Even years after the digital photo has been developed, people still ask me if a for landscape photography tips photo on editing. And a common questions is whether a photo should be edited or not. Yes, it should!
A camera is merely a tool. Yes, it’s a good tool, but I still tend to entrust the final result to my artistry and skill rather than the pre-built generic editing algorithm present in-camera.
Here’s a list of the best landscape photography tips and editing tricks, which are easy to master.
1. Use Dehaze Filter Both Ways
Adobe introduced a dehaze filter to the raw converter quite recently. As a result, many photographers might be unaware of it.
It offers some unique features which you cannot easily get for nature photography using other filters. As the name states, the filter reduces haze in the photo.
The best usage is when you have a hazy, rainy sky looking grey and dull. Just a little shift of the slider to the right brings up an unbelievable amount of details.
It is very easy to overdo it with the filter. Either pay attention to all parts of the photo or make the adjustment locally using a Brush, graduated or radial filter.
The settings I used:
The other usage is to increase the haze by shifting the slider to the left. I recommend dehazing locally using a radial filter to add some haze in the distance, hence creating an aerial perspective.
You can also make a global dehaze adjustment. This adds an airy feel to the photo. But in this case, you need to increase the contrast a bit to compensate.
2. Make The Colours Stand Out
There are a few ways to improve the colours of the landscape photography. First of all, during the raw conversion, navigate to the HSL tab, and the Hue section.
This section allows you to change the hues of the colours in your photo. For instance, you may want to shift Green towards Cyan to make it look emerald instead of yellowish.
Or you may want to move the Yellow slider to the left to make it more orange and separate from the rest of the photo.
For a sunrise or a sunset, I usually shift yellow to the left and maybe move orange to the left too – to make it redder.
These are the values I used for the photo above:
Also, in the Luminance section, it’s safe to make the blue and cyan darker to darken the sky and make the clouds pop. These actions have the same sky-darkening effect as a polarized filter.
The important thing here is that when you darken the colour, its saturation increases. So, after darkening, navigate to the Saturation tab and decrease it for the same colours.
Another cool tip here is to use the Targeting tool. Select it, click anywhere on the photo and drag your mouse to the left or right. It will pick the proper amounts of colours and change the sliders accordingly.
3. Get Max From Raw Conversion
I’m not sure if I need to say this – you need to use RAW. There is no debate about it. The raw file contains thousands and thousands of tones compared to hundreds in jpeg. So, just take it as a rule of thumb – you need to shoot raw.
The other implication is that you need to edit in raw converter as much as you can – ACR or Lightroom or another app. When you edit during the conversion, you still keep all thousands of tones for the smooth tonal transitions.
The changes I in this photo (all in raw):
- Adjusted the White Balance. I needed to get rid of the heavy blue tone.
- Brought down highlights, pulled up shadows and fixed the contrast afterward.
- Increased micro-contrast with the Clarity slider.
- Fine-tuned with the parametric curve.
- Made the purples and magentas in the clouds pop. This change is one of the most important ones as it’s harder to do later in Photoshop.
- Applied a dehaze filter with +50
- Applied a grad filter with additional dehaze +20 for the sky
The final chord is to set the profile to ProPhoto or at least AdobeRGB and 16 bit before finishing the conversion and transferring into the Photoshop.
These colour profiles offer a better gamut than sRGB. You’ll have better quality files in the end. Only convert to sRGB and 8 bit before saving the final file or preparing a web version.
4. Add Glowing Effect
There is a quick and easy way to add a glowing effect to your photo. This effect works particularly well for light and shiny objects, like clouds or some glares on the rocks.
To add this effect, start by making a copy of the merged image. You can use Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E. This will combine all the layers into another layer.
Copy this merged layer again, so that you will have two layers. You can use Ctrl+J for this action.
Make the top layer active. Go to the Filters > Other > High Pass. You need to select a radius that reveals the most details. The excellent value typically is around five px, but you need to experiment.
Set the layer blending mode to Soft Light and make it invisible for some time. Switch to another layer. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur. You need to blur the image using at least ten px radius.
Go to the Image > Adjustments > Brightness & Contrast. Increase the Brightness by around 20 and Contrast by around 70-80.
Make the High Pass layer visible again. Now you need to manipulate the blur layer opacity to reach the best effect.
Try changing blending mode on the blur layer. Soft Light gives you glowing and contrast. The screen mode gives you glowing and lightness. Normal gives you glowing. All of those may require different opacity levels.
5. Sharpen For Web In A Right Way
When you downsize the images, they get blurry. Even if you choose the Bicubic resampling, it’s still not the right way. The sharpening looks too crude and not elegant.
Here is an easy way to sharpen your images for web publishing:
Method 1 – Using Sharpen
- Downsize image using Bicubic mode to the triple of the required size. For instance, if you want 1000px photo, resize it to 3000px first.
- Run Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen three times in a row.
- The photo looks terrible now, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, resize it again, now to 1000px.
- Have a look at the results:
- if the photo is too sharp now, you may revert a few steps and do two sharpens instead of three.
- If the photo is not sharp enough, copy it into another layer, apply Sharpen again, then adjust Opacity.
Method 2 – Using High Pass
- Copy the photo into another layer. Press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E for that or just Ctrl+J if you have a single layer.
- Run Filter > Other > High Pass. Set the radius to something producing fat edges.
- Set the layer blending mode to Soft Light (you can also try Hard Light).
- Merge and then downsize to the required size.
- If the photo is not sharp enough, repeat with the only difference of producing thin edges with the filters.
6. Enhance Composition
You should think of the composition ahead. But once the photo is on your computer, you can still enhance or even fix it.
A first thing to use is a crop tool. It has several pre-built overlays so that you can check the leading lines and overall layout. Run the crop tool and have a look at the little menu on top to select the overlays.
You can also cycle through them by pressing O button. To change the alignment within a single overlay, press Shift+O.
This is what the overlays menu looks like:
Another great way to fix the composition is the Warp tool. Select the whole image, go to Edit > Transform > Warp and drag the edges. You can also select part of the image to warp it but in this case copy it to another layer first.
Sometimes Transform tools produce a single-pixel transparent line on the edge of your selection and it’s hard to get rid of. In case of a copied layer, this thin line will be filled with the background layer.
7. How To Merge Pano With Bracketing
Panoramic photos can be nasty when they also have bracketing. The traditional approach would be to load all of them into Photoshop, merge each pair separately and only then merge into a pano. This approach gives the most control and takes the most time.
I suggest using something more simple than that. Open all pano participants into the raw converter.
Select the first pair of bracketed shots, right click, Merge to HDR. Photoshop and Lightroom photo editing do a good job merging such layers.
Typically, you’ll need to disable deghosting as it messes things up more often than it fixes them.
It’s up to you whether or not to enable basic editing check box. If on, the algorithm will shift some sliders for you within the raw conversion. Click OK and save as a dng file.
Repeat for every pair until you have all blends as dng files. Deselect all raw files and select all dng files instead. Right-click > Merge to Pano.
If all goes well, you’ll get the stitched pano. Try different modes and see which one you like more.
Finally, use the Boundary Warp to fix the curved lines and edges.
If it cannot merge your pano automatically, you’ll need to open all of the dng files in Photoshop and perform a merge in there or do it using some other tool like Autopano.
8. Get Rid Of Lens Flare
Lens flares appear when an active light source appears in the frame. Sometimes it also appears when it’s just outside of the frame too. It affects the colours and the contrast and sometimes it’s tough to get rid of.
Any lens with any coating will occasionally produce flares; there is no way around it. So, the best trick to avoid it is to do several photos while still shooting. You create one shot with the Sun in the picture. This shot may include bracketing too.
The second shot is the same composition (use a tripod), exactly same settings. The only difference is that you cover the light source with something. I usually use my finger.
This simple method saves the contrast and the colours, and you can easily blend exposures later during editing.
9. Blend Exposures into HDR
Ok, so you’ve started doing bracketing instead of the graduated filters but what’s next? Now you need to learn how to merge shots into a new shiny HDR (high dynamic range) image. There are numerous ways to do that.
During the raw conversion
Select multiple exposures in either ACR of Lightroom, click Merge to HDR and enjoy. However, it doesn’t always provide the best results. And it doesn’t work when you need to create an HDR shot from a single exposure after converting it twice with different values.
Using the Quick Selection tool
Pick it on the tools panel and then carefully select the sky. Use Alt+Click to deselect portion of the selection or Shift+Click to add to it. The smaller the radius of the circle the less it will select, use smaller radius for the finer details.
After the selection, right click on the photo, choose Select and Mask tool to fine tune the selection. The right values here are two px radius, one px feather.
Use Shift Edge slider to shift the selection edge in our out of the current position. I found that around 20% Shift Edge works best for the sky selection.
Using Luminosity Masks
The most advanced and modern technique. There are numerous implementations available: TK Panel (Tony Kuyper), RayaPro (Jimmy McIntyre), ArcPanel (Anton Averin), etc. I prefer the TK Panel, but the general idea would be the same across all of them.
You need to select the zone that covers most of the sky. Typically, you just click through different zones to find the right one.
Then you’ll need to fix it using the Levels adjustment to exclude anything from the foreground and then apply to the darker layer.
If the mask isn’t perfect, like in this case, then you will need to use the brush to paint out parts of the image.
For this image, you’ll need to remove all selection from the water area and add all the clouds on the left to the selection. Method #2 with the Quick Selection Tool works better for this photo.
10. Do Not Increase Saturation
The saturation advice is my favourite. Even many pro photographers have issues with it. Your photo must look like a photo, not like a kid’s painting! Just don’t increase the Saturation of your images.
Use the Vibrance slider if you need to make the colours pop. Saturation pulls the strongest colours making them even stronger, while Vibrance adjusts more of the secondary colours.
This way you’ll get more tones and half-tones without the eye-popping effect. But let’s go even further than that. In most case, you can safely ignore Vibrance as well.
This is because the saturation naturally increases when you boost contrast. The more you edit the contrast in different parts of your image, the more colour you get. In fact, I often desaturate parts of the image to accentuate the viewer on the one primary colour.
For instance, you have a bright sunrise with red clouds. I would turn the Luminance down of the Blue colour. This action naturally increases its saturation, so I would go and desaturate blue tones in the HSL tab. This way the blue is helping the red pop, and supporting the general sunrise feel.
If it would be just as strong, it would look unnatural, and the viewer wouldn’t know if I’m trying to convey the sunrise or how blue the sky was.
Landscape editing is another form of art and the photographer’s ability to express themselves. There is a fine edge between editing and overcooking a photo. You should always be critical of yourself and your work.
For me, Photoshop and Lightroom photo editing has always been harder to learn than actual landscape photography, but I strongly recommend persevering and investing the time and the money.
As these landscape photography tips have shown, editing can truly make or break a photo.