Washed Out Sky

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Cheesehead Photographer
One problem I run into on a regular basis is that I tend to wash out the sky in my images. Unfortunately, I do not have a UV filter for all of my lenses which tends to eliminate this problem. I have started to use the gradient filter in Lightroom 3 to add some of the color back into the sky. In the process of doing so I did darken up the treeline quite a bit. Any thoughts or ideas to fix this problem? Thanks you for your assistance.


Active Member
Can you put the sky and the background on different layers in lightroom? If so, do that and apply the filter to only the sky layer. I use filters on my lens so I am not sure exactly how to do it on the computer.


5th Generation Texian
I use layers to accomplish this. The brute-force way is to darken the entire image until you get what you want in the sky. You may need to adjust the saturation and color tint/hue as well. Just ignore the rest of the image for now, get the sky right.

Once you have the sky to your liking, copy this entire image to the clipboard (edit>Copy).

Then do an undo which undoes all of you changes and returns you to where you started. (realize that undo does not affect what you copied)

Assuming you like the foreground in the original, now simply paste from the clipboard ('edit>paste as new layer' in my editor). the copied modified version is now on top, but the foreground is way too dark so now you just erase the dark area. Because you pasted the the modified layer on top of the unmodified, you now have 2 layers smack on top of each other. When you erase the top layer it will show the unmodified/lighter flayer from underneath. viola!

There are other ways to do it and a lot more tricks involved but this will get you started.

Steve Thompson

New Member
adjustment layers and layer masks

Probably the best and most controlable method is to use an adjustment layer and a layer mask. Here's a quick version.


I've added a levels adjustment layer, which has a mask tacked on automatically in Photoshop. You can see how I adjusted the sliders, which darkens the whole image. The whole mask will start out as white.

Now the beauty of a layer mask is that it lets you control what parts of the image are affected by the adjustment you just made. You click on the mask (that thing in the upper right, with a diagonal of black and white). Now that it's selected, you paint with the mouse and a soft brush, either black or white, right over your image. Anyplace that is white will show the adjustment. Places painted black will block the adjustment and just show the original image. Shades of gray will partially show the adjustment. You can control things very tightly by magnifying the image. Using a soft edged brush gives an easy transition from no affect to full affect. You can go back anytime and paint with black, white or shades of gray to get the affect you want.

Once you've done this a few times, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it! This works with any adjustment layer, saturation, color balance, levels, curves, etc.

I have tutorials on my blog that explain further.



Well-Known Member
UV Filters don't do much to an image on a digital camera, people mainly use them for lens protection, and there are many that argue that that is just putting an extra layer of glass in between that can affect image quality. Film is far more sensitive to UV light than a digital sensor. Good info here on filters: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-lens-filters.htm

To solve the blown sky probem, as usual with phtoshop, lightroom, et. al. there are a lot of different ways to achive the same thing, and you will probably get several good techniques to try here.

I reccomend shooting in RAW and then blending 2 different exposures of the same image using layers. You paste the darker exposure over the lighter and use the eraser to uncover the lighter foreground. The advantage of the raw file is it gives you a lot more room to play with white balace, exposures and color and the blended image looks a bit more "real", especially with trickly lighting, like shooting into the sun.


Cheesehead Photographer
Updated Image

First I have to say that I misspoke when I mentioned a UV filter. I was thinking circular polarizer, but my fingers somehow changed it. ;) I should also state that I do always shoot in .RAW to capture as much information as possible. I opened up both versions of the image in Photoshop with the lighter version being the layer on top. I found that the magic wand tool selected the sky almost perfectly and with a couple of small adjustments had only the sky selected. I then erased the portion of the layer that was selected reveling the editing I did earlier. I flattened the image and saved it. I placed all three photos in a diptic below with the final image at the bottom.


Active Member
Agree that shooting in RAW will provide a broader brightness range which might keep the sky from being washed out. The HDR technique which involves making three exposures 2 EV apart will result in the sky being preserved along with detail in the shadow areas. You can use the "burst feature" which involves holding on to the shutter until you hear three clicks. One is underexposed, one normal and one overexposed. Now, you need HDR software to put them together. Photomatix is the current preferred method.


Cheesehead Photographer

I did attempt to make this a pseudo-HDR image, nothing more than tone mapping, and was not happy with the results. How do you align the images involving a moving object such as a train when you bracket out when creating your HDR? I guess my other option would be to take one exposure and save out multiple images of +2/-2 and then blend them in Photomatix.


Active Member
Since the train was moving, that pretty much rules out HDR. Using the pseudo HDR technique through Photomatix will not work since the single shot would not capture details in the sky. Might provide interesting results though. I'd recommend Topaz filtering. They give you about 15 choices to bring out more snap to the image. One of the options is a pseudo-HDR.

Eastern Railfan

I guess my other option would be to take one exposure and save out multiple images of +2/-2 and then blend them in Photomatix.

I've done this before with great success. Very rarely do I do in-camera bracketing. I don't have any examples right now since I'm at work, but I'll post one up when I get home.

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