Processing for Birds – Replacing a blown sky

Last Updated on August 1, 2019 by Kevin B Agar

I was asked recently on one of my posts how I replaced a blown sky. Here is my solution to the problem. It’s not the perfect answer but is how I do it, and it could probably be done a number of different ways. Sorry this is for Photoshop, but if someone would like to change it for other software packages and post on this thread, then please do.

Load image into photoshop

Duplicate the layer

With the bottom layer selected add a new layer. This will add the new layer above the selected layer

In the new layer add a blue gradient. Either select colours from other photos or just pick a foreground and background blue from the colour selector. You could just fill the layer with a solid blue but I find this a bit false and a gradient gives it a more natural look.

With the top layer selected go to the menu >Select and choose Color Range..
Select the sky and change the fuzziness slider to select all the sky. If some parts of the bird also get selected then go into Quick Mask by hitting the Q key and painting on the mask with a black paint brush. Hit Q again to return to the selection marching ants.

When happy with the selection delete it with Ctrl X. This will give you this

As you can see, this isn’t perfect as there are white borders around the bird, so these have to be dealt with. Also the blue is a bit intense and has to be toned down to look realistic.

You now need to reduce the opacity of the blue gradient layer to make the sky look more natural. Do this until it looks right to you.

The next step is to clone around the bird to remove the white border. This is done by selecting the clone tool and the mode set to Darken. Work on the top layer and select Sample All Layers. You don’t have to be careful about the edges and it will only affect the lighter pixels so if you go over into the bird it doesn’t do anything to the darker pixels.

Here’s a shot before cloning

Here’s a shot after cloning

and the final result after sharpening for the web

Spotted Flycatcher Canon EOS 7D f/5.6 1/2500sec ISO-400 500mm

Any problems or questions then please ask.

© 2003-2024 Kevin B Agar

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