How to Fix Washed Out Skies in Landscape Photos

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More often than not, the sky will always be brighter than the ground when you take landscape photos. Even if you adjust your camera’s exposure compensation, the sky will almost always end up looking washed out.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is by purchasing a Graduated Neutral Density (GND) Filter. This filter has a dark tint at the top that slowly fades until the filter is clear at the bottom. This effectively darkens the sky while retaining the brightness of the objects in the lower half of your frame. But if you don’t have a GND filter then you can use Photoshop to fix your washed out skies.

The photo below was taken just after 1PM. The light was so intense that it made the sky look lighter than it was. We can apply a gradient filter to this photo to bring back some of the darker hues in the sky.

Open your photo in Photoshop and press the letter D to make your foreground color Black. On the Layers Pallete, click on Create New Adjustment and select Gradient.

On the Gradient Fill window, click on the first drop down arrow and select the second type of gradient fill.

Still on the Gradient Fill window, make sure the the Reverse and Align with Layer are selected then click OK.

On the Layers Palette, select Overlay as the blend mode for the adjustment layer.

Go back to the Gradient Fill window by double-clicking on the gradient adjustment layer on the Layer Palette window. Once there, click inside the first box that is labeled Gradient to pull up the Gradient Editor. Inside this window, you can adjust how fast your gradient fill transitions between black and transparent by moving the white box left or right. The more the box is moved left, the faster the gradient fill turns from black to transparent affecting less of the picture. Using this slider lets you have more control so that only your sky is darkened by the fill. Once done, click on OK.

Below is the photo before and after adding the gradient fill.

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