Photoshop Technique: Making a Moody Sky even Moodier

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: January 24, 2011

Category: General

I recently posted a photograph I’d taken of a guy riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle and went on to explain that on the day of the shoot there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky; in fact no lighting or cranking up of shutter speed to Mach 3 would have revealed even the slightest trace of a cloud.

I went on to explain that for this particular shot the original brief was to create an image with a moody/dark feel so as to match what the rider was wearing which ultimately meant I was going to have to resort to adding in a sky during the post production stage in Photoshop.

Anyway it was this ‘adding in’ the sky that I thought I would have been asked about i.e. “How did you do it?” but no…the majority of responses asked how I made the sky look so dark and ‘aggressive’ for want of a better word. So, I thought the ‘how’ would make an ideal short tutorial to start the week off; a technique incidentally that takes no more than 60 seconds!

The ‘How’ to making a Moody Sky even Moodier

Step 1: Create a Contrasty Black and White Conversion
It’s fair to say that for all of my Black and White conversions I use a plug in by Nik Software called ‘Silver Efex Pro’, however this technique will work with whatever method you use…

Step 2: Blend Mode
Change the Blend Mode of the Black & White layer to Luminosity to reveal the colour in the original image below but to keep the tone/contrast of the black and white conversion…

At this stage the effect has been applied to the whole of your image, so in order to restrict it to just the sky all we need to do is to add a layer mask and then paint over it with a brush to either reveal or conceal certain parts. My general workflow is to add a black layer mask by holding down the ALT/OPTION key on the keyboard and at the same time clicking on the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layer Panel. This hides all of the effect and then using a white brush paint over the sky to reveal the effect but only in that area.

And that’s all there is to it.

This technique is one I use on 99% of my images that include ‘sky’. Occasionally I may apply a little dodging and burning to the sky too if I really want to increase the effect in certain areas but generally this particular technique suffices. The two images below show the ‘Before’ and ‘After’ so that you can see the quite dramatic effect this very quick and simple technique creates.

*Note…The ‘After’ image has also had a little burning applied to the road surface which is how it looked at the final stage.

One last thing….

As this particular photo had a ‘sky’ added into it during the post production stage I thought I’d share this video that I recorded a short while back showing a similar technique to that which I used to do it…

Enjoy 🙂

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  1. Francis Peacocke

    Glyn, Excellent as always. Lucid, straightforward ( well I’ll have to have a go before I say yes!) study.
    Again a big thanks for your generosity in sharing techniques.

    • Glyn

      @Francis…Thanks for the kind words; it’s great to ‘hear’ that you get something out of the blog 🙂

  2. Heather

    Glyn, for so long I have wanted to know how to do this. Thank you for laying it out so clearly that i can understand. It is so fun to learn new ideas. I appreciate you sharing your talents with the rest of us. Well done!

    • Glyn

      @Heather…Very kind of you to say and it’s great to know that it’s useful…thanks 🙂

  3. Gio

    Just use a (masked) adjustment layer – using a b&w copy layer is a c1995 technique!

  4. claudio.von.grubens

    hi glyn

    nice and easy – that’s the way i like it!


  5. Cat

    Extraordinarily helpful blog! Thank you for sharing these great tips and making it so easy to follow

    • Glyn

      @Cat…Thanks for that and thanks too for dropping by and commenting 🙂


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