When my non-photographer friends see a clear day they often tell me it’s a great day for taking pictures. Of course photographers know that clouds are good, not bad. They add interest to landscape photos, and overcasts skies are often best for portraits. Clear skies are usually not so great.

Of course on any photo outing you can’t control the skies you get, so Skylab ($2.99) for iOS lets you decide what skies you will have.

IMG_9035The app contains a first class collection of skies under varying conditions that you can add to either your photos with a boring clear sky, or you can change the weather conditions to something better or more interesting. There are puffy white clouds, sunset and sunrise colors, storm clouds, even lightning flashes.

The app also offers elements like trees, birds and individual clouds that can be placed anywhere in the sky you like. At launch you can opt to save in the cloud, which syncs your edited photos across multiple iOS devices. Everything is included, although in the near future additional sky packs will be offered as an in-app purchase.

Using SkyLab

While there are tutorials I found the app incredibly easy to use. Import a photo from your camera roll, and tap on the ‘skies’ label. Choose your cloud type and coloration. Then you drag the inserted effect to match your horizon line. The skies can be resized, flipped, or made more or less transparent. You can stop there, or add other elements like flocks of distant birds, additional clouds, or trees. Everything looks quite realistic when you are done. Your photo can be saved back to your camera roll, Instagram, Tumble, or you can open your photo in another editor for further work.

How’d it all work?

I was quite pleased with the results. I think the only thing lacking in the appIMG_9047 is edge detection to make the sky and horizon blend smoother. You do get the ability to create masks to fit everything together smoothly though, and in practice I found I could create a realistic scene with little trouble. If your horizon is uneven, broken by mountains or buildings, it’s going to be a bit more work.

I also liked the night scenes, where I could take a daylight image, drop in a star field or the Milky Way, then use SkyLab’s filters to color the pre-existing photo to have a night cast to it. Again, everything looks very realistic.

I sent a few samples on to some friends who thought the results were beautiful, and they assumed, until I told them, that these were just regular photos.

SkyLab packs a lot of power for three dollars. If you find yourself with nice photos that can be improved by better skies, than SkyLab is for you.