Last week I attended a camera club lecture on landscape photography where the guest showed us a large number of mounted prints for which he’d won various amateur club awards over the years. For one set of prints he proudly declared that he had “dropped in” a more dramatic sky to give the photographs greater impact. They were decent enough photos and the cloudy skies certainly added drama to the images. I remember noting it as a trick I ought to try the next time I was presented with a flat, boring sky in an otherwise interesting photo. The problem of course, is that my Photoshop skills are less than rudimentary, so I knew I was unlikely to ever produce any 5-star images that way. And viola!
This photo of a Nankeen Kestrel obviously has an added sky. The lighting is all wrong, and it looks like I outlined the bird with a rusty nail. I’ve also played a little with the contrast and saturation and added some sharpness, although they’re fairly normal post-processing steps for me. Here’s the original photo.
And if anyone is still reading this and gives a monkey’s, here’s where the sky came from. It was just the first dramatic landscape I came across in my photo library.
So there you have it – an ordinary photo, probably made worse by the addition of an over-saturated sky, and applied in a fairly ham-fisted manner. But the point of all this is not the photo I made at the end of the process, but whether – for me at least – it was even a worthy thing to do in the first place. I’ll avoid writing a lengthy paragraph on photographic ethics and just say that even if my Photoshop skills were up to the task and I managed to add a sky to this image flawlessly, I still don’t think I’d feel comfortable displaying it as an example of my best work. Or maybe I’m just jealous.