This week I wanted to write about a Lightroom technique to enhance the sky in your photos. Sometime when you are out shooting landscapes you might get a fantastic shot, but when you get home to post process, you find the sky is kind of blown out, looking more white than blue with clouds. How can you fix this and not end up scrapping the image all together, or having the shot look ho hum, enter the Gradient Tool in Lightroom. In this first image we have a blah sky with a little bit of cloud showing.
The Lightroom Gradient tool in the Develop Module can really help improve your sky, especially if you capture a shot at a lake or river and you can see the blue of the sky and white of the clouds in the reflection on the water. Select the Gradient Tool, which looks like a rectangle and then take the little + crosshair and hold it at the top of your image, now hold down the shift key, which will make your pull down go straight and drag to the bottom of the sky portion as show in this next image.
Next go to the Adjustments for the Gradient Tool and use the Highlight slider or Exposure slider and pull out more of the details in the sky. Generally the Highlight slider will get the job done and I tend to always shoot my landscapes especially with my Light meter in the camera about two ticks before the mid center tick mark. Then, when I edit, I use the Highlight slider and the Shadows slider to pull in more details in those areas, but sometime, you need just a bit more to get that nice looking sky, and thats when the Gradient tool comes in handy. See this third image with a nicer looking sky.
You can even take your adjustments when you are done and save them as a custom adjustment, name it, and then use it over and over again. Lightroom is without a doubt one of, if not THE best post processing software on the market for photography, which is why so many Pros use Lightroom worldwide. Now one thing to remember is shoot in RAW, so you can actually get those details to pull out in Post Processing. You can use Lightroom to work JPG files, but those file types don’t allow nearly as much improvement without the file going to crap in the process.
I know what you are thinking, “But RAW files are so BIG”! They are, but memory cards are fairly cheap these days and if you are shooting landscapes, you don’t need a large FPS like you would for sports. So, next time you get a nice landscape, but the sky is blown out, don’t despair, just grab that Gradient Tool and work some “magic”.