For many images, at least when they are taken outdoors, it’s the skies that set the mood or re-enforces it for the scene.
When you are doing an outdoor shoot, especially if it is some distance away, the skies may be quite different from your starting point. Weather’s only constant is its variability. This results in skies completely changing from a bright and sunny day to dark and cloudy within the period of an hour. Sometimes it can also stagnate for days.
What is a person to do if when we get to our location and then the skies no longer suit the vision we have?
You could wait a bit and see if it changes or revisit the location in the hopes that the sky will be to your liking. For some photographers who believe in a more purist or photojournalistic approach, this is the only technique when wanting better skies.
If you are a bit like me and look upon photography with more artistic freedom, you will have a folder of many different skies that range from dark and gloomy to bright cirrus and even vivid sunsets. Then just grab the sky you want and insert into the image with minor effort.
The sun was beginning to peak through after a summer rainstorm had passed through. I liked the light on the tree leaves, but I wanted more drama and intensity as I had just witnessed the storm go though.
Well, it is almost this simple. There are a few techniques that will help you better match the sky to your photo image.
First and foremost, waiting for the skies to change is a great solution. The real light that comes from many parts in the sky, which illuminates your surroundings, can never really be duplicated by photo-editing new skies. There is benefit to be gained by waiting around as you slowly start to observe new interactions of light within your environment. Sometimes we don’t always have the luxury of waiting around as it could even take days.
For colour images it is important that the WB for the image and sky are the same. If working with jpegs this is not as easy. If image is going to be B&W then this doesn’t matter, only the contrast range should match.
The image below is one of the temples near Yokosuka, which is just south of Tokyo. The temple being on the edge of the ocean had skies that day that had a fog like quality and it would not be possible to come back another day.
The colours were a bit drab and
When selecting a sky it is important that the lighting of the sky matches the scene. This means that the WB is the same, and that the sun angles are about the same location in the sky.
Both building and sky where shot about the same time of day and facing the same direction.
The light sky did not add much to the gargoyles image of being heavy and dark.
Clouds do have shadows and while not as distinct as those on the ground, these must match the direction of those on the ground.
In shooting skies, try and find some higher ground that permits for the most part an unobstructed view of the horizon. Shoot many positions, as you never know when you might need to combine several for a large sky scene.
Shoot at different times of the day. Sunrise, mid morning, noon, afternoon, evening and sunset.
Shoot in different seasons as the quality of light changes from harsh and crisp in winter to more soft and hazy in summer.
Shoot many different cloud shapes and types, in fact this it is an opportunity to learn about cloud structure to help you catalogue your skies. (wispy cirrus, puffy cumulus, and great towering stormy cumulonimbus)
Forget the polarizer as this filter will change sky appearance in relation to the angle of the lens to sun. Sometimes when you are only capturing a narrow angle of view a polarizer will work. I find that a wider-angle lens in the range of 15mm to 30mm allows me to capture more of the drama in the sky.
Pure blue skies do work for many scenes especially when it is broken up into negative spaces that enhance the scene or the colour perfectly complements or is harmonious with the scene.
The image shot under the plant and looking up at the sky works well. Blue is the complementary colour to yellow and helps to create a strong graphic type image.
A Photographers Adage
Life appears always fully present . . . a brief weary smile, a twitch of the hand, the fugitive pour of sun through clouds. And not a tool, save the camera, is capable of registering such complex ephemeral responses, and expressing the full majesty of the moment.. - Paul Leopold Rosenfeld