is a good piece of software to have on the computer.

    • Jason Teale Reply

      You are right, I really find some of the global lighting to be a little off. One of the dramatic sunsets tints everything green. However, I think that with the upcoming updates, things will improve. The cluttered horizons are tricky. Even if you have a little bit of cloud cover it will do some weird things at times. Overall, I am glad that I have this tool because it can help in a pinch.

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