These days, sky replacement seems to have become quite the rage. Skylum offers this via their program, Luminar AI (the link you see is my affiliate link), and so does Photoshop. If you are an amateur (beginner or advanced), or if you have a lot of images to process, then I can recommend Luminar AI to you.
But this brief article is not about replacing the sky alone. It is about the philosophy of editing and image manipulation. When you go back in time, you realize that practically no one has created an image that has not been manipulated to some extent. I believe that there are very few magazines, or publications, today (The National Geographic being one) that insist on receiving photographs that are not touched up.
Many of us like to look back at the days of film and believe that images shot on film (or using other vintage techniques) were not manipulated. This, of course, is not true, and I know I lived in this world of self-delusion for a long while.
When you analyze this, you realize that the mere act of cropping an image is an act of manipulation. Add techniques like burning, dodging, toning, etc., and you end up with quite a merry mix.
Yet, digital techniques that have emerged, and are evolving, enhance our ability to twist and shape an image into anything we like.
When I moved to the world of digital photography, I eschewed simple techniques like cloning and healing. Yes, I lived in some dreamworld. And in this fantasy, in which I considered myself to be morally superior to those digital artists and photographers who edited their images with an almost maniacal frenzy.
So, now we move back to the question of sky replacement–do you do it, or not? You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is no correct answer to the question, and I doubt that there ever will be one.
In general, I don’t replace the sky and will do so when I want to make a point. For instance, in the images of the Gurgaon skyline as it is, and with the clouds, I ask–where are the monsoon clouds? When I present you with these images, then I am explicit in my admission of guilt!
However, Delhi has a terrible sky these days. It was not always the case, and this tempted me to replace the skies in my images of Delhi. I may just do so, and you may never know.
When I was here during my teenage years, and again in my 20s, the sky was ‘acceptable’. We had clouds, and most of them were proud, strong clouds that lit up the sky. In contrast, these days, we have flat, hazy skies almost burnt white with dust, haze, and heat.
So, I confess, when I am editing images of Delhi, I will occasionally replace the skies. But, I do so with a heavy heart, because I feel as though I am entering the world of the damned.