We all love a great landscape under a beautiful sky. Clouds, sunlight, sunbeams and colors are often preferred over a plain, dull sky. But sometimes nature doesn’t show us the things we like to see, which can be frustrating if we can’t go back a second time. Is there a solution?
Almost any landscape photo can take advantage of beautiful skies. If the sky isn’t filled with amazing cloud formations, beautiful sunbeams and sunshine, and tantalizing colors, we’re often not satisfied. For this, we scrutinize our applications to choose the best time and the best circumstances to increase the chances of having the best possible sky.
We set our alarm clocks hours before dawn to be on time in the right place. Or we stay out late to catch the last light of day. We look at humidity to predict the chances of light ground fog, or we look at cloud cover at certain altitudes.
No matter what we do to choose the best times for perfect skies, Mother Nature will still surprise us. Clouds disappear just before sunset, or a thick layer of low cloud obscures a sunrise. Despite all the applications, it’s not always predictable.
It’s also lucky, because it means we often end up in great places with all kinds of lights. This prevents us from photographing the same landscape and the same sky as everyone else. Moreover, if the situation does not suit us, we can always come back another day. Well, not always. Sometimes we can’t go back so easily.
Come back when the light is better, unless you can’t
No matter how many preparations we make to achieve the landscape photo we have in mind, there is a chance that it will not turn out the way we prefer. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t, because you can go back another time. It also has an advantage because you learn how light and season change the landscape you want to photograph.
If the scenery is close or an hour away by car, the return is no problem. Go and see how the sky presents itself. But if the distance to be covered is more than a few hours by car, the situation is completely different. Although you can go back in theory, it takes planning and determination.
How about taking part in a guided photo tour? In this case, the chance to return to this specific landscape is almost impossible. There is a travel schedule you have to stick to. This means that you are in that specific landscape at that exact time, regardless of the weather situation. You only have one chance to shoot there.
This also applies if you are on vacation. Maybe you stay in one place for a few weeks. This will allow you to go back, but often within limits. If the weather situation is stable, it may not change much during your stay. Maybe another season would be better. In other words, you can’t always go back at the best time.
First solution: use a sky replacement
If the sky is boring, just use a sky replacement tool. Software like Photoshop offers a quick and easy way to transform a sky into something more interesting. Luminar is another one, as you might know, because it’s something they advertise a lot. Just press a button, choose one of the available skies and you’re done. You can even buy new sky packages or use your own.
The sky replacement results from Luminar AI. It looks good at first, but is immediately recognized as a Luminar Sky And the light doesn’t match at all. It is clearly a fake.
Although this may seem like a great solution, I don’t like it at all. It’s just photo manipulation, which has nothing to do with photography. It mimics a bright situation, but a keen eye will see that it’s not real. Although the masking is advanced, it is often far from perfect and the light direction often does not match. Importantly, the skies used are often seen in other images as well, meaning the sky replacement will become obvious. Bottom line, I don’t think replacing the sky is a good solution.
Solution 2: Don’t capture the sky at all
If you don’t like the sky, why use it in the frame? I never capture things I don’t like. If I don’t want a subject in my landscape, I try to avoid it. If I don’t want an ugly tree or shrub in the frame, I change my composition. If the sky is boring and doesn’t add anything to the picture, why have it in the frame?
There is no rule that says you have to have a sky in your landscape photo. Skyless landscapes are also possible. These may look different, but that’s their beauty. You will end up with a completely different landscape photo. Use the landscape elements and you might get a unique photo of this place.
Solution 3: Use a natural window
It will take a lot of creativity, but that’s what makes photography so fun. But beware, this won’t work for all landscapes.
You should see a photo as a two-dimensional display of a three-dimensional world. There is no depth in a photo, only the illusion of depth. If you manage to look at a two-dimensional image, you will notice that the frame is made up of planes, one of which is the sky. If the sky is boring, this plane will be even without a lot of detail. Why not fill it in with details?
If the plane is occupied by a sky without detail, you can add something, tree branches, for example. Or you can use foreground silhouettes. It is possible to make a kind of window and show the landscape through this window.
You can take it a step further and use black and white to make it more artistic. Don’t get me wrong, black and white is in no way a way to make a dull photo more interesting. Deliberately use black and white to give the photo a certain feel.
By adding elements in the plane occupied by the sky, you can make a great landscape photo under a boring sky. It may be more difficult in some landscapes compared to other landscapes, but you should give it a try. You’ll find it’s possible to take great landscape photos in all possible lighting and weather conditions.
Do you have any other ideas for a landscape photo under a boring sky?
I came up with two solutions for shooting landscapes under boring skies. I don’t consider a sky replacement a good solution, but I mentioned it nonetheless. Do you have another idea that offers a solution for great landscape photos when the sky isn’t so interesting? Please share it in the comments below.