How to edit photos taken on grey and gloomy days

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

Note: this blog post is for those who know how to use Adobe Lightroom. If you are not familiar with this editing tool or you are just beginning to experiment with editing, there are lots of tips for you here, but the end result might differ!

We all experience it and it can be terribly disappointing: grey and gloomy skies when we want to take photos. I must admit, for a long time, as a content creator this could make me quite upset – of course I knew you cannot influence the weather; but being on a trip at a special desert location with dark grey skies is just less than ideal. This past weekend, I was doing a photo shoot at the Dead Sea for a travel magazine and the weather was – surprise – rainy and grey. Because there was no other choice than to create beautiful photos, I started experimenting a bit in Lightroom back in Tel Aviv and came up with some solutions! Though it is impossible to create completely natural looking sunny photos with blue skies, Lightroom (both desktop and mobile) has quite a bit of tricks for you to get a beautiful end result.

But first...

Before starting to edit your moody photos, it is key to envision what look you want to create. Keep in mind that the color scheme of your Instagram should be in tune, so do not choose to create dreamy pink photos when your feed mostly consists of dark of black and white photos. This is a bit of an extreme example, but you get the idea! It is very important to have a color consistent Instagram feed, so choose the option below that suits your style best. Below are two options on how to make your gloomy photos come to life.

Add a blue sky to your grey and gloomy photos

The first and most natural looking option is to turn the grey sky into a more blueish color, with added light to make the photo brighter – you simply change the weather in the photo! You are probably using presets to make the colors pop and to add light and structure to the photo. But most likely, even after applying this preset, your sky is still grey and gloomy. So after applying the preset you want to use, there are a few extra steps to specifically change the sky. Firstly, I advice you to brighten up the whole photo with enhancing exposure slightly and brighten the shadows. Be careful to not overdo this, or you’ll have an overly lit photo with unnatural contrast. I personally also love to add some summer to my photos, so I increase temperature and tint (+5).

These are the first steps on the way to changing ‘the weather’ in your photo. Then, you have to set the blue hue how you like the color of your sky to be, increase saturation and decrease lumination. Saturation and lumination should be overly exaggerated, because you are going to bring out the blue in the sky next and if you have your settings as if the sky is normally blue and sunny, the next step will not work! For example: saturation on -10 and lamination on -60.

The final – and most important – step is to use the adjustment brush. With it, you highlight the entire sky (or the entire area you want to make blue and bright). Once you have done that, you decrease temperature of that highlighted area. Start carefully, because the result is quite dramatic, and you don’t want to create an over saturated sky. You can also play with exposure and contrast if there are clouds.

Turn your grey and gloomy photos into a pastel dream

The second option is to make the photo look unnatural and instead create a dreamy, magical looking scene with soft pastels, like the photo below. Sometimes I prefer this option because it fits the scene, and sometimes it is the best option, because creating a blue sky doesn’t work with a pitch-black sky. If you are curious to learn how to add this effect, explanation is below!

First, after you’ve applied your preset, you have to make sure saturation and vibrance are around -10, this look only works with pastels – not with bright colors. Second, make sure the overall temperature of the photo is warm (to your liking of course) and tint is minimally at +5. Third, use the adjustment brush to highlight areas you want to make extra dreamy and pink. I use this for dark grey skies and gloomy looking oceans. Once you have highlighted all you want to highlight, increase temperature and tint carefully, until you get the look you were aiming for. Usually, I also increase exposure somewhat and decrease saturation slightly.

Leave a comment below with any questions, tips or comments! I am very curious to hear what you think of these tips.

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