how to get vibrant blue skies

By Katie Day (ohkatieday)

Picture this: You look outside and the sky is insanely gorgeous, you go to capture it in a photo, look down at what you assume will be an award-winning masterpiece, and the sky is just…blah. Why does it look white all of the sudden? Why can’t I get it to look like what I’m seeing?

Fear not! I’m gonna walk you through how to get those vibrant, saturated skies with clouds so crisp you’ll think you can scoop them up like Aladdin. Hold on to your rugs, friends, I’m gonna show you a whole new world.


Use the sun as your spotlight

I love backlighting more than anything (and it is how I light 90% of my normal portraits) but to get the most saturated sky, direct sun can be your friend! That means go ahead and have your subject face the sun. My favorite use of this lighting is when I’m shooting wide shots dramatic shots where the portrait almost becomes a landscape shot.

Notice in these photos, we were in the exact same location. The only difference was on the left I backlit her versus on the right I lit her using the sun as my key light. She only turned 180 degrees to get two dramatically different effects.


High aperture = more saturated sky

(I know I’m killing you, right!? I’m asking you to up them f stops AND use direct sun. Have I gone nuts? MAYBE I have…or maybe you’ve never had a find like me.)
Part of why these balloons are so vibrant is because I shot this portrait at f/10 keeping her facial features crisp and in focus as well as everything else.


post-process in lightroom

Try using one of these presets from the California | Desktop set from A Color Story. In one click, your skies will go nuts! And most likely you will need NO OTHER STEPS.


In this photo, the sky color in-camera is pretty desaturated. One click of “101-“ and it became instantly a dreamy, vibrant turquoise.


use color selection if you want even more vibrant skies!

If you want to go even MORE saturated, in the “Develop” Module of Lightroom, scroll down to the section HSL/Color. Click on “Blue” and increase the “Saturation” slider.


use the brush tool for complete control

Another method is to use the “brush” tool. Increase the saturation, decrease the exposure a bit and brush over the sky. You might find some cool unexpected results by changing the color temperature.

In this photo I used, the brush to saturate the colors of the rainbow that appeared behind the subject.

Alright, get out there, use that sun, up that f-stop, and you won’t need to use any of your wishes on making some magic, vibrant skies. -Katie Day

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