This church was captured on a very gray day the end of October and with all the negative space in the sky, I thought there might be room to add something creative.
First, I cloned out the building intruding on the right with content-aware fill and then cloned out all the parked cars in the background. I also wanted to make this a little less photographic with all the detail, so I used Topaz Labs’ Simplify plug-in and used a preset I created. I then added a color balance adjustment layer and moved the red-cyan slider towards the cyan side.
The real fun started with adding textures and overlays on separate layers. The first layer was from a digital scrapbook kit. I loved the color and texture and put it on a layer above the background. It was not large enough to fill the frame, so did a free transform to scale it up to fill the image. This totally obscured the background until I started trying blend modes to change the way this layer would interact with what was below. Although I sometimes use multiply and darken, more often the contrast blend modes of overlay and soft light work best, and I usually modify opacity. With this layer, I ended up using hard light for the blend mode and kept the opacity at 100%. I like what this did to the sky but not what it did to the church and especially the foreground. I added a layer mask and with a soft black brush at 100% opacity, I brushed out the effect in the foreground and church.
Adding More Clouds
I wanted a little more interest in the sky so I went through my collection of cloud photos I’ve taken over the years and put this one at the top of the stack and transformed it to fit. This time I used Soft Light for the blend mode and kept the opacity to 100%. I made a layer mask and brushed away the cloud layer from the church.
Making a Moon
I liked this, but thought the sky needed a little more interest. I could have taken a photograph of a moon that I had but I didn’t like the idea of introducing something so photographic compared to the rest of the composition. I made a moon by adding a new blank layer at the top of the layer stack and created a circular selection with the elliptical marque tool and then filled it with white. I gave the moon a Gaussian blur to remove the sharp edges, which would have drawn too much attention. Since I didn’t want a full moon, I added a layer mask to the moon layer and with a soft, black brush, I masked away until I got what I liked. Making the moon on a separate layer made it possible to reposition it anywhere in the composition by just moving it around, and using a layer mask to change the moon left more future options open.
With a moon showing the whole image should be darker to give the feeling that this was at night and to make it more dramatic. I added a curves adjustment layer to darken the brighter areas, using the target adjustment tool to pull down the highlights. This also darkened the shrubs at the base of the church and so I masked the effect out in that area.
To help keep the eye in the picture, I added one last curves adjustment layer to darken the edges. I pulled down the darks, created a layer mask and filled the layer mask with black. This black layer mask prevented the adjustment from showing, so I took a large, soft white brush at low opacity and gradually added the effect in where I wanted it.
The Final Result