Enhancing blue skies

Photography tips

November 26, 2014

On Monday, I shared a bunch of photos I took in Israel with deep blue coloured skies. Today I will show you how I enhanced the blue skies from the original photos in Lightroom with a simple ‘cheat’. Scroll down if you want to know how to do it yourself without Lightroom or Photoshop!

First, here’s the photo I’ll use for this guide before any editing. As you can see, the original photo is a little dark and overall not so lively.
Blue skies

One thing you need to know about your camera is that it won’t automatically capture colours the way you want or the way they are in real life. What you can do is adjust the settings on your camera so that colours are more vivid, but often you may want to enhance it even more with an editing program.

Step 1: Lightroom

In Israel, I shot all my photos in RAW, not in JPEG. This gives me more options to edit the photo in Lightroom afterwards, but the downside for me is that it also means that all photos need editing, which is a lot of work of course. Without any editing at all, the photos will look very flat and dull as you can see above, so I find that editing is necessary with RAW.

For this photo I started with small adjustments in Lightroom. You can skip this step if you shoot in JPEG or, if you want to save some time, you could use a preset (for example: VSCO Film 04’s Auto Tone) for this step as well.
Enhance blue skies in Lightroom

As you can see, the colours are already a lot better than before. Now going on to the blue skies.

Step 2: VSCO Film

My easy cheat for the blue skies is using VSCO Film’s presets. I’m a huge fan of the VSCOcam app on my iPhone and also of VSCO Film for Lightroom. I currently own VSCO Film 01 – 05. They include many beautiful presets and VSCO Film 03 and 04 also come with handy toolkits. One of the handy tools that’s included with VSCO Film 04 is the tool ‘Color: Blues’. Basically, this tool will make all the blue areas in the photo a darker, deeper blue. All you have to do is select the preset and it will automatically make the changes. There are 5 different options when it comes to the blues: Blues –, Blues -, Blues +, Blues ++ and Blues +++. The names are self explanatory, it starts with Blues — which is the same as the original and it becomes darker with every + that’s added.

Different BLUE skies with VSCO film

As you can see, the Blues +++ is a bit too much (for my taste), so I go for Blues – or Blues + the most. And there you have it, a rich coloured blue sky! I really call this method a cheat, because it’s so simple and quick, yet the effect is significant.

Before after enhancing blue skies

If you want to know how to do this manually in Lightroom and Photoshop, I recommend this article: Enhancing the Vibrance and Contrast of Blue Skies. It’s VERY easy actually to do this manually, but I just found the VSCO presets earlier then the two sliders in Lightroom, haha.


HELP! I don’t have Photoshop, Lightroom or VSCO Film!

So what do you do when you want to achieve the same results, but don’t have these programs? Don’t worry! If you don’t have Lightroom, Photoshop or VSCO Film, you can still do this. I found a very easy way to do it without any of these programs. You don’t even need experience with editing at all! What you do need is Google Chrome and a Google+ account.

Step 1: Google+

First, go to Google+ and find ‘Photos’ in the dropdown menu on the left.
Google+ plus photos

Step 2: Upload photo

I uploaded the photo, used the ‘Auto Enhance’ function on it to save some time and the photo looked so much better already. This is how it looks in the ‘editor’. Not too complicated, right?
Upload photo in Google+ plus

Step 3a: Use ‘Selective’ tool

Then, to enhance the blue skies, go to ‘Selective’ at the right panel under ‘Basic Adjustments’. What you want to do is select the area that you wish to enhance, in this case the sky, and then adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation according to your needs.
With the ‘Selective’ tool, you have to add a control point to indicate which area you want to adjust. I put the control point in the darkest area of the sky.
Selective tool Google plus

Step 3b: Size

Drag the ‘Size’ button to make the area bigger or smaller. I wanted the darkest part of the sky to be covered.
Selective tool Google plus

Step 3c: Saturation

Slide the saturation button to make the blue more vivid.
Saturation in Google plus photo editor

And it’s as simple as that! The same result, but without Photoshop or Lightroom. I really recommend the photo editor of Google+. It seems like there are only a few simple tools, but they are quite powerful!

I hope this Photography 101 helped you. Leave a comment if you have any questions or if you’d like to see more of these!


Wow wat een verschil!! Super handig deze tips! Thanks girl ;)

X Lily