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Enhancing Skies Using Smart Objects in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Enhancing Skies Using Smart Objects in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop

Yesterday I showed you how to add fake skies where the sky is completely blown.  Today’s tutorial will teach you what to do if you have a nice sky that is just a little too light and could use some depth.  Thank you to our guest blogger Daniel Hurtubise for this fantastic tutorial.

One note: if you use Photoshop actions after doing this tutorial, and they call upon the background layer – you may need to bring the photo back in from Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw (not as a smart object) and/or rename a flattened/merged copy “background.”


Using Camera Raw to salvage a blown up sky

Often if you don’t use a filter it’s hard to balance the exposure to get nice details in the sky and in the landscape. Look at the example below, it’s a picture taken in Central Park, NYC.


The picture was taken at f/10. I could have used one less stop for the bush and one more stop for the sky. But then I would have totally blown part of it.

To work around that we will use Camera Raw and Smart Objects.

First of all, open the image in Camera Raw


I will now adjust the image to my desired look for the landscape part.


So now, instead of doing a standards Open Image clip_image008 , press the Shift key and you will see Open Object clip_image010

This will open the image as a Smart Object. You can see that it’s a smart object by the icon on the layer.


Now to work on the sky, we need to copy the layer. Make sure you do it through the menu and not CTRL + J



Double-click on the Smart Object icon to open the new layer in Camera Raw


Adjust the settings for the sky then click OK.

Now still on the “sky” layer I will make a selection of it using the Quick Selection tool


Add a layer mask and it will just effect the sky.  If there is spill, you can clean it up on the mask as well:


You now have a more balanced image in a non destructive way. You can go back and forth using Camera Raw.


Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™
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  1. July 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm —

    You made some good points there. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog.

  2. Ashley Larsen
    June 25, 2009 at 4:10 pm —

    Just tried it. LOVE IT!!! Never knew you could do that in raw. Great tutorial. Thank you.

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Enhancing Skies Using Smart Objects in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop