by Gary / 0 comments - Orginally published:20th November 2016

It's a story of layers

I thought I would write this tutorial after I received an e-mail from a visitor to our site. Max asked how I controlled the noise in the skies of my HDR & tone-mapped images.

So I thought I would start with one of the images that Max referred to from the Ronda Gallery

The steps

So my first step, when I have shortlisted the image, is to crop the shot. If necessary, remove any dust spots and make some basic adjustments in Lightroom.

This is what I have to start working with.

The RAW Image in Lighroom

I now export this image to Adobe Photoshop; the reason behind this is that I can work with multiple layers.

So the first step is to create a duplicate of the background.

Two layers in Photoshop

With this layer, I plan to apply one of the Nik collection of filters to give the image more punch, to provide the shot with a touch of the feeling I had with the beautiful Spanish sun beaming down on this wonderfully warm October day.

So I pull up a preview of the various options and select a look I like. In this case, it's 'Deep 2'

Applying a Nik Collection filter

The only issue I have is that the sky is too bright. I prefer the one created with 'Deep 1'

No problem, duplicate the original background again, move it to the top of the layers stack and run the Deep 1 filter against that.

Select a preset or tweak the settings to your liking

As you can see, that has masked the more balanced 'Deep 2' image.

Again, no problem, but we have a couple of options, but both involve 'selecting' the sky.

I have two solutions I generally prefer, and it depends on the image.

This one has a simple sky, so I select the 'Magic Wand Tool'

Keep the original and create a layer per style
Now you may have to select the area in sections - remember to hold down the Shift key and select each area you want.
Then carefully select the area you want

When you have selected everything you want, save the selection. This is because it gives you options on how to proceed next.

In this example, it's simple, duplicate the layer again, and you will end up with a layer with just the sky.

Duplicate your selection - Make sure it's top of your layers stack
If you're happy with this, you can work on your sky layer.
Bring back your alternate foreground - Bring back your alternate foreground
Now turn off the layer below it to check your results.

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