How to get natural looking summer skies?

Summer and lots of sunshine can often cause the sky to become unnatural dark blue. Have a look at the picture shot with my wife’s Iphone. It looks just like pictures shot with Kodak film in the old days. Where does all this dark blue come from?

I have the same problem with raw shots from my Nikon. The sky is way too dark blue, it should have been mostly white with a little blue. I have tried to fix the problem using color zones, color look up, color balance, color mapping etc. But I’m not happy with the result. What to do? Moreover, is it possible to do big adjustment to the blue sky without having to construct a mask?


Nikon raw:

Nikon raw and color zones:

DSC_2122.NEF (25.0 MB)

This is just with some +EV since your image is very underexposed due to the white figures in the centre. And some color saturation added.

History stack is included in the JPG.

DSC_2122.NEF.xmp (5.8 KB)

The one you did with color zones looks like a real sky to me.

Oh no, I misunderstood you! You do not want blue sky…

You could use the tone equalizer to increase the exposure of the sky. Like this:

I also tried to use the graduated density filter module where I tried to mask out the statues, but the masking was too fiddly.

The below example is a rather basic edit. This was done using white balance and color balance together with (scene referred) exposure and filmic rgb (v4) nothing else and no masks.

Thanks to everyone.
I still think that all skies presented in this thread, including my own post, are way too blue. Go and have a look for yourself, especially if you live in a Nordic country. The sky should look much more like the sky below (the whole photo has been subjected to the automatic neutralize color option in the color balance module to remove a blue cast).

I live in a high, dry place, and blue skies like that are common. From a fishing trip a few years ago, about 9500ft MSL:


If I look outside right now (20:43 CEST in the Netherlands) I see a sky that is about as blue as the lower parts of the sky in my example, your latest shot doesn’t have any (or very, very little) blue in the sky at all…

Your first shot was taken at noon (assuming the timestamp is correct) and remembering from my vacations in Denmark and Sweden I do seem to remember that the sky can be pretty blue with nice white clouds.

First thing that comes to mind: Is your monitor calibrated correctly? And do you see this with all images (not just your own but edits by others).

Blue sky in south of france in autumn.

When sailing in early summer in gothenburg last year on sunny days the sky was very blue - only on cloudy days or misty times it was more greyish. At least over water there’s a good chance to have a even a little bit of mist turning the sky into a light grey.
So i‘m pretty sure your nikon is as ok as my canon is :wink:

Another one, shot with a lens with 72mm filter thread, where I clearly don’t have a polarizer to screw in (default processing in RT):

For what it’s worth, the Colorchecker Passport has a square of what is considered to be sky blue by some autonomous group of chaps. I believe it’s the 3rd from the left of the top row?

Sky blue in germany, sweden, south of france… are completey different things imho


first photo : exposure compensation 1.67EV, tone curve. The sky is not natural as I imagine it was light blue. But due to the luminance of main subject, the sky is underexposed and can get a bad color.
The only way I see, when it happens to me, is to correct sky color with a mask. I made that with GIMP and now with ART.
This second interpretation looks like scene is located in a southern country

Sky blue can be quite different but location is not the main factor. The angle of the sunlight, clouds and atmospheric impurities are important.
And also the human eye (brain) can adapt to very high brightness and still recognize colors. This is difficult to transfer to photo paper or the screen.

I shoot a wide angle lens a lot, a 24mm prime on a full frame body, and the sky is often dark like this. I like the look, so I keep it in a lot of my photos.

1 Like

I grew up in western Canada, and the skies there were very blue, maybe just a hair lighter than in @ggbutcher’s example. For most of my time in Toronto, only the center of the sky has been a strong blue; with the reduction in traffic caused by the pandemic, the blue has gotten more prominent and widespread. I remember seeing works by Dutch painters and thinking, “the skies are not realistic, they are too iight, too pastel.” Then I visited the Netherlands, and discovered they were spot on.

There are so many factors including weather patterns, turbulence, temperature, atmospheric composition, time of day, angle of sun and reflections, humidity, camera gear and settings, air pollution or smog, magnetic interference, colour management, chroma or saturation manipulation, eyesight, cognitive patterns, cognitive dissonance, allergies, trauma, someone farted or talked behind your back, etc.