Enhancing Blue Skies in Lightroom - Digital Photography School

Enhancing Blue Skies in Lightroom

The Color control in Lightroom is a powerful tool for selective color adjustments. This tool allows photographers to adjust the hue, saturation, and luminance of individual color tones. One application of this functionality is enhancing blue skies:

Sydney Opera House

Photo of the famous Sydney Opera House with blue sky enhanced in Lightroom

How to Enhance a Blue Sky

In Lightroom 4, the Color control allows separate control of red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple, and magenta:

Lightroom 4 Color Controls

Lightroom 4 Color Controls

A quick way to emphasize a blue sky is to lower the luminosity and increase the saturation of the blues and aquas in the image:

Enhancing a blue sky in Lightroom

With and without color adjustments

For this image, here are the settings I used:

Aqua

  • Hue: -18
  • Saturation: +20
  • Luminance: -43

Blue

  • Hue: 0
  • Saturation: +21
  • Luminance: -22

Make a Develop Preset

For extra credit, save these settings as a develop preset so that you can quickly apply them later. Note that settings that work to bring out the sky in one photo won’t be perfect for all photos, but this should give you a good starting point.

Here are the settings you need to capture for a sky enhancing preset:

Creating a Lightroom Develop Preset

Settings for a sky-enhancing Lr preset

For more detailed information on creating Lightroom Develop Presets, check out this post: 5 Tips for a Faster Lightroom Workflow.

I hope this technique proves useful next time you have a sky that needs just a little more oomph. I’d like you hear your thoughts on this article, please comment below or feel free to connect with me through Facebook or Google+. I’ll do my best to answer questions and reply to comments.

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Jason Weddington is passionate photographer and the creator of PhotoQueue.com, a service that helps photographers maintain their online presence by scheduling uploads to Flickr and 500px. PhotoQueue will soon add support for Facebook, and Tumblr. You can connect with Jason on Google+, Facebook, or Flickr. Jason is also an Associate member of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).

  • http://dewandemmer.com Dewan Demmer

    I like this article. I have done similar things for image in general but for some reason it never occurred to me to set presets for specific parts. I am going to keep this in mind from now on when I do little “boosts” .

    In this set I did not do the sky, but I did use similar method to “boost” the the grass and clothing, bring out definition and decrease shadow.
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/london-wedding-photography-melissa-and-gareth/

  • George Suresh

    A remarkable difference for such a quick tweak. Thanks again for sharing Jason. Look forward to seeing more of your insightful tutes.

    Cheers
    George S.

  • http://www.blacklambphotography.com Linda

    Thanks so much for the lightroom tip. I am still figuring things out in there instead of just uploading and choosing what to export to Photoshop.

  • http://seeingthroughgodseyesphotos.blogspot.com/ Judy Royal Glenn

    Thanks Jason, I already have my preset done. I appreciate the tip:) ~ Judy

  • http://jasonweddington.com Jason Weddington

    @Dewan – for a long time I only used split toning to tint bw conversions too. It was a training video I watched somewhere that got me to think about using it for color too.

    @George – thanks mate!

    @Linda – thanks for the comment. I used to use Adobe Bridge to browse, and Photoshop to process. It took me some time to change my way of thinking when I switched to Lr. When I first started using Lr two years ago, I actually stopped using Ps almost entirely, but now I do an initial edit in Lr, and then finish most images in Ps.

    @Judy – Cool! :-)

  • http://blog.stephenemlund.com Stephen Emlund

    I recently discovered that there is a gradient preset in Photoshop CS6 that simulates a neutral density filter. It gives a different effect than you show here, but still really cool. I applied this gradient to my photos here.

    I normally only use Camera Raw and Photoshop, not Lightroom, so do you have any tips for find a similar color enhancing tool in Camera Raw?

  • http://jasonweddington.com Jason Weddington

    Stephen Emlund – I don’t see anything in Camera Raw that can do this, but once you get into Ps you can do this with a Hue / Saturation adjustment layer.

    Thanks for sharing the information about the simulated ND filter. I’m actually just writing about the Graduated Filter tool in Lr, which can also simulate an ND filter.

  • http://pixelatednuggets.weebly.com/ Akshay

    I think there is a way to do it Camera Raw in CS6. The tab where you can choose to convert into a B&W image has sliders for each of these colours, with options to adjust hue, saturation and luminosity as separate, small tabs above the sliders. Much better than the selective colour layer option that is used later on.

  • Robert weddington

    I Took a number of blue sky photographs around the tidal basin this week. Your article Will be very helpful in the future as I try to work with them to enhance them to make them better.

  • Akash Mjumder

    Jason this is an awesome article. Simple but quite brilliantly explained. Kudos to your work.

Some older comments

  • Robert weddington

    April 6, 2013 12:33 pm

    I Took a number of blue sky photographs around the tidal basin this week. Your article Will be very helpful in the future as I try to work with them to enhance them to make them better.

  • Akshay

    January 11, 2013 08:53 pm

    I think there is a way to do it Camera Raw in CS6. The tab where you can choose to convert into a B&W image has sliders for each of these colours, with options to adjust hue, saturation and luminosity as separate, small tabs above the sliders. Much better than the selective colour layer option that is used later on.

  • Jason Weddington

    January 7, 2013 02:53 am

    Stephen Emlund - I don't see anything in Camera Raw that can do this, but once you get into Ps you can do this with a Hue / Saturation adjustment layer.

    Thanks for sharing the information about the simulated ND filter. I'm actually just writing about the Graduated Filter tool in Lr, which can also simulate an ND filter.

  • Stephen Emlund

    January 6, 2013 04:37 pm

    I recently discovered that there is a gradient preset in Photoshop CS6 that simulates a neutral density filter. It gives a different effect than you show here, but still really cool. I applied this gradient to my photos here.

    I normally only use Camera Raw and Photoshop, not Lightroom, so do you have any tips for find a similar color enhancing tool in Camera Raw?

  • Jason Weddington

    January 2, 2013 02:46 am

    @Dewan - for a long time I only used split toning to tint bw conversions too. It was a training video I watched somewhere that got me to think about using it for color too.

    @George - thanks mate!

    @Linda - thanks for the comment. I used to use Adobe Bridge to browse, and Photoshop to process. It took me some time to change my way of thinking when I switched to Lr. When I first started using Lr two years ago, I actually stopped using Ps almost entirely, but now I do an initial edit in Lr, and then finish most images in Ps.

    @Judy - Cool! :-)

  • Judy Royal Glenn

    January 2, 2013 02:43 am

    Thanks Jason, I already have my preset done. I appreciate the tip:) ~ Judy

  • Linda

    December 29, 2012 01:16 am

    Thanks so much for the lightroom tip. I am still figuring things out in there instead of just uploading and choosing what to export to Photoshop.

  • George Suresh

    December 24, 2012 11:10 pm

    A remarkable difference for such a quick tweak. Thanks again for sharing Jason. Look forward to seeing more of your insightful tutes.

    Cheers
    George S.

  • Dewan Demmer

    December 24, 2012 09:51 pm

    I like this article. I have done similar things for image in general but for some reason it never occurred to me to set presets for specific parts. I am going to keep this in mind from now on when I do little "boosts" .

    In this set I did not do the sky, but I did use similar method to "boost" the the grass and clothing, bring out definition and decrease shadow.
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/london-wedding-photography-melissa-and-gareth/

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