The tools built into Skylum’s Luminar offer you an amazing range of editing options, including the ability to build your own sky replacement library. In this tutorial, you’ll learn why you want to do this and a few tips to help you get started.
The advantage of shooting and building your own library of sky images, compared to using those supplied with Luminar, is twofold.
First, you would have a lot more celestial images to choose from, which means that your finished images will stand out from the crowd. Second, it also allows you to insert your celestial image into reflections, which helps to make the celestial replacement more realistic when there is a body of water like the one above in your shot.
Tips for creating your sky images
Before you start taking pictures of the sky, here are a few tips for success.
#1 Avoid any land or other objects in your image
Make sure you have no power lines, trees or other objects in your sky image. Keep it as clean as possible, make it easier to use with the Sky Replacement tool, and help you avoid any blending issues.
You can also crop the land in your final sky image. But it can be helpful to include a small part of land in the lower part of your image, see below for more.
#2 Shooting tips
Keep the horizon level — this is essential for a proper blend with the Sky Replacement tool. If you include a bit of land in your shot, you can easily ensure that the horizon is even by cropping your final image.
Shoot wide, which simply gives you more options to use the images later.
Make sure the sky is in focus. You can always use the Sky Defocus slider in the Advanced Settings section of AI Sky Replacement, so keep the sky in focus for more flexibility later.
Shoot both vertical and horizontal images. If you find an interesting sky, make sure you shoot some images in both landscape and portrait orientation. This also gives you more options later on, as you may have a vertical image that needs a new sky.
#3 Create variety in your sky images
Shoot multiple different compositions of the same sky. As the light changes and clouds move in the scene, you get a wide variety of images with slight variations.
Look for different types of clouds and skies, including blue sky and white swollen clouds, storm clouds, sunrise, sunset, and don’t forget to also photograph the night sky and the Milky Way.
You can even get really creative and try out other kinds of sky imagery. How about fireworks? For the right picture, it could just be spectacular!
For more variety, process your sky image in two ways. Create a warm and a cooler version. Then you can use the one that best matches the target image to replace the sky.
Move the sun within the frame. Shoot one with the sun on the left, one with the sun on the right and one with the sun in the center of the frame. You can always use the “Flip Sky” checkbox within the AI Sky Replacement tool, but this just gives you extra flexibility and more options.
After taking a few sky images, follow these guidelines to prepare the final images for your sky library.
- Save the final image in JPG format. When exporting Luminar, use a quality setting between 65–85.
- 1200 pixels on the short side is recommended, but a much higher resolution is better.
- Keep the final file size below 10 MB to improve the performance of the AI Sky Replacement Tool.
- Reduce the noise in the image if there is something visible. Keep the sky as clean as possible.
- Avoid adding a border vignette. You can do this later after the sky is used as a replacement and it will blend better fade at this stage.
- Remove dust stains with the Erase Tool and clean your camera’s image sensor.
How to add custom sky images to Luminar
There are two ways you can add your new custom sky images to Luminar so you can use them with the AI Sky Replacement tool.
First, you can save them to a folder, and if you want an image, just go to Search and use it for that one application. Simply open the tool, click “Sky Selection” and choose “Load Custom Sky Image…” from the bottom of the menu.
That takes more time to find the image you want, but it doesn’t slow down the app or tool or slow down your computer.
Second, you can insert all your new sky images into a folder and they will appear in the tool menu each time. From the same pull-down menu as above, this time choose “Show Custom Skies…”
This opens the folder where custom sky images are stored on your computer. Simply copy and paste all your images into that folder and they will appear in the AI Sky Replacement pull-down menu.
Use folders to organize your sky images
But if you have many pictures, the disadvantage is that you will see a long list that many cumbersome to use and find the image you want. So it will appear in Luminar.
There is an easy way to solve this and sort your sky images into useful, easy-to-find sections. Simply create subfolders in the custom folder and categorize your sky images as you see in the image below.
Each subfolder will then appear as a section header in the tool’s pull-down menu, as shown below, allowing you to add new sky packs, and sort your sky collection to find the ones you want faster.
If you purchase additional Sky Packs on the Luminar Marketplace, you can add them to the custom folder in the same way.
So look up and start shooting great sky pictures. Build your own library, add a set from the marketplace, or share sky pictures with friends.
If you are short on time you can visit the Luminar Marketplace for more great skies at affordable prices.
will receive a set of six of Darlene Hildebrandt sky pictures as a free download. I am happy to share you!
Sky Replacement used to be really difficult and reserved for the most advanced and experienced photo editors, but now it’s easier and more fun than ever with Luminar!
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Content and images: Sklyum®