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Enhancing the Vibrance and Contrast of Blue Skies

How many times have you witnessed and photographed an amazing landscape scene just to discover later that your images look dull and lifeless? It’s as if somehow the vibrance you remember seeing wasn’t recorded in your pictures. This can be so frustrating

This quick tip will show you how you can increase the contrast and saturation of blue skies so that your landscape photographs pop. It works wonderfully to enhance the vibrance in images that you intend to convert to black and white as well as color photographs.

Increase the Vibrance of Skies in Landscape Photographs - Copyright Steve Paxton - All Rights Reserved

This technique will work in either Photoshop or Lightroom. In Photoshop, open the photograph in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). In Lightroom, find the image you want to work with and head over to the Develop module. Now look for the Luminance slider. The Luminance slider can be found under the fourth button named “HSL/Grayscale” in the latest version of Camera Raw. In Lightroom, Luminance is found under the “HSL/Color/B & W” panel.

Using the Luminance Slider in Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom to Enhance Blue Skies

Once you have located the Luminance slider, simply turn down the blue slider. You should see the blue in the sky get darker (increased contrast) and more vibrant. You have to be careful not to overdo this technique as the sky will start to look over-processed very quickly. Done in moderation, this technique can make landscape images pop. Quite often the color of the sky explodes with heavy blue saturation (a byproduct of the heavy contrast). You can deal with this by switching to the Saturation slider and turning the blue down just a hair. Combine this process in Photoshop with a layer mask and you can precisely control the areas of the image that are affected by the Luminance adjustment. This technique isn’t for all images, but it can add a unique look to ones with just the right combination of blue and white in the sky. Give it a shot!

Increase the Vibrance of Skies in Landscape Photographs - Copyright Steve Paxton - All Rights Reserved

Increase the Vibrance of Skies in Landscape Photographs - Copyright Steve Paxton - All Rights Reserved

About the Author
Steve Paxton lives with his wife and two children in the Seattle area. Steve has been a photographer for nearly 20 years. His experience ranges from wedding and portrait work to landscape photography.

Steve owns and manages the F/Stop Spot; a website dedicated to supporting photographers of all skill levels. You can find more of Steve’s work at Paxton Prints and Paxton Portraits.


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