There is a great new feature in Luminar 4 which I am loving at the moment.
In this post I will give you 5 reasons why it’s OK to use Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement. Firstly, sky replacement has been done and accepted for years. Second, I live in England! I also often only get one opportunity to take photos. My clients really do not mind and finally there is nothing wrong with sky replacement as long as you are honest about it. So it is ok trust me!
OK – that is the list out of the way let me explain in more detail.
Before I go on, I need to say that I am a Skylum Affiliate. Skylum are the company that created Luminar. If you buy Luminar 4 using my affiliate link then I get a small commission, you don’t pay any more, I just get a chunk of their income.
Do I really use Luminar?
I have used Lightroom since version 1.0. I bought my own version of Luminar 3, and Aurora HDR, and dabbled with both. When I heard about the new features in Luminar 4 I stopped trialling Luminar 3, as I knew that Luminar 4 would be significantly different.
And now I am trialling the beta version of Luminar 4 and I am loving it I have to tell you.
What is AI Sky Replacement?
AI sky replacement is a wonderful tool that, well replaces the sky using artificial intelligence. The software analyses the photo and knows which bit is the sky.
No masking or layers required, which for me has to be a good thing.
It is ridiculously quick, incredibly accurate and you can tweak it to suit. But it really is quick and incredibly accurate.
Why would you want to replace the sky?
I am an architectural photographer. I take photos at a pre agreed time. If the weather is rubbish I still have to take the photos.
Buildings look better with a nice sky rather than a rubbish sky. This is the commercial reality.
More on that later in this post.
Let’s look at those 5 reasons why in my opinion it is ok to replace the sky using Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement.
1 – Sky replacement using Photoshop has been around for years
Sky replacement is nothing new. Photoshop 1.0 was released in 1990 would you believe! Now I have no idea when sky replacement and similar editing techniques became commonly accepted practise, but sky replacement has been a thing for many years.
Sky replacement is just one of many ways of significantly changing an image, and compositing photos (adding bits from one photo to another) is another accepted practice.
I have done a couple of sky replacements using Photoshop, and whilst it went OK and the images were OK it took me a long time.
And to do this I had to buy a sky replacement course and spend a ton of time getting the selection right.
Why not do this in Photoshop then?
I am a Lightroom user, and not a Photoshop user. I struggle with Photoshop, always have done to be honest. I have a mental block with layers, I just do not get them.
So Photoshop is not for me, other than for removing stuff from photos (for which it is a wonderful tool I have to say).
Can you not do this in Lightroom?
No you cannot. And I have been using Lightroom since release 1.0 in 2007. I know, that is a long old time using Lightroom!
So no this is not a feature that you will find in Lightroom, not now and I do not expect to see it in the future.
Isn’t this faking the photo?
Well that is a matter of opinion. Yes it is. And no it is not. And is this right? Well that depends on your own opinion and the circumstances of the use of the photo.
OK – to sum up this point, I can do this in Photoshop, but it takes me ages to get average results. So why not do it instantly in Luminar 4?
2 – I live in England!
Yes I live in England, and in England the weather is not great a lot of the time. I know, it does beg the question about why I live in England! Let’s not get into that, moving country so the skies are better for photos is a touch extreme I think!
No, I live in England and have to accept the weather as it is. And I live on the south coast where the weather is better than up north!
Living on an island
One of the problems of living in a small island is that the weather is very changeable, we do not often get prolonged periods of settled sunny weather.
I have to have a whinge here – too many people purport the myth that you should only take photos with spectacular golden hour light, that you should not take photos in rubbish light, and all that nonsense.
Reality just is not like that. In England, that would massively restrict when I take photos. Sure a sunrise landscape photo is special, but there is the reality of commercial photography to be considered here.
I have to use what I find on the day
So on the day of a shoot the weather is what it is, and I just have to go with that. The sky is the sky, and if it is cloudy then I have to issue the photos with that cloudy grey sky or do something about it.
Which leads me on nicely to the next reason.
3 – I only get one opportunity to take photos
When I am photographing a building, I have to book the job in well in advance. I do not relay on the long range weather forecasts, as they are just not that accurate in the UK. The weather changes so much all I can do is rely on weather patterns and make a call nearer to the time of the shoot (which is not always possible anyway).
This was a commercial shoot I did last week. I had one afternoon only, and the weather was hideous. I will show you the sky replacement version in November after Luminar 4 has been released.
And yes that is my Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 2 I am using.
But this is the problem.
When I am doing a commercial shoot I have to set a time for the shoot. This has to be agreed with various other parties, and usually at the time when the building is being completed but just before occupation. And that is that – I often only get one opportunity to photograph a building.
I might be able to move the shoot a couple of days one way or the other, but that is normally the maximum flexibility that I have. And if I have other bookings I cannot do that!
Obviously if I can wait for good weather then great, but I cannot not work for a week just because it is cloudy. No I just have to get on with it and get the best results I can with the light available.
So a quick way of replacing the sky in a photo quickly, easily and convincingly has commercial value to me.
The new sky replacement tool actually opens up more opportunities for me – I can proceed more easily with commercial bookings now as I am not only looking for sunny days – if the day is forecast to be dry I can carry on knowing that I will be able to replace the sky quickly after the shoot.
4 – My clients really do not mind
My clients are architects, main contractors, property owners, developers and house holders. Well anyone who owns or has an interest in a building.
What do my clients care about?
How their buildings look. That the photos show their building in the best light.
That is all.
And do you know what – if I have replaced the sky in a photo all I have done is make the photo with the building in it better.
I have asked a couple of clients if they are happy that I swap the sky in photos from a shoot, and they have always said yes. They actually found this a strange question – they were thinking well of course – why are you asking me that?
This is the perspective of a client.
But with Luminar 4 and the wonderful sky replacement tool I have been able to tell a client on the shoot not to worry about the sky as I will sort that after. The first time I said this to a client the other day he asked how much extra that would cost.
Now I had not thought about that!
So I said to swap to a bright blue sky for every shot would not cost any extra.
How do you think that went down?
We as photographers can be precious about the integrity of images and all that stuff, but we also have to be realistic.
My clients do not care
What camera I am using
If I am shooting in RAW or JEPG
What camera settings I am using
If I use Lightroom, Photoshop or Luminar
What processing I have done
I have never been asked about any of these things. Ok not strictly true, I have been asked the odd question here and there, mainly about the cameras that I use – this is clients with a more than passing interest in photography.
And anothing thing!
Forgive the digression – the most frequent discussion is one about cameras, where my clients tell me what they have got and wish they had cameras like mine so they can take better photos! I always tell them that it is not the camera, it is what you point the camera at, how you take the image and what you include in the photo that makes the shot, not the standard of the camera and lens!
So to sum up my clients are not against me replacing the sky if it makes their building look better and does not cost them anymore (I need to think about this cost thing!!) – in fact they love it!
5 – Its fine as long as you are honest about it
So I have swapped the sky in a photo for an architect. So what? We are not claiming that this was the sky when I took the photo. The photo is the best representation of the building with a nice sky.
No-one will ever challenge the photo, no one will think to ask.
And if a photo is entered for say an architectural competition the question about the sky does not get asked.
No one cares. So for commercial work replacing the sky is accepted as normal practice. So let’s just leave that and move on to times when it might not be.
I am no expert on Photojournalism, but believe that sky replacement is a complete no. And any form of image manipulation is a no.
So if that is the area of photography you work in you obviously need to sure of what is and is not accepted.
Photography competitions have rules, quite rightly. The rules vary from competition to competition of course, but there is a general principle that applies.
Minor removal of stuff is ok, but changes to significant parts of a photo is not permitted.
So if those are the rules don’t replace the sky.
The other thing I wanted to say is this. I am completely honest about my sky replacement – I have no reason to not be. If you do replace a sky in a photo be honest about it – that’s all.
My other websites
Photos of Santorini is, well about my photos of Santorini (what else would it be about?). I have published the photos that I have edited on this website, and not done any sky replacement.
Paxos Travel Guide is however a travel guide and not a photography website. I have not done the photos for this website yet. I will actually be using Luminar 4 for the processing of all the images for this website.
And will I be using
Yes I will. And I am fine with that.
The purpose and context of the images matters. So I might take a different view on these two websites. One for me to think about a bit more.
OK- I think I am done here.
You can read my other posts about Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement – here are the other blog posts with links.
I hope that I have convinced you that it is ok to use Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement. Sure there are some considerations which I have written about, but as long as these things are considered it is just fine in my opinion.
Next week on my photography blog? I am not sure to be honest. I might stick with the sky replacement theme as I am enjoying writing about it so much!
Rick McEvoy ABIPP – Photographer, writer, sky replacement fan!
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