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More realistic skies

amatula
Enthusiast

Hi,

I appreciate the help I received regarding image sharpness. My other issue has been skies... does anyone have any suggestions on having skies more realistic. Would a polarizer filter fix the issue?

 

Thank you in advance for your assistance! 🙂


Annie

 

IMG_0223.JPG

47 REPLIES 47

TCampbell
Elite
Elite

A polarizer only "might" help.  The type of polarizer that would be required is called a "circular polarizer" (avoid "linear polarizer" or "top polarizer").  But polarizers work best when the source of light (in the case of the sky that would be the sun) are off to one side -- not straight ahead nor behind you.

 

The filter that is likely more effective is called a "gradient neutral density" filter.  This filter is typically a rectangular shape and it slides into a bracket (at the entry level, the Cokin brand makes these filter.  Lee Filters makes high end versions of these filters.). The filters slide into a filter holder (a bracket that attaches to the front of the lens.). 

 

The filter is clear on one half... and tinted on the other half.  You slide the filter in so that it only darkens the sky (or whatever you want to dark -- but usually that's the sky) but does not darken the landscape below.

 

The filters come in different strengths (aka "densities") and they also have a "hard edge" vs "soft edge" variety (the "soft edge" means the change from the clear area to the tinted area is gradual.  The "hard edge" means it changes much more quickly.)

 

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

jrhoffman75
Legend
Legend

http://www.austadpro.com/blog/neutral-density-filters-and-graduated-nd-filters/

John Hoffman
Conway, NH

1D X Mark III, Many lenses, Pixma PRO-100, Pixma TR8620a, LR Classic

TCampbell
Elite
Elite

If you go to YouTube and do a search with "Graduated ND" or "Graduated Neutral Density" you'll get quite a few videos that show the filters, describe how to use them, and show the results.

 

One other thing... if you're serious about getting these filters there are one of two things you'll want to know about filter sizes and filter holders.  (This, btw, is where the square filter system saves you money.)

 

Most photographic filters and round and they screw onto those threads, but since graduated filters are half-clear and half tinted and you need to be able slide the filter to the point where the transition betweeen clear and tint lines up with the part of the image that you want to darken (usually the sky) while leaving the foreground alone... you need a filter that allows you to position the transition point and that's why these filters are rectangular and "slide" in... instead of round and thread on.

 

The holder has to attach to your lens and it simply threads onto the filter threads on the front of the lens.  But lenses, of course, come in lots of different filter-thread diameters.  So you buy a filter holder in just one size (more on that in a moment) and the filter holder needs an adapter ring to adapt it to your lens.  The adapter rings come in every typical lens thread diameter size you can imagine (so you can attach it to your lens) but all attach to the filter holder.

 

The nice thing about this is that if you have lenses with different thread diameters, you don't buy another set of filters... you use the same filter holder and the same filters and you only buy a different adapter ring for the lens thread diameters that you need (the adapters are cheap).  

 

It turns out, however, that even rectangular filters do come in different widths... 

 

In the Cokin system (the entry level) they have the Cokin "A", "P", "Z-Pro", and "X-Pro".  But really the only size you should consider is the "Z-Pro" -- that's the 100mm (or 4") size.

 

In the "Lee" filter system, they have the "Sev5n", the "100mm", and the "150mm".  But really it's the 100mm size that you'd want.

 

The reason is that that 4" (aka "100mm") system is the most common so you'll find the greatest selection of filters available in that size, but ALSO because it's the size where both systems just happen to match up (both Cokin and Lee make a 100mm wide filter system).  That means that if you buy the less expensive Cokin filters to start... but later decide you'd like to upgrade to the Lee filter system, the filters can actually mount in the same holder.

 

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

ebiggs1
Legend
Legend

Or you can learn how to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  You can make the sky any way you want it.  No fuss. No muss. No fiddling.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thank you, ebiggs,

 

That is very helpful (as is the suggestion for the gradient neutralizer filter -- I will look into that too as it sounds like a very useful camera item to have!)

May I ask: I have a free, older version of Photoshop CS2, version 9. I have not seen anything in it for the sky corrections. Is that only in the current version? Or is it an indirect correction using other Photoshop functionality? I have been pondering purchasing Lightroom but if Photoshop has easy sky corrections, I would go with that probably.

Thank you for your time and help!

 

Annie

Annie, 

Before you waste money on graduated filters or any filter for that matter, you need to know exactly what they do.  A graduated filter simple decreases the exposure in graduated part of the frame.  It will just make the sky, for instance, look darker.  If there is nothing there it will simply darken the exposure. Don't get me wrong here that can work but you really need something there first.  And know exactly what it, the filter, is doing.

Since the advanced ability of Photoshop, the requirement for filters is almost eliminated.  You can make a small case for a polarizer.  But little else.

 

There were no clouds or blue sky in the original photo of the house.  All that was done in PS (CS6).  The sky photo was shot seperately at a different time.  I routinely take shots of good looking sky and clouds to do just this!.

sky.jpg

This photo is copied and put on a separate "layer" behind the house.

 

 You can no longer buy PS.  You must rent it.  It costs $10 bucks a month.  However, there is Photoshop Elements for sale.  I think the latest version is around a hundred bucks.

There are other, lesser, choice out there ,too.  One is free and does a fairly nice job.  It is called Gimp and it has PS lookalike GUI (Gimpshop).

So you can use filters and guess what you are going to get or you can learn one of these post editors and make it exactly what you want!  Right before your eyes.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Annie,

You mentioned Lightroom.  You can not do the sky photo edit in LR.  LR does have a graduated filter built in, however. Smiley Happy  And aother reason to avoid actual filters!   Don't be confused, though, LR is not PS.

 

My normal routine is to import images into LR first.  Do the first simple edits on mass and do specific edits in PS.  LR is designed for the person that shoot thousands of photos. PS is a single photo at a time editor.  LR is more of a data base program.  It makes edits to a data file that is applied when you export the photos.  The original photo is left untouched.  PS is completely destructive.  It makes its edits to the original which is changed forever.  It is always best to work on a copy in PS and leave a clean original alone.

 

The ability to use multiple layers is Photoshop's biggest feature.  It is like putting something on a pain of glass. Each one stacked on top of the other.  Many times if needed,  Each controled seperately.

EB
EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Filters in Lightroom (and you can do the same in Photoshop) aren't quite as good as physical filters though...

 

This is because the physical filter actually changes the shooting conditions before the image is captured.  The software "filters" are trying to fix the image after the damage was done.

 

If the image does not exceed the dynamic range of the camera (nothing is clipped in shadows or blown in highlights) then the software filter can usually do a decent job of recovering some detail.  But if anything is clipped/blown then the detail is lost forever.

 

A landscape photographer will inspect the scene with their eyes and look for areas in the scene they plan to capture ... looking for the darkest shadows they can find and also the brightest highlight they can find.  They "spot meter" those two points (take a meter reading not of the whole image frame... just use a metering mode that only only inspects a very narrow piece bit of the scene.)   If the difference between the dark area and the light area are within the camera's dynamic range then they calculate the "middle" exposure (the exposure half-way between that can capture the whole scene without anything being clippd or blown) and get the exposure that way.  If you do this... Lightroom's software filter can fix the sky.

 

But if the image doesn't fit within the camera's dynamic range, then they either have to resort to using physical gradient neutral density filters -or- they have to shoot the scene using bracketed exposures (that means you take the "correct" exposure, but also take a deliberately underexposed shot as well as a deliberately overexposed shots and then use software to merge the image as a "high dynamic range" shot (Photoshop and Lightroom have built-in capabilites to merge images to an HDR image... but the program everyone seems to prefer for this is called Photomatix Pro.  

 

When you merge images to create an HDR image you have a lot of choices on how to represent the colors -- and some of these choices result in a very surreal image.  The first few HDRs made in these surreal styles were intriguing and somewhat interesting because of their "painterly" look.  But the effect is now so over-done that many photographers are really put-off by it and much prefer that the HDR look as natural as possible (in other words the best HDR images don't actually look like HDR images... they just look like you took it in a single shot with a camaera that had enough dynamic range to capture everything.)

 

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da

As this discussion has proceeded, the word "realistic" has lost all relevance.

Bob
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
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