Photo Retouching – Sky enhancement workflow

Today’s photo retouching workflow will cover the lens deformation of the image. Especially Architectural photos with prominent lines. And how to correct this issue in postprocessing. In the second part, we will enhance the sky to get a more dramatic look. We will work on a RAW image which is always recommended for photo retouching. The reason is not compressed or anyhow pre-edited or changed within the camera, and you have full control of the changing process to get the best results.


Transform guided tool

As we already mentioned, any lens has at least little distortion, and especially the universal zoom lens we usually take to vacation or traveling have more or less distortion at certain focal lengths. 

Also, here on the image of the Primatial Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary in Pisa, you see the vertical lines are not parallel, and we need to fix it. 

There are more options for fixing this issue. In our case, we will use the Transform tool available in Camera Raw and specifically the guided tour.


The advantage of this tool is simplicity: you just have to draw at least two lines near to main lines on the image that should be parallel or rectangular. The transform tool will automatically transform the image to be aligned with these guides.

Basic Enhancement in Camera Raw

As we have the image opened in Camera Raw, let us make necessary enhancements and take advantage of the RAW image. 

As you can see, we took the image during a bright day, and there is a big contrast between the bright sky and the rest of the picture - the cathedral.

So first, let us increase the Exposure a bit. Logically the sky becomes even brighter too, but we will fix it later on. Now let’s decrease the highlights.

Camera Raw Basic-Enhancement

And the last step will be to increase the shadows. This step will bring more light to the cathedral.

We can also increase a bit the texture and vibrancy and clarity.

Do not forget to tick the Remove Chromatic Aberration in the Lens Correction tab to avoid the fringing. As you will see, we will have to cope with this issue anyhow later on in Photoshop itself.

Now let’s open the image in Photoshop to continue with the photo retouching there.

Sky selection in Photoshop

We could enhance the sky also in Camera Raw, but in this case, we will do it in Photoshop as we need to create a good selection and masking of the sky. Our goal here will be to make the sky more dramatic and darker.

In this particular case, we will use the Quick selection tool. Make the brush o the quick selection tool small enough to be able to recognize even little details on edge between the sky and the roof of the cathedral.

The use Select and mask button to switch to mask enhancement tool. As you zoom in, you can see the imperfection of the selection primarily on the small details on edge. Some of the roof details were not selected, so let’s fix it here. 

Refine Edge Brush Tool in photo retouching

Select the Refine Edge Brush tool and select the appropriate small size of the brush. Now go along the selection edge and where needed paint over unselected parts of the image.

Photo retouching Refine-mask

This detailed work pays off as you will achieve a perfect selection of all small details.

When you’re finished, return to standard editing mode. In my particular case, I have selected the Layer mask as the output mode. So the result will be the original layer with the layer mask based on the selection we just made.

Retouching the Sky using Camera RAW Filter

Now we have the sky separated, and we can make a specific enhancement to it. Again as always, there are many approaches to how to do it. We could use curves, levels, and the other adjustment layers to increase saturation and lower the brightness separately. 

But in this case, we will use a simple method with the Camera Raw Filter

So as we mentioned at the beginning, our goal is to make the sky more dramatic, darker, and more vibrant. Let us start with the necessary enhancements.

As you can see, we are dealing with the same sliders as in the Camera Raw itself we used at the beginning of our photo retouching.

Let’s decrease the exposure and increase the contrast. Decrease the blacks a little bit to make the sky darker. Increase the clarity and increase the Dehaze slider as well.


Here in the basic enhancement is useful to increase the vibrancy. I do not often use the Saturation slider at this stage. If needed, we can fix it in the HSL adjustment tab. 

Here we can adjust the Hue, especially of the blue color tones, if we need to. And also, we can switch to the Luminosity tab and make the blue color tones darker even more by moving the slider to the left side.

Finetune the mask

As we have finished the sky color and luminosity adjustments, let’s have a final look at the details. Let’s zoom in and check the edge between the sky and the cathedral.

We can see here many imperfections that are not visible with the original bright washed-out sky, but now with the darker one, it is more prominent.

We can fix it by adjusting the mask. So let’s grab the brush tool and select an appropriate small soft brush. Set the Flow under 10%. Set the foreground color to black.

Final mask refine

And don’t forget to select the mask, not the standard layer, because we are going to paint in the mask with the black color and hide unwanted parts of the image.

So let’s paint over the parts that should be hidden. If we accidentally paint over the unwanted area, we can quickly fix it by changing to white foreground color and paint it back.

Remove Fringing

As we were enhancing the mask, we discovered in the zoomed parts of the image, and there is the fringing appearing. We can fix this unwanted effect by our well-known filter Camera Raw Filter.

So in this filter, go to Lens Corrections. Here you can see the color interval sliders for Purple amount and Green amount.

Now let’s define the hue of most prominent fringing color and move the slider of Purple or Green amount to the right side to remove particular fringing.


In this short photo retouching tutorial, we addressed and fixed more problems.

First were the lens distortion and its impact mainly in straight lines of buildings or objects with lines.

Another issue was washed out sky, and we enhanced it by creating a detailed mask and adjusting just the sky upon our artistical preferences.

Finally, we got rid of the color fringing using the Camera Raw filter.

And finally, there is not a single way how to retouch the photo, and this is one of many photo retouching approaches and workflow types.

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