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Enhancing the Skies in Your Photos

By Matt Kloskowski  ·  November 18th, 2013


In this video tutorial, Matt shows you a couple of techniques to enhance the sky in your images, using either Photoshop Elements 12 or Lightroom.

This video was created using Photoshop Elements 12 and Lightroom 5. This technique will also work for Photoshop Elements 11.

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44 Replies to Enhancing the Skies in Your Photos:

  1. Steve

    November 18, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Thank you Elements and Matt, one of my favorite “Matt” videos.

    • marilyn

      November 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      I thought this was disappointing as it was really for those with Lightroom…which I obviously do not have. Maybe it should have been titled “Enhancing the skies with Lightroom & PSE”.

      • Diana K

        November 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

        Marilyn, sorry this video wasn’t what you were hoping for. Did you watch it the whole video? Matt first shows you a technique in LR, but then he shows you a technique for enhancing the sky using only PSE.

    • Diana K

      November 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Thanks Steve, glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Michael

    November 18, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Instead of jumping to pse could you not have used the adjustment brush in lr to get the same results?

    • Matt

      November 22, 2013 at 6:52 am

      Hey Michael – sorry for the late reply. You could use the adjustment brush. It’s not as exact as a selection though. Its got a “masking” feature but it’s definitely not the same level of precision as you’d get in Elements. Give it a try though – sometimes it works and it definitely depends on the photo.
      Thanks :-)

  3. Kathy

    November 19, 2013 at 5:29 am

    I subscribed to Adobe Photoshop Elements, not Lightroom. I was disappointed also.

  4. Mira

    November 19, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Great Video. Thanks for showing it both ways.

  5. Peter

    November 19, 2013 at 10:48 am

    With all the benefits that PET and Matt are touting, why not offer PET subscribers a discount to purchase Lightroom; if you expect subscribers to follow along in the tutorials????

  6. Jim

    November 19, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Couldn’t much of what Matt did in Lightroom (which I don’t have, either) have been done by using the RAW editor in Elements? I have to remind myself, sometimes, that the RAW editor can actually work on practically any image format. At least that’s what I’m going to try. ;-)

    Thanks, Matt, and I enjoy your enthusiasm, also! :-)

    • Julie

      November 20, 2013 at 5:01 am

      Absolutely. And for the part that couldn’t be done in camera raw (i.e. where Lightroom’s graduated filter was used), Matt provided the Elements alternative (making a selection of the sky and apply levels adjustment layer to that selection). So, if you don’t have Lightroom, you can still do this technique. Play the video up to about 1:38 but do the basic panel adjustments in Elements camera raw instead of in Lightroom. Now skip the parts of the video that relate to using Lightroom’s graduated filter and jump back in around 4:30 to see how to finish up using a selection and levels in Elements. :)

      • Sheila

        November 20, 2013 at 5:27 am

        I don’t understand why showing Lightroom is a problem for viewers. It is a bonus, but the PSE portion was very clear and very good as well. Please continue to show options for both when possible, Lightroom and PSE are a very good partnership.

    • Matt

      November 22, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Hey Jim. The only problem is that Elements’s raw editor doesn’t have the same features as Lightroom or the full Camera Raw in the full version of Photoshop. It’s got a basic panel but that’s about it. If you’re doing a lot of editing work then Lightroom is the way to go.


  7. Lenny

    November 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Matt is a great teacher but why so much Lightroom on a site devoted to Elements? There are plenty of places to learn Lightroom so why clutter up this site with tutorials on Lightroom?

  8. Sam

    November 19, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I agree- would rather not see so much about lightroom- but keep the focus on PSE. Glad the tutorial showed both ways to acheive the end result.

  9. Michael

    November 19, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    You guys are a bunch of cry babies.

    • Lenny

      November 20, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Cry babies. Who? In what way?

  10. Kathy

    November 20, 2013 at 4:50 am

    I have no problem learning a new program if I had that program, but PSE is what I signed up for. I told myself after I bought PSE 11, this would the last Adobe program I would buy due to the games Adobe corp is playing by making people rent their programs. Yes, I know I am a small fish in a big ocean…..

    The thing is I have ask for videos on other things using PSE (11). I want to know how to print better images. I can make beautiful small prints of pictures to be used in charms….
    Is there some way to print 1/4’s of pictures to be put on canvas paper then added to a big mat to make a bigger picture …
    Compare printing services that work well with PSE. And if the teachers really be bored, why not do some classes on the video program that usually comes bundled with PSE, Adobe Premiere.
    More classes on copyrights and protecting your photos. Best way to show your pictures or lighting. Up light, down light,
    I really love classes that Matt does. He truly is the best teacher and with such a relaxed pleasing voice and humor. Love his classes.

    • Matt

      November 22, 2013 at 7:01 am

      Hey Kathy – As you can imagine it’s impossible to please everyone. I promise you, the minute I do a video on printing some one will write that they don’t have the money to buy a printer.
      If I do one on Adobe Premier (which doesn’t come free with Elements unless you pay more money), then some one will write that they don’t have Premier.
      Same goes for protecting your images – some one will say they have no need because it’s just for personal family stuff. Lighting? Well, lights cost money and some people don’t have them right? :-)

      You get the idea. I know there’s no way to please everyone. The best I can do is show people the way they “should” be working. If you’re a photographer (hobbyist or pro), then you absolutely positively should be starting in Lightroom. It’s easier, faster, and WAY more powerful for basic photo editing. There’s millions of Lightroom/Elements users out there (many of them among the subscribers). I can’t ignore them. I simply wanted to show them what kind of work they should do in LR and what kind of work is best left or better suited for PSE.
      Thanks :-)

  11. Alfred

    November 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Hi Matt, …..I always enjoy the great way you have of teaching folk how to use Elements, but I too don’t have lightroom, I bought Elements 11, as did another viewer, I still liked the explanation for the elements users, but now wish I had waited and bought # 12 where it is possible to open any photo in the raw mode, and would then be able to follow along better…maybe next year if I am still here. “Ben”

    • Jim

      November 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

      But, you CAN open an image in RAW. There’s a vid here somewhere, but it’s pretty easy:
      In PSE 11 (I’m on a Mac but I suspect the menus are the same):
      1. Use File->Open… menu (command or control + O)
      2. Navigate to the image you want
      3. Select that image
      4. Change the “Format:” to “Camera Raw”
      5. Click the “Open” button

      The “trick” is to use the _exact_ order above. Do NOT select the Format until AFTER you have selected the image. ;-) Hope that helps. And I think you’ll grow to use and appreciate it in PSE!

      The RAW editor is great for making over-all changes/improvements. Once that is complete, you can THEN use the “Open Image” button to open the image in PSE for any detail work you want to do.

      I think this is one of the main lessons of this vid. Lightroom (and other RAW editors) are great but they are hard to use on details or particular parts of the image without affecting the entire thing. :-) I don’t have LR but the RAW editor is still available in PSE 11! It’s just not as complete as the one in LR/Aperture/etc.

    • Mike

      November 20, 2013 at 11:16 am

      As Jim said, you can definitely do this in Elements 11 (and earlier). If you’re on a Windows machine, the only difference is the menu wording. Go to File>Open As. Then continue with his directions.

    • Kathy

      November 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      I only recently got PSE11 and did not know PSE was coming out so quickly. I feel like this site is pushing me into buying programs I don’t have to be able to use this site. I love this site. I love Matt K’s video’s. I buy his books and anything else he does. That being said I do not want to be pushed into using these programs to be able to subscribe to this site. I made suggestions on what I would like to see (I had sent an email over 2 months ago before this came up). There is a win-win for everyone if this site is not trying to push us into buying programs we don’t want like Lightroom or PSE 12.
      At the top of the page it has a Topics column It has PSE 11 and PSE 10. If you look under PSE 11, it only has PSE 12 info. NOT 11. I think this should be refined to really be confined to the programs that they state and if they want to add Lightroom add it to the drop down box and vids under it for Light room. The same for PSE 12. If you buy Matt K’s or Scott Kelby’s book on PSE 10, you get 10, PSE 11, you get 11. I know I have bought them all. And their photography books. Just upgrade the Topic to include this

      • Mike

        November 23, 2013 at 4:16 pm

        Thanks for the heads up on the mislabeled links, Kathy. I’ll let the person in charge of the web site know and hopefully he can get that updated (down below the E12 stuff there is a link to the E11 page, but it’s small, and things should be labeled correctly, I agree).

        As to feeling like we’re pushing you into buying programs, I’m sorry you feel that way. I can honestly tell you that never has been and never will be a goal of the current ownership/collection of authors. We do not have a vested interest in people upgrading or not. As always, that’s a very individual decision that everyone must make for themselves. As a site devoted to Elements, of course we’re going to do our best to stay current. That being said, a lot of the stuff we do can be accomplished in several different versions of Elements, not just the most recent one.

  12. Jan

    November 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Calling people cry babies is a bit harsh. People want what they paid for, including myself. When subscribing to PSE, it was to learn Elements, not Elements and something else, regardless of what that might be. I think the issue is that Lightroom is taking up space that should be devoted to Elements so are we getting less of Elements to make room for Lightroom? If the answer is yes, then isn’t the criticism regarding Lightroom justified?

    • Lenny

      November 20, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Hi Jan, I’m one of the cry babies:-) I have PSE and several plug-ins for it and can’t even keep up with what I have now let alone wasting my time watching the first ¾ of a video to finally get to what I paid for. I really feel that if people want to learn Lightroom they should go elsewhere. I subscribe here to learn Elements, period. I would rather be outside shooting photos than watching Lightroom tutorials that I will never use.

      • Jan

        November 20, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Hi Lenny – my sentiments exactly.

    • Julie

      November 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      I seem to remember Rick replying to similar concerns some time ago by saying that when they began adding Lightroom articles to the magazine, they added additional pages. So, in effect, you aren’t actually getting less Elements content.

      • Lenny

        November 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

        Just more clutter that I have no interest in and have to filter out just like commercials on TV.

  13. Sheila

    November 21, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Help! I made the mistake of selecting to have responses to this conversation forwarded to my email and I want to shut it off, I am not finding the comments useful to me at all.

    • Jim

      November 21, 2013 at 3:12 pm


      I agree with you. I’m adding this post and then UN-checking the “Notify me of follow-up comments…” and see if that will stop the useless emails. If it does NOT, I’ll see if I can find another way. Of course, there is always the ‘create a filter’ method… ;-)

  14. Jim

    November 21, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    DUH! Forgot to actually IN-check the box! A mind is a terrible thing to lose…

    • Sheila

      November 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      Jim – I tried that and they are still filling my inbox, now to the filter option. Thanks.

  15. Jean

    November 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Excellent instructional video! I have mainly used the Neutral Density Filter in Lightroom for improving skies and now I will try the other technique in Elements. Thank you so much!

  16. judith

    November 22, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Please don’t include Lightroom articles. I think the site is called :(

    • Jim

      November 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      And another thing, Matt! Please stop all this talk about ‘photographs!’ We don’t need no stinkin’ photographs! Next thing you know we’ll be ‘encouraged’ to buy a camera! Those are known to be tools of the devil himself!!! Just stick to showing how we can use (please insert version of PSE i have)! If we wanted to learn anything else, we’d go back to skool!!! :+P Maybe then I cud lern hau to stop the eMail updaitz! Finally, please remove the links to “Learning Center,” “Store” and “Tutorials!” Thanks, Matt! Don’t forget to take your skin thickeners!

  17. Coreena

    November 26, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Is LR needed if we are using the RAW in PSE 12? Not sure why LR is even mentioned. Perhaps helping us use the RAW portion of PSE 12 would be more helpful?

  18. Connie

    November 26, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I know how about two comment areas: one for complaints about content of the tutorials, and one for actual discussion about the tutorial. I found I spent more time going through all the complaints than actual discussion.

    Matt, I thought the tutorial was good with tips that could be useful. I have a number of times had difficulty with getting the sky to look ‘real’. in this tutorial you mentioned taking the whites and blacks all the way up and down. Is there another tutorial that goes over that particular piece ?

    In the example you used you had clouds and some depth already. I was hoping you would do another tutorial for when you have a sky that is either mostly gray, or leaning towards going white. I know in pse 10 they added the quick fix with the smart brush but I haven’t had much luck with that.

    and thanks for all the tutorials, without what I get from here I would have ditched pse

  19. Lourdes

    November 27, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I enjoyed this tutorial very much as I use Lightroom 5 and Photoshop Elements 12. Unfortunately, I’m experiencing problems. Once I edit an image in Lightroom 5 but want to finish my adjustments on Photoshop Elements 12, within Lightroom 5 I go to “Edit in” and select Photoshop Elements 12. The Photoshop Elements 12 Editor opens-up but it didn’t bring my image into it.

    I used to have Photoshop CS6 so Lightroom 5 seems to be looking for it even though I have specified to Edit in Photoshop Elements 12. Obviously, I’m doing something wrong. This has been extremely frustrating.

    Any help or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    • Julie

      November 28, 2013 at 5:19 am

      Lourdes, the problem is probably that you selected the wrong path when you set PSE 12 up as your additional external editor. The key is to select the .exe file (for Windows users) or the .app files (for Mac users).

      If you’re on Windows, the paths to find the correct file is:

      C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Photoshop Elements 12\PhotoshopElementsEditor.exe (if you’re on a 64 bit computer)

      C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop Elements 12\PhotoshopElementsEditor.exe (if you’re on a 32 bit computer)

      If you’re on a Mac, the path is:

      Applications\Adobe Photoshop 12\Support Files/Adobe Photoshop Elements

      • Lourdes

        November 28, 2013 at 5:51 am

        Thank you so much for your help, Julie. You made my day! Thanks again.

  20. Lourdes

    November 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Indeed, I was doing something wrong. I was opening the file in PSD format, instead of JPG format. It works fine now.

    Thanks so much.

  21. Edward

    March 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Hi – just as a general point – and as a big UK fan of MattK – I have noticed that his tutorials now dont seem able to include the start image for us to exactly follow the vid/pdf so as to make sure we get to the same result. Lately this has been a couple of his ACR tutorials when it might have been useful as he was adopting the new ACR version 7 when many other vidtuts still were still hanging onto ACR6. Is that something you could encourage him to include. Kind regards, EMO

  22. Leo

    November 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks Matt for your comparison of LR and PE. I like the simplicity of LR

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