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Whose Sky Is It Anyway? [continued]

Have you ever come home from shooting some landscapes, seascapes or even snapshots taken in your own backyard, looked at them on your computer, and realized that some of them are really nice except for the sky?  At one time or another, it happens to all of us.  Wonderfully colorful azure blue skies with wispy clouds are just not around every day…that is unless you happen to live somewhere where there are always wonderful azure skies with wispy clouds.  So what can we do to salvage our lackluster images?

This is where we resort to sky replacement.  As I mentioned, you simply draw upon a library of nice-looking skies, pick one and, through editing, replace your crumby looking sky with a pretty one.  Besides many online sources, your first line of defense may be your own camera.  It’s pretty easy to build up a sizeable library of sky images.  It’s as simple as looking up and taking a picture.  No camera with you?  Use your phone to take the shot!  Don’t think, “but I can’t control the depth of field on my phone.”   After all, you’re not worried about depth of field.  Your subject (the sky and clouds) is way far away and there’s nothing in front of it. It’s all basically on the same plane.  If you do have your camera with you, focus on a cloud (or the edge of one if you’re using autofocus) or set the lens on “Infinity”…that lazy little figure eight lying on its side.  That symbol means you’re now focused somewhere past Never Never Land.

Now about that editing stuff.  There are plenty of stock photo sites such as Adobe Stock, Getty Images etc. you can turn to as a source of sky images. You may have to pay for some shots from these.  Others are free.  Just Google “skies” or “sky images.”  If you use editing software such as ON1 or Luminar, you can tap into their sky library which is built into the program.

Next comes the big debate and here’s a point to ponder. I know someone who refuses to use any skies that are available unless he shot them himself!  He views it as a moral dilemma.  He believes that you’re stealing someone else’s photograph (which you are!).  I personally do not have a problem with sky replacement. The question is…if I use a sky that was shot by someone else, am I stealing their image?  Am I pilfering their art?  I don’t believe you are.  I use the same guideline that I use when it comes to photographing art created by someone other than you, in this case, God or perhaps Mother Nature.  That guideline is that if you photograph someone else’s artwork, then do something to it, perhaps through shooting or editing, you are no longer stealing the art.  Let’s say someone made a piece of ceramic sculpture.  You take your macro lens and zoom in so all that’s shown is a small colorful portion of the ceramic.  You’ve now created an abstract.  All you’ve done is shown your view, your take, on something in the world…the way you see it.  If I take a picture of a portion of the sky and use it in my own shot, am I a thief?  What if I use someone else’s image of the same thing?  Welcome to Philosophy 101.  Pay attention.  There’ll be a test on Friday.

Use your own judgment and go with your gut feeling.  After all, no one knows you better than you.  If you’re going to sit in a darkened room at a camera club competition, hear the judge comment on the wonderful sky in your image, hear it awarded a “9” and then begin to shiver with pangs of guilt, then you shouldn’t have submitted it in the first place.  You’re nothing but a lowly criminal.  You should be punished to the full extent of the law!  Or just gracefully accept the score and go home with your ribbon.  Okay, scoundrel, I won’t reveal your secret to anybody.  But, be careful, what goes around comes around!

  1. I was just kidding. There really won’t be a test on Friday, maybe just a pop quiz.