How to fix bleached out skies in Photoshop

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - after image

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - after image

Pale skies are usually much brighter than the land, so if the ground is correctly exposed the sky will wash out. You can use an ND grad filter, but they’re quite fiddly (see our guide ND Grad Filters: what every photographer should know).

Another workaround is your SLR’s facility for compressing tonal range, such as Nikon’s Active D-Lighting or Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer. A better solution, though, is to use a tripod and take two shots; one exposed for the sky, the other for the ground (see also 4 tips for sharper shots when using a tripod).

You can then merge them together using an image-editing program such as Photoshop Elements to get detail back in your skies. Even then, branches and leaves that move between shots can cause problems. The answer is to take a single shot in raw and ensure the exposure is sufficiently dark. You can then process this raw file twice to create two images to merge together. Here’s how to do it…

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - before image

How to fix bleached out skies in Photoshop

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - Step 1

Step 1: Copy and paste
Open both light and dark versions of your image, and then copy the light version with Ctrl+C and paste it with Ctrl+V over the darker one. It will appear as a new layer.

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - Step 2

Step 2: Create a layer mask
Create a new layer mask by dragging the upper layer icon down to the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. The mask will be filled with white, which means it’s completely transparent.

Photoshop Effects: how to fix bleached out skies - Step 3

Step 3: Select and fill
Click the layer mask’s white rectangle, then use the Quick Selection tool to select the whole sky. Finally, press D to fill the selected
sky area with black.

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