Lightroom Sky Replacement in Real Estate Photos

Sky replacement is now a very common way to make your real estate photos stand out and be much more appealing. Many professional photographers utilize this method for exterior real estate photography because we can’t control the weather on the day of the shoot. Sometimes the sky is overcast, sometimes it’s grey and dull, and sometimes it just needs a little enhancing. No matter what the reason, sky image replacement has always been a surefire way to amp up your photo’s overall value and aesthetics.

In the past, the process of replacing your photo’s sky was tedious and required multiple steps. In fact, it was such a challenge to fine tune each detail and achieve a virtually seamless photography that many were often left with subpar photos unless they opted to pay for an expert editor.

Now, with modern technology and a slew of options to choose from, sky replacement is achievable in only a few clicks! Almost anyone with a computer and enough determination can pull it off, and we’ll teach you just how you can replace your own skies below.

Can I make my sky look better in pictures?

Yes, you most definitely can! One common challenge when it comes to photography, more specifically outdoor or exterior real estate photography, is a less than appealing sky during the photoshoot. We end up with a great shot of the house or subject, but with either an overcast, overexposed, grey, or dull looking horizon.

This can take a lot of value away from the photo and may even cause some potential buyers to look the other way. However, there is a quick fix to that: replacing the sky.

There are a number of ways to replace the sky in your photo and many programs that can assist you in making the process a breeze to go through. We discuss more on these below.

Is replacing the sky cheating?

Replacing the sky is a type of photo manipulation or photo editing. Every professional photo you see published online has been edited or manipulated in one way or another in order to showcase the subject in its most flattering and appealing light.

Technically speaking, editing a photo’s brightness and vibrancy are on another end of the spectrum when compared to replacing the whole horizon. But they have one in the same goal: to produce a high quality image that sets it apart from others on the market in the hopes that potential clients will be drawn to it.

If replacing the sky is considered cheating, then so should other forms of digital manipulation such as erasing telephone lines, adding a patch of grass, or even deleting whole humans from the scene.

What it all boils down to is that replacing the sky does not take anything away from the property itself. It does not misinterpret the home and any of its features, nor does it mean you are lying to your potential buyers. If you had the photoshoot on a good, sunny day, you most likely would have gotten an image similar to the sky you used to replace anyhow.

For as long as you are in no way distorting the subject, making the house seem much bigger than it actually is, or are digitally adding features that are not actually there, then you are not cheating your way through real estate photography.

What Are The Best Photo Software For Replacing Sky?

There are numerous kinds of photo software that can assist you in replacing the sky. We feature our top picks below:

Adobe Photoshop. When it comes to photo manipulation, Adobe Photoshop is usually top of mind for most seasoned photographers. This is hands down the most popular and one of the most classic tools that photographers and digital artist alike utilize for varying projects

The latest version of Photoshop allows for simple sky replacement and can save you a lot of time and energy compared to manually having to correct the image piece by piece. However, not everyone would like to allocate their budget on Photoshop’s monthly fee, especially if they do not use it too often.

Adobe Lightroom. Another product from Adobe that can help enhance the sky in your photo is their Lightroom software. Lightroom is a staple in a professional photographer’s list of must-haves. Not only does it allow for batch editing, but its many features that make it an absolute breeze to edit images make it well worth the investment.

On top of correcting the color grade, exposure levels, and other elements, Lightroom also has the ability to enhance your skies. The difference between Photoshop and Lightroom, however, is that Lightroom can only do so much as to enhance your sky’s current state. It does not have the capability to totally take the current sky out of the photo and replace it with a whole new one. It also cannot support sky overlays.

If your image’s sky has some details and colors left in it that you can work with, Lightroom has a built-in Select Sky feature that zeroes in on the horizon and lets you focus all your editing on the sky itself. This is very useful as it means you will not affect any other element of the photo while you try to find a good exposure balance.

Skylum Luminar AI. A good alternative to Adobe’s offerings is Skylum’s Luminar AI program. This is a standalone program, which you do not need to pay monthly for, just a one-off price when you first purchase it.

It is amazingly quick and easy to replace your sky with this program. It also has its own collection of sky presets that you can choose from, apart from the ability to upload your own skies and download more from their free online library.

Similar to Photoshop’s Sky Replacement tool, the Luminar also detects your original image’s settings and automatically adjusts the lighting of your image to match that of the sky. This works even with complicated environments that have all sorts of trees and other foreground objects, something that may be a little lacking in the Photoshop option.

Pro Tip If You Are Accustomed To Editing on Lightroom

Many professional photographers love to enhance images on Lightroom, and if you are one of them, we are happy to announce that Lightroom seamlessly integrates with both Luminar and Photoshop programs.

This means that once you are satisfied with your Lightroom edit, you can quickly send them to one of the editing apps to do your sky replacement, and then send that back to Lightroom for final editing – all in one seamless process.

How Can You Enhance The Sky In Lightroom? Step-by-Step Guide

If you prefer to enhance your skies with Adobe Lightroom, you can do so in 4 simple steps. However, keep in mind that this method works best for horizons that still have ample detail left in them, not those that are too dull or too white washed.

Step 1: Import your photo/s to Adobe Lightroom, with the sky prominently displayed in the frame.

Step 2: Select the Brush Tool located on the upper right corner of the sidebar. You can find it right below the Histogram. Once you have located it, click Auto Mask found further below.

Step 3: From there, adjust the temperature by moving the pointer left or right.

Step 4: Once you have your preferred temperature, gently brush over the sky, ensuring that the center of your brush does not touch the areas below the sky.

That’s all there is to it! Now you have beautifully enhanced skies using Adobe Lightroom’s 4-step method.

Add drama to your images with Adobe Photoshop Sky Replacement

If you need a way to completely replace the sky, then the Adobe Photoshop Sky Replacement tool will do just the trick. This tool is available with Photoshop’s newer releases, specifically Versions 22.0 and up.

What is amazing about this built-in tool is that it uses artificial intelligence powered Adobe Sensei to analyze the image and seamlessly replace the sky for you. All thanks to the Sky Replacement algorithms that have been so beautifully designed, the program’s ability to recognize where the sky starts and ends, allowing for a seamless transition, makes the job so much easier.

There are 3 simple steps to replacing the sky using Adobe Photoshop’s Sky Replacement tool, namely:

Step 1: With your image open in Photoshop, click on Edit and then hit Sky Replacement.

Step 2: From the drop-down menu provided, select a brand new sky from the list of preset sky images. You also have the option to import your own sky and utilize that.

Step 3: Once you have chosen your new sky, make any necessary adjustments to make it blend seamlessly with the rest of the photo. Once finished, click OK and you are good to go!

Adobe Photoshop houses a wide collection of skies that you can utilize for all your photos. They are categorized into three different groups, namely: Blue Skies, Spectacular Skies, and Sunset Skies.

Under Blue Skies, you can find all your daytime skies in either a solid blue color or with clouds added in.

Under Spectacular Skies, you will find a range of dramatic options such as storm clouds, sunscapes, rainbows, and starry night skies.

Under Sunset Skies, you can find hues of yellow, orange, pink, and red.

Want To Download More Skies?

If Photoshop’s Sky Replacement presets lack in imagination for you, you have the option to download more – or even upload your own sky image!

You can acquire more skies by heading to the Settings drop-down in the Sky Replacement window. Simply click import to upload your own files, or download free sky presets. You can find a range of options such as tornadoes, northern lights, fireworks, stars, and even the Milky Way. These are all contributed to the program by professional photographers.

Are There More Benefits To Photoshop’s Sky Replacement?

Probably one of the most notable features that Photoshop’s Sky Replacement has is the ability to still edit everything on a traditional Photoshop workflow. This means that once you have chosen your preferred sky, you still have full control over how you want to adjust it further. The developers understood that presets are not a one size fits all option, leaving wiggle room for customization whenever necessary. Want to learn more about how to further enhance your photo with Sky Replacement? Read further for out step-by-step guide.

How To Enhance Your Whole Photo with Adobe Photoshop Sky Replacement

While utilizing Sky Replacement, you still have the ability to control both your new sky and all the elements around your original image – without the need for background removal or a new background layer. Convenient!

There are 8 steps to further enhance your whole photo with Sky Replacement:

Step 1: Use the adjustment layers option or other editing techniques to edit the photo how you want to.

Step 2: Choose Edit and hit Sky Replacement from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Under the drop-down menu in the Sky Replacement panel, select your brand new sky from one of the preset sky images, upload your own, or download a new one from Photoshop’s collection.

Step 4: Once you have chosen your preferred sky, adjust the color temperature, brightness, scale, exposure, and positioning of the new sky how you please.

Step 5: After which, adjust your foreground subjects however needed.

Step 6: Output your results to new layers (not duplicate layers) in order to have greater editing versatility.

Step 7: Convert your new photo into a Smart Object in order for the layers to function as one single image.

Step 8: Create a new layer and apply the final changes to your new image.

And there you have it!

Pro tips for seamless skies

Edit the image first, replace the sky after.

We highly recommend editing your photo first before replacing the sky. This way, you have everything set the way you want it, and all you need to do is focus on adjusting the sky to fit in with the rest.

Adjust the appearance of distance between your subject and new sky.

By adjusting the distance between the foreground and your new sky, you create a sense of depth, which helps in making the image look more realistic. You can do this by dragging the Shift Edge slider to the right and make the sky appear closer, or to the left to push further away. You can also make the sky either sharper or blurry with the Fade Edge slider. A combination of these techniques help in creating the depth your image needs.

Match the lighting with your foreground

You can flip your new sky horizontally to match the light direction in your foreground by simply clicking on the “Flip” checkbox.

Make your new sky fit

There may be times when your new sky does cover the background as seamlessly as you would have liked it to, or perhaps it bleeds over part of the original image. You can fix this by clicking in the Sky layer mask under the Sky Replacement group, and then utilize the Brush tool to add or remove parts of the sky.

You can also utilize the move tool in the Sky Replacement window to control the position of your new sky if in case it needs a little realignment.

Set the mood you want with sky adjustments

There are many sliders under the Sky Replacement panel that can assist you in further enhancing your image. You can simply make the sky brighter or darker by toggling the Brightness slider.

You may also make the sky seem warmer or cooler using the Temperature slider.

Harmonize your image

If you are concerned about getting the perfect color match for your original image and your new sky, then you can rest easy knowing that the Sky Replacement tool automatically does that for you!

You can also further enhance the colors by adjusting the look of your image using Foreground Adjustments. If you want to control brighter, choose a Lighting Mode that fits your preferences. Choosing Multiple darkens the image while Screen lightens it. You can experiment with the Lighting Adjustment slider to get the perfect blend between your image and the new sky.

For every adjustment you make on the sliders, it creates its own adjustment layers, which allows you to easily go back and edit at any given time.

Save your image as New Layers

As mentioned on our step-by-step tutorial, always save your image as a New Layers to ensure everything is kept editable.

Mirroring Sky Replacement

The only downside to Photoshop’s new tool is its inability to detect reflection. For photos that have a body of water or perhaps glass that need to reflect the sky, you will need to edit that in manually.

You can do so by duplicating that sky replacement and then flip the layer. Unlink the layers then drag the mask to a new blank layer. From there, vertically flip both the sky and layer masks. Reposition the mask and the sky to mimic a reflection.

Reflections also look more realistic when they are a bit compressed and darker than the original. Lastly, try adding a slight Gaussian blur to really make it authentic.