Last updated on January 29th, 2020

Photo manipulation is a common practice among photographers and graphic designers. Today I’m going to talk about replacing the sky in an image, specifically if the Luminar 4 AI Sky Replacement is ethical.

Is Replacing the Sky in a Photo Ethical?

It depends on the situation or how you look at it.

Let me start by saying that I never replaced the sky until I tried out Luminar 4. And the only reasons I used the sky replacement feature is because I test photography software.

By sky replacement, I’m talking about an image that has a bland blue or dark sky and replacing it with another image to make it look more aesthetic: usually with clouds, a sunset, sunrise, or a starry night.

If a person takes a landscape shot and replaces the sky for fine art purposes, then I don’t really mind the sky replacement.

The issue with sky replacement comes with sunsets and sunrises.

For example, if a real estate photographer shoots a photo of a house from the outside and replaces the sky with clouds, then that’s okay. This is just to make the image look more appealing and it’s not misleading.

But if the photographer replaces the sky with a sunset and visible sun, and in fact the sun is never in that position in real life, then it’s unethical; or the better term is false advertising by misleading customers looking to purchase a home.

The sky replacement issue is similar to beach hotel resorts that advertise often by misleading travelers. They usually Photoshop out all the people in an overcrowded beach. Check out Oyster for more information on hotel false marketing.

Now going back to Luminar 4, the software introduced one-click sky replacement using machine learning. The software can determine the horizon, what’s part of the sky and what is not, and replace it – all within 5 seconds. Luminar 4 also color grades the image making sure the color of the new sky transitions to the original image. That’s pretty impressive.

Remember that other software can also replace the sky, but they’re time consuming.

I understand people taking an issue with Luminar 4’s Sky Replacement. But let’s be real, we live in a world where people color their hair, apply make-up, airbrush model and wedding photos, get temporary or permanent tattoos, and etc. I mean there are even fake waterfalls. All for the purpose to make something look more appealing or attractive. It is what it is.

The term natural is not so natural anymore.

For more information on Luminar 4, please read my Luminar review.

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