I've got this image. To take it I had to up expose the photo to make the house clearer and the sky which is already very pale has disapeared. Normally I would just magic wand the white sky and replace it with an image of some blue sky. The problem I'm having is all the gaps in the trees at the top left and right.

Is there a better approach to take when cutting around treelines? I suppose the same thing would go for hair etc ..

enter image description here

  • 1
    In addition to the answers below, taking bracketed exposures would have given you lots more options. Even if the shot was handheld, doing a little blending might have been easier than compositing a new sky. Jun 15, 2012 at 4:45
  • Here is another, lots-of-work, approach... Mar 15, 2014 at 14:30

3 Answers 3



  • Duplicate the blue channel and highlight it in the Channels Panel.
  • Use Image > Adjustments > Levels and slide the left arrow to the right to bring up the white a bit.
  • Slide the right arrow to the left to darken most of the grays.
  • Adjust the middle arrow to further darken grays and get them as black as possible without overly effecting edges.
  • Then grab a brush and paint in the building 100% black and any white areas you don't want to fill.

The resulting channel:

Command (Mac) or CTRL (win) click this new channel to load it as a selection. Create a new layer and fill with whatever you want.

red sky

Channels can be a very valuable tool when selecting difficult areas. And if those areas have a high contrast, channels are really the easiest method to use. Filling the sky red took less than 2 minutes here using Channels to first create the selection.

  • This is a FANTASTIC alternative to an HDR series for a architecture or real estate photo like this where you just need some blue sky AND the interior of the building.
    – huzzah
    Jun 14, 2012 at 20:14

You could try the quick selection tool, select the trees and everything else you want gone, then click ''refine edge'' on top.

Fiddle with the setting a bit, it is generally quite good at picking leaves and hair(especially hair!)

I'm sure Russel Brown had a tutorial video on this, you can probably find it on the internet.

But professionally speaking, I think its worth learning to use the colour channels to mask stuff. All the automatic wands and gizmos are just gimmicks, and prone to fail when you most need them.


One suggestion is to use the "select menu ->color range" tool. Choose the house color with as high/fuzzy a threshold as possible, and then use the "image menu->adjustments" submenu, particularly "selective color" and "levels" tools. (with the selective color tools, make any adjustments to "neutrals")

By doing this, sometimes multiple times, you can isolate areas by color or tone.

For this particular image, I am guessing the interior of the house was pretty dim, so I would have selected a pretty dark color and then adjusted the levels. Also, in this particular case the windows are rectilinear, which would have made masking this section off from the rest of the photo pretty easy.

I frequently will set up temporary layers where I select a part and then flood it with black so that I can easily recall that selection by ctrl+clicking on the layer (they can be marked not visible). One can also shift+ctrl click, ctrl+alt click to add or subtract that mask from a currently active selection. One can make such a mask of a portion of an image as a temp layer, then do a select-by-color on the overall image, and then ctrl+alt click the temp mask the knock out that portion from the selection. One you isolate the portion you want to adjust, then you can go at it with a toolsuch as using that selection as a layer mask for an adjustment layer.

To knock out the leaves, you could select green, and then use some of the above methods to knock out that portion from a rough selection of the sky area.

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