Flat, grey skies are a common difficulty when the sky in your scene is much brighter than the land beneath, especially towards the beginning and end of the day. The classic solution is to use a graduated Neutral Density (ND) filter. However, they can be fiddly to set up, especially when using lenses in which the front element rotates. Follow our Photoshop Elements tip’s three steps below and you’ll find a much easier way to transform your dull, grey skies into a darker blue.
One popular solution for fixing grey skies is to apply some negative Exposure Compensation to ensure that the sky doesn’t wash out to white, but you may find that the underlying land looks too dark (find out more about using exposure compensation with our free photography cheat sheet).
This can be the case even when using dynamic range optimisation controls in-camera. To achieve the best results, you’ll need to apply a little after-shot image editing.
For your source image, shoot in raw and apply sufficient Exposure Compensation so that there’s colour in the blue sky. For cloudy blue skies, ensure there’s some detail in the clouds as well. P
rocess the raw file to create two separate JPEG images, one in which the sky is as shot or even a little darker.
For the second, brighten the raw file so that the land is sufficiently light. You can then merge the two – see below.
01 Open the files
Open both the light and dark versions of your image in Photoshop Elements. For the lighter shot, go to File>Select All, then Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste it (Ctrl+V) as a new layer onto the darker version.
02 Create a Layer Mask
Next, you need to add a Layer Mask to the upper, lighter layer by clicking the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, and then clicking on the mask’s white rectangle (see above).
03 Select and fill
Finally, use the Quick Selection tool to carefully select the sky area, then fill it with black by going to Edit>Fill and selecting Black from the drop-down. This will reveal the darker sky from the layer below.