Landscape Photography & Post-Processing Walkthrough

I so we're at the grand tetons National Park in Wyoming to film the first of our case studies as you can see we've got the Magnificent Grand Teton Mountains right behind us we've got a beautiful scene at sunset so we scouted this scene yesterday we went to several different locations to find the most interesting place to take pictures and this is the one that we ultimately decided on so right now we're on top of kind of a plateau that dips down into a river and then that river leads into some pine trees which are in front of the mountains in the background and ultimately those layers and then the flow of the river lead the eye in a way that's very pleasant and that's what we're hoping to capture right now we're shooting for sunsets so it's about thirty minutes before the sky is going to light up and we're hoping that some light gets underneath these clouds and reflects into the river that we're taking a picture of so that will end up creating this nice harmony between the oranges and the river and then the oranges in the sky that we want to make altima a successful composition we already know where the sun's going to set because we looked at an app to tell exactly where it's going to go behind the peaks so hopefully we've got a good idea of how the ultimate photo is going to look so for this particular scene we know that the primary subject is going to be the main Grand Teton mountain it's got a really nice triangular shape it's the tallest mountain in the range and it just attracts a lot of visual attention the secondary subject is going to be the river because it's bright it has a lot of contrast and it attracts the eye then we've got additional details like the tertiary subjects which would be the pine trees and in the grass and the sky and the clouds are also very important but not at the same level as the peak and in the river so even though the clouds are not the primary element of this photo my entire composition depends upon how they look both the top left and the top right of the image will be just completely empty and bare and boring if they don't have nice clouds in them luckily this is a location that we've already scouted so we can come back here if necessary at sunrise or at a better sunset with darker clouds and take the exact picture that I have in mind so right now I have an image of the final photograph in my mind and what I'm trying to do is get the scene in front of me to look as much as possible like that image so for starters why am i up on top of this plateau rather than down 50 yards taking a picture right next to the river well part of it has to do with the subject separation if I'm right down next to the River it'll flatten itself just because of my perspective and you'll just kind of see a flat hazy white line going across the frame since I'm up here though you can see the entire river and how it leads into the mountains and that creates a much better path for the viewers eye to follow the reason that I'm doing this specifically is because I want the viewer to look at the mountains in the distance that is the emotional impact that I'm trying to convey their spectacular their massive and they look really really wonderful but only when the viewer actually looks at them rather than just having their eye Daniel across the bottom of the frame so now let's talk about framing and Composition in my photo I've got the mountain along the top and I've got the river at the bottom and my main goal is to not cut off either of them because if either of them intersect with the top or the bottom of the frame it'll just look unprofessional and sloppy at the same time I also am focused on making sure that the horizon is level I've got the trees in this photo not a very defined horizon but you can tell by the tops of them where the level horizon actually is I'm also leaving breathing space between the top of the mountain and in the top of the photo as well as the bottom of the river and then the bottom of the photo if either of them are even close then you'll end up again with a very distracting part of your photograph at the same time I'm also trying to make sure that the subjects don't interfere with one another I don't want the trees to be over lapping the mountain because the mountain is more important than the trees that is one of the main reasons again that I'm photographing on top of the plateau rather than along the bottom if we're on the bottom of the plateau then the trees are too tall up against the mountain and you don't see the same level of definition in the peaks so if your photo has other objects in the frame aside from the primary subject you've got to make sure that they don't cut in and interfere with the main item that you're photographing otherwise you just won't see the level of detail that you need in the most important parts of the frame so what type of composition is this well I've got my mountain pretty close to the center and then correspondingly I have the river a little bit off to the side but both of them are definitely closer to the middle than they are to the edges so this is pretty much a centralized composition now the reason for that is because both of these attract a lot of attention and if I were to put them on the edges of the frame then you would end up with a really imbalanced photo and the reason that they're not both exact in the center is because they have to balance out each other if I put the mountain in the center then the river would be too far off to the side and again that would cause the photo to lean in one direction which is really not what I want for this frame because I'm just trying to show a very peaceful and beautiful landscape a lot of this photo is based upon the shapes that are in it now obviously you've got the curve of the river along the bottom but more importantly you've got the triangle of the mountain and then the corresponding triangles of all of the pine trees and those on one hand create really nice relationships between different parts of the frame and also they add a lot of visual interest triangles are really powerful shapes and they grab our attention for every photo one of the first things that I think about is simplicity how can I exclude every detail that takes away from my main message well in this particular photo as you can see we've got a bunch of shrubs and bushes near the camera and if I were using an ultra wide-angle lens something wider than about 20 millimeters then you would get all of that in the frame and it would be really distracting and it would take away from the main river and then the mountains in the background so in this case instead I have a 35 millimeter lens which isolates the river against the mountains in the background I don't have any of this distracting stuff in the foreground so for this particular photo what are my camera settings well let's start with focusing now this entire landscape is in the distance which means that if I focus my lens ad infinity I can use almost any aperture that I want now the sharpest aperture on this particular lens is somewhere from f/4 to F 5.6 so I'm going to set it at F 5.6 and go from that as far as the rest of my exposure I'm obviously going to be at base ISO of 100 to get as much detail as possible that means that the rest of the exposure is all down to the shutter speed now for this photo again to get as much detail as possible I'm going to expose to the right and I'm going to do that by taking a picture and then looking at the histogram or the Blinky's to make sure that none of the important parts of the image are overexposed and I'm going to keep doing that and changing around the shutter speed until I know that the photograph has the proper exposed to the right exposure now the final point about this photo is the filter that I'm using now there's a lot of haze in the distance and then there's also a bright reflection in the foreground so I'm using a polarizing filter to mitigate both of those factors at the moment I have it tilted to its strongest value so that minimizes the haze and the reflection as much as possible so now the lights getting pretty good I'm gonna turn around and take some pictures and I'll catch up with you after I'm done all right so the sunset has ended the colors are gone and it was just a wonderful show of light you got these yellows that turned into reds and then those reflected off of the river and then off of the snow and it was just a really really beautiful scene to see so the photograph that I took ended up almost exactly how I wanted which really is not usually the case for the first time the visit a location we got really lucky I thought they would have to come back here a few different times but in the end it worked out exactly how we had planned so while I was taking pictures I wanted the highest technical perfection that I could get so that I could have as much leeway as possible in post-production and for me that meant sharpness and exposure had to be perfect so in terms of sharpness I made sure to shoot with exposure delay so that the mirror flap would not cause vibration that blurs the photograph along with that I also made sure to zoom in to 100% after reviewing the photo to ensure that the sharpness is exactly what I wanted it to be in terms of exposure I made sure to look at my histogram after taking each photo so that none of the brightest objects in the frame would be blown out to perfectly white I darkened the exposure just a little bit from there and ended up with the exposed to the right photograph that will give me enough detail in the image that I can manipulate it exactly how I want in post-production speaking of post-production let's take this photograph bring it into Lightroom and take it to the next level all right so we're back in the studio after a spectacular sunset and I'm gonna go through a couple of the images that I captured along the way and I actually got two or three good ones from the Sun set and this is one of the first ones that I'd like to dive into so as you can see this is a pretty decent photo but it has a couple of issues so I like some of the color in the sky right here but the sky almost looks like it's blown out and this is because once again I tried to expose to the right as much as possible and if you look at the histogram at the top you can see that I did a pretty good job none of the highlights are actually overblown so one thing that I can do and one of my first steps when I enter the develop module would be just to reduce the highlights a little bit and so before I do that I'm gonna just talk a little bit about my plan for this image because it's always a good idea to start with a goal in mind and then progress your post-processing steps to match that goal so right here as much as I like kind of the colors above the mountains they're not as saturated as they were in the real world and I would like to kind of increase their vibrance a little bit so I might do that by increasing the overall vibrance of the photo or I might just selectively increase the vibrance of the specific parts along with that the river at the bottom of the photo is very nice but it doesn't have quite the brightness that I would like once again just to attract attention for the viewer and along with that the mountains are very pretty but I think that I can get a little bit of a better shade of blue in them so I'll kind of go along and show how I might accomplish this just some basic edits in Lightroom so when I enter the develop module so the very first step in a lot of landscape photos is just to reduce the highlights and so as you can see even if I go all the way down to minus 100 on the highlights it still looks actually pretty good there might be a little bit too extreme so I'll probably go to minus 80 or so and that's just like a very good first step that I often take but another thing that I want to do before I get carried away is to change the camera calibration from Adobe standard to just camera standard that's because I tend to like the colors of camera standard a little bit better and as you can see at the bottom of the frame some of the grass near the river actually started looking much better when I clicked that so at this point I'm going to scroll back up I'm just gonna start at the basic panel and and work my way down so one of my first steps a lot of times is to fix the sky before anything else because it's very easy to get carried away fixing the foreground and then end up with the sky that looks kind of strange so I'm gonna start by reducing the exposure not because it makes the foreground look better but because it makes the sky look better and once I do that the sky is starting to look a little bit nice I'll add a little bit more contrast and maybe even reduce the highlights a bit more than I had earlier so minus 80 86 or 87 and then I think that at this point the sky looks pretty nice some of the colors I might still be able to boost a little bit later but I'll demonstrate that in a second so for now the shadows I definitely need to increase the shadows and you'll find that this is a fairly common thing to do in landscape photography images you'll often end up reducing the highlight slider increasing the shadow slider just so that you show more of the dynamic range of the scene that you photographed so after I've done that I'm gonna skip the whites and black sliders for now because I actually tend to prefer the tone curve for some of those adjustments so as you can see right here if I increase the light slider that's very pretty so very low you see a lot of poor contrast poor colors and then increasing it right about to where it was defaulted it still looks nice but I'm gonna increase it probably to about plus 20 or so and that looks pretty nice to me because I like the way that the light slider kind of increases the contrast and saturation of some of the colors and it just tends to work fairly well for landscapes so after that point I kind of like how the image is looking I will increase the vibrance a little bit because once again I think the mountains the blue in the mountains can be a lot nicer so there's very little vibrance and then increasing it progressively and I don't want to go super extreme that's a common trap that a lot of landscape photographers fall into but I think something like 13 roughly sounds pretty good for this image and after that point one of my next steps would just be to reduce the clarity of this image I don't really like photos that have too much clarity in them because it starts to make the details look really crunchy and I also don't want to decrease it too much but a good middle value something like -10 works well for a lot of landscapes and this obviously varies on a case-by-case basis but in this case I think that it works fairly well so I'm starting to like how this image is looking quite a bit I'm gonna scroll down to the HSL tab and this is one of my favourite tabs as a landscape photographer because it gives you a lot of creative control over very specific parts of the image in this case I don't really like how the greens look at the bottom of the frame because some of that grass is starting to look like it's a little bit dead so I'm just going to adjust the greens to be slightly more aqua not too much because too much once again I can make the photograph look a little bit strange and the same with yellows so you can see if I increase yellows too much to the orange side some of this grass near the river is actually looking really nice but the grass is above the river are starting to look very strange so I'm actually just going to decrease the yellows a little bit and then oranges and play around with it a little and it's mostly actually just the sky and I like how this guy looks right so I'm just gonna leave it about the same we're getting to the point where the image mostly looks like how I had planned but there are a couple of other minor details that I want to fix first so as you can see in this case the horizon is perhaps a little bit tilted it's kind of hard to tell because these trees are not perfectly straight but I will just see how this image looks with a little bit of tilt so something like that's probably too much something like yeah about a quarter of a degree is probably good and then I'll just shift the composition over slightly to the right yeah so I tend to actually like how that looks I think that it works pretty well and there aren't very many details remaining that I want to fix one of the main ones is there is actually a little bit of a hotspot in the sky you can see it right over here above these mountains where the sky is a little bit brighter than I would want so at this point I'm going to enter the brush tool and do some more selective post-processing so this one's quite easy I'm gonna use a much smaller brush size and just paint a little bit of a line here and you can actually see with this green this is the area that I'm painting in and it's not going to be green in the final photo that's just a way to preview where I'm actually painting so a little bit of a hot spot there a little bit there and I can disable the preview by pressing the O key and then I'll just decrease the highlights and so it's a little bit subtle but I think that actually helps a lot and I'll also decrease the clarity that's another thing that I like to do and these are situations just to make things a little bit softer so once I've done that I think that that area of the image looks good and one of the few things remaining is to adjust the brightness of the river at the bottom and once again this is just a selective adjustment I'm going to create a new brush tool I'm going to drop it right here I'm just going to paint along the river and so if I open the preview thing you can kind of see where I went and it doesn't matter the tool that it's a little bit sloppy and covering parts of the edges of the riverbanks because I'm not going to increase overall brightness and exposure see how that also adjusts the riverbanks brightness instead I'm going to increase just the highlights because there are very very few highlights on the edge of that river bank and at this point I think one of the issues that makes it less likely to brighten is that my flow on the brush is not quite as strong so I just increased it to 82 I'm going to paint one more time over that same area there we go maybe increase highlights even more and just boost the saturation slightly so you can see when it's low saturation it's a it's a subtle effect but it does make that area look very dull and a higher saturation does a good job reflecting some of the colors that you see in the sky and I like that effect quite a lot so at this point I think that the final photo is starting to look pretty good there aren't very many changes that I would still make you can always go further if you'd prefer to do something different you can maybe change around the color temperature in this case I think that it actually looks pretty good but maybe a little bit bluer there isn't too much left to do so at this point if you want to take the photo further you can but I'm going to consider it done so at this point I think that the final step is just to show you the before and after so if I go you can see this is the final image and all that I have to do is click the backslash key and that shows you the before and the before does include some of the highlight adjustments it includes highlights -87 and it also includes the cropping and rotating that I did but the main difference that you can see is the color so right here in the before the colors are very dull and some of the grass at the bottom of the frame looks like it's kind of dead but in the after it all looks much more green and luscious and the sky also looks very nice now so as a whole I'm very happy with how this image turned out but this was also a relatively simple Lightroom post-processing and so at this point I'm also going to jump in and show you a slightly more complex image from the same night so let's do that now one nice thing about this sunset is that I didn't just get one good photo I actually have another photo that I really like and that's this one so as you can see right here I've got the Sun setting right behind the Grand Tetons and it creates a really cool effect that also works very well in my composition however there are a couple of issues with this photo as you can see the sky above it is significantly overexposed and in this case you can look at the histogram and tell that it is exposed too far to the right and that's because I actually created an HDR so let's look at the other two photos in this HDR so there's the next one and there's the darkest one and the benefit of these HDR photos is that I capture all of the in the sky for the downside is that I no longer have the starburst effect in either of the two second photos so what do I do so if I try to combine these photos using Lightroom's HDR tool let's see what happens so I'm gonna go photo merge HDR and it'll take a moment to load but when it does you can see something really interesting in this case Lightroom has actually gotten rid of the middle of the Sun which is obviously not what I want but there is actually potentially something that I can do to fix this and that's to change the D ghosting amount so right now I have the d ghosting amount set to none and what the d ghosting tool does is it analyzes the scene from motion and it tries to correct for any blending issues that occur in an HDR so let's see what happens if I change the D ghosting amount too high and it will take a moment to build this preview okay so that did something interesting so at first glance this photo might look better because it no longer has a strange black spot in the middle of the Sun and the clouds at the top are very good and presumably there's also a lot of detail in the foreground from the brightest of three exposures however the major issue here is that there is no more Sun and the main reason why I liked this photo is because of the really cool starburst effect that it had so this won't work either so what do I do now so in Lightroom itself I don't really have any more options just because the software doesn't give you that much control over how it merges in HDR which means that I need to take this photo into Photoshop so that's what I'll do next so the one thing that I'm going to do before I enter Photoshop is to change this back to no D ghosting and the reason for that is because this image the nandi ghosted one gets me 99% of the way to the final photo that i want the only issue is that the center of the Sun is completely black but that's actually not that difficult to solve in Photoshop so I'm going to merge this photograph so now Lightroom is given me the final HDR and as you can see it's looking a little bit strange but there is actually a lot of information in this photo that I'll be able to recover once I take it into Photoshop and then back in the Lightroom afterwards so let me do that right now I'm going to just right click and then edit in edit in Adobe Photoshop so now that I've taken the HDR image into Photoshop what I'd like to do now is take the image with the really good Sun star and put it as a separate layer in the same Photoshop document and the benefit here is that I'll be able to use the entire HDR photo except for that one little bit in the center of the Sun where the Sun star image is better and then I'll have all of the detail at the HDR plus the good Sun burst however before I do that there's one issue that you might notice so as you can see when I highlight both the photos when I highlight the Sun star image as well as the HDR you can see that the image with the Sun star is significantly brighter and that's also true along the region where the Sun bursts is so I can already tell when I bring these two photos into Photoshop this one is so much brighter that it will make the blending process far more difficult so all that I have to do is just decrease the brightness of this photo so that it roughly matches the other image and this is just to make my life a little bit easier so I'm gonna say maybe minus 1.15 yeah that's looking fairly similar let's see the specific area that I'm looking at right here is just this I don't really care about how the sky looks all that I want to look similar is this Sun star with the mountains and I'm going to darken it just a tiny bit more probably – one and a quarter stop and let's flash between those photos really quickly it looks pretty similar to me maybe – 1.3 and then I'll open this photograph into Photoshop as well so same thing right click edit in Adobe Photoshop and I'll wait for it to load okay so now I have it in Photoshop as well and now it's a very simple matter of just clicking on the move tool pressing the shift key on my keyboard and just dragging this layer into the other document and then letting go so now I have both layers in the same document and as you can see if I hide the top layer almost everything about the bottom layer is better because it's the HDR it contains more information but clearly the effect on the top layer is what I want so now all that I need to do is blend that Sun start into the bottom image so let me show you how to do that so right now what I'd like to do is to create a completely black mask over this top layer and the way to do that is just to hold down the option key on a Mac or the Alt key on a PC and then press the add layer mask button and when you do that you can see the mask that it creates is completely black and the only photo that shows through is the bottom one so if I just hide this top layer there's no change because it's already essentially hidden so my task now is very easy I'm just gonna zoom in on the specific part where the Sun is and as you can see this little lack of sunburst in the middle is looking really weird but that's going to be pretty easy to correct so what I want to do now is go to the brush tool and I'm going to make sure that I've got white selected which I already do and now I'm just gonna paint on the layer and I'm gonna paint white on the layer so that it reveals this top layer and masks the one below it so as you can see right there it's a very easy post-processing step that I'm doing right now but it's working really well okay and then I'm gonna decrease the size of this brush just a little to fill in these little blacker areas okay and just paint this there's no perfect way to do it it just once it looks good then it looks good okay yeah that one's probably little too strong so none of this is gonna be exactly perfect and that's why I darkened at the Sunburst image earlier it just makes the step a little bit easier and even as it is it isn't totally easy so this will take a little bit of finessing to get right what I might do is reduce the opacity and so as you can see at 50% opacity roughly I'll end up with slightly finer adjustments which works a little bit better just to make this blend look as natural as possible so let me just go through that really quickly and I'll adjust some of the areas that need it the most I just don't want any little black spots to remain and if the overall image looks natural that's pretty much my only goal just a few more little black specks here and then this little bit also probably needs it so this type of thing takes some time but it's better than having a big black spot in the middle of the Sun so it's definitely worth the effort let's see a little bit more spots right here probably would be good we'll see how this looks in a moment and a before and after so okay so now that I've got that I'm just going to do a before and after I'm gonna hide it and then you can see this before I did anything and then this is after all of my edits so there are a couple of areas that look a little bit strange I'm thinking this particular white spot right here is a little too bright so all that I'm going to do is change my brush tool to be black and it's opacity is still at 50% so I'm just going to click it once or twice and make that area look a little bit better I think the same was true here just to a smaller degree but it's clear this is a pretty big improvement so let me show you now the before and after so that obviously is not going to work as part of an image this looks very natural so I'm going to now assume out and you can see the whole image looks far better as it is right now and that's because not only do I have the proper HDR which will be much easier to post-process in Lightroom and bring out some of that detail in the foreground but I also have exactly the Sunburst effect that I wanted so now that I've got this done I'm just gonna save it and open it back up in Lightroom so as far as saving it goes one thing that I'm gonna do right now is go layer flatten image and this just reduces this just to a single layer which also decreases the overall file size now the downside here is that I won't be able to go back and edit these layers again but because it wasn't a very major adjustment and all that I did was make the Sun a little bit brighter in the middle I don't really think that I need to go back to these layers so at this point now that I've flattened the image I'm just going to hit command S or ctrl s on a PC and that just automatically saves it back in Lightroom so as you can see when I open it back up in Lightroom there's two files now that look like the HDR they look kind of similar except when I switch from one to one you can see that this one has the perfect Sun and so this is going to be the photograph that I finally edit so let me enter full screen on Lightroom doing shift and an F so now that I'm in the full-screen mode it's time to actually develop this so I'm going to press the D key and now I'm in the develop module so at this point I'm gonna stop and ask myself what is my goal for this photo well right now the image is pretty dark as you can see there's not that much detail in the foreground but I'll be able to bring all of that back just because this is an HDR and similarly right near the Sun it's a little bit brighter than I would want but the same applies I can just darken that area without too much problem more than that though my goal for this photo is to make an image that looks powerful dramatic but also natural I don't want to go too crazy on colors or atmosphere because as it is this photos actually pretty neat and you can even see right here I've got some really cool sunbeams going across the face of the Grand Tetons and this River also attracts a lot of attention to this composition it makes it almost an oval shape because the viewer might look at the river and then look back up at the Sun over across the Tetons and then jump back down to the foreground and some of the trees so let me see if I can bring that out as much as possible in this photo I'm going to start once again by decreasing the highlights and as you can see if I decrease it too much then I do get some strange colors near the edge of the Sun but I'm gonna just decrease it by maybe 20 25 something like that and after that the shadows definitely need to be boosted because right now you can barely see any detail and some of this interesting foreground and that's definitely not what I want so I'm going to do a pretty high amount of shadows adjustment maybe plus 57 plus 72 how about somewhere between someone like 65 okay so that's getting me to at least an image that looks like the landscape did in the real world you can see some of the detail in the foreground you can see a lot of the detail in the sky but the colors look a little bit strange so that's what I'll focus on next the first thing like usual for me is to fix the sky and I'm going to do that by adjusting this light slider so maybe something like plus 30 that looks a little bit too intense near the Sun but plus 20 and we're already getting really cool colors in the sky that you didn't have back when it was zero as you can see I can undo that and go back to plus 20 that's a significant improvement but on top of that some of the colors are still looking a little bit strange so I might going up and actually adjust the white balance so in this case let me show you what it looks like when I go a little bit blue that's two blue versus a little bit yellower and to me it looked like there was a sweet spot that's not too far on the negative of blue but just a little bit maybe like minus four or five and the same goes with tint I typically like my landscapes to look a little bit more magenta than green and by default in this case the green looks a little bit strange a little bit hazy so I'm going to increase the magenta just a bit and this is something that a lot of photographers tend to overdo is just increasing the magenta too much because the magenta can make your photos look really nice but if it's too far then your colors could just be thrown completely out of whack so I'm going to try to stay around minus five on temperature plus 4 on tint and the reason why these aren't the normal values that you might expect from color temperature for example let me go just one photo back you can see in this case the temperature is measured in thousands and that's because I'm no longer working with a raw photo I'm working with a tiff file and that one only has temperature measured in just pure numbers so in this case I'm going to go -5 on temperature +4 on 10th and my next step is to go down to the HSL tab and start adjusting some more specific colors now the foreground looks a little bit off and so does some of the colors in the sky so I'll adjust those first however it's also worth mentioning that if you look right now at the HSL tab your panel might look a little bit different than mine and that's because I have this right here I clicked all and so if yours looks just something like this and you can only adjust the reds or only adjust you know any other individual color you might just want to click all that makes things a little bit simpler and I'm going to start with the purple hue slider because I actually think that in this photo the top portion of the sky especially near this corner and some of these mountains is a little bit too purple and that's because of that magenta adjustment that I added which actually liked in terms of how it made the foreground look but I think that shifted some of the colors in the sky just to be a little bit too purple so I'm gonna fix that really quickly by changing the purple hue to something like minus 30 so it's starting to look a little bit better I might even go a little farther maybe you minus 40 so as you can see now the sky is significantly less purple it's a little bit more of its natural blue color but the foreground still needs some adjustments so that's what I'll do next as you can see I've got the green slider right here and a lot of this foreground is green so you can see that if I increase like the luminance there's a little bit of change there but in fact one interesting thing about landscape photography is that very frequently what you might think of as being green in your photo things like grass and trees and foliage are actually controlled more by the yellows slider in this tool so if you see if I increase the luminance of the yellows it's almost 50/50 in terms of how much it versus the green effect those colors so right now I kind of like how it looks actually with a little bit higher luminance on yellow and a little bit higher luminance on green and I'm also going to saturate the greens so right now these greens are very nice when they're saturated and I'm also going to turn them just a little bit more towards the Aqua and once again too much of that can make them look really fake and blue but a little bit can bring out some more of their natural green color make them look a little bit more alive and with the yellows as you can see if I shift it too far the greens the foreground certainly does become more green but something that I might want here is actually a little bit of color contrast so that I can see when I shift the yellows farther towards the orange side of the spectrum and the greens I might even put a little bit more towards the Aqua side I actually have some really cool differences in the colors here it almost brings out more texture in the foreground and that's something that I like because in this photo the foreground is definitely the most dull part the sky is really pretty but some of these colors here can definitely use some improvements so my next step might be to change around the saturation of the yellows so you can see if it's super high versus super low this is a very subtle tool the HSL isn't nearly as strong as the regular vibrance or saturation sliders so it's not uncommon that you'll end up with values even like minus 71 or plus 60 and still have things look relatively natural so I'm gonna keep saturation right where it is I like that about plus 34 and the foreground is starting to look significantly better but I still haven't even touched the oranges slider which should change two things first it might adjust part of the foliage and it might make it a little bit more yellow or more red depending upon what I choose and this little area right here in the also contains a decent amount of orange so as you see if I increase say just the luminance of the orange you can see tiny little adjustments to some of the foliage where in this area which in my opinion is actually the dullest of the foreground area so I will want to do a little bit more specific work on that part and even more obviously when I increase and decrease the luminance of the orange you can see a drastic effect on the so the luminance I probably don't want to change that much I might decrease it just a little bit to make the look better but the saturation I will definitely increase so that's way too much but as you can see that's not nearly enough and there's a happy median probably around plus 15 plus 1012 somewhere in that area and this gets the foreground looking a little bit better but more specifically it adjusts that and as it is right now the Sun looks pretty good in this photo but as I just mentioned this little area right here is starting to look kind of dead in the foreground the rest of the image is looking good so that's what I'm going to work on right now I'm gonna create just a brush and I'll turn on the overlay so you can see the area that I'm working on is highlighted in green it's not going to be a super specific adjustment I might move it up just a degree and let's just play around with things so if I increase the saturation what happens there well it does change it a little bit but not as much as you might expect so I might increase saturation a bit but instead what I'm gonna do more than anything else is adjust these temperature and tint sliders so as you can see this makes things really really blue this makes things significantly more orange and I like it much better on the orange side of things and in terms of tint let's see what happens when I make it more purple it almost feels like it makes the grass look even more dead just because that grass is already kind of a grayish blue color so I'm actually on this time going to shift it towards the tint side of things a little bit greener all the way might be just a little too much but that's actually starting to look okay and so I'll close out of that and show you just before I added any brushstrokes there it definitely looks a little bit more alive it looks a little bit more orangish yellow and green rather than kind of a dull bluish purple so I'm gonna go back to how it finally is and I'm starting to get to the point where these colors are looking pretty good I like kind of the lighting in the scene and there's not too much I want to do one thing that I will add is a gradient right here just to adjust this part of the sky because I think that I can bring out a little bit more detail I'll probably increase clarity maybe increase the D haze slider a little bit and a little bit more contrast and I might even increase the brightness of the highlights not by much but by a little well what about color temperature you can see it's already pretty good where it is I'm gonna make it just a hair bluer not very much at all that might even be just too much I'm gonna do – – seems subtle but it has an effect so I might as well do it and when I close out of that I can show you before I had at the grad filter and then after I added the grad filter it definitely makes this look a little bit more of a natural blue color rather than kind of a dull grayish blue so at this point one of the next steps that I might do is increase the images overall vibrance just a bit actually I really like how this is making the foreground look look at that so the problem is it makes the sky look too blue so I'm actually going to increase that fairly significantly something like 25 and then go back down to the HSL tab look at my blues and decrease the saturation probably – 15 – 16 it's looking pretty good maybe a little less than that maybe – 11 yeah so you can now see before I did the vibrance and after I did the vibrance plus the blue saturation shift you can especially see a difference in the foreground the foreground is looking much nicer and I might even increase the vibrance even more than that just because it makes things look far more lifelike in that area and that's something that I've definitely struggled with just because of the season that I was shooting this there wasn't as much natural color as I would have liked so bringing out every bit that there was is just something that I have to do and you can see now that while the image is looking pretty good there's still some shadow detail that I'd like to recover in this area and near some of the trees and potentially in these mountains as well so I'm going to go down to the tone curve and increase just shadows I won't to increase it too much maybe plus 15 this is also a good spot to experiment with the blacks and white sliders so yeah that's looking good with a little bit added you know what I'd like to do is actually add some contrast look at that that's turned to look really nice actually so close about ten on contrast increasing the shadows about the darks yeah a little bit on the darks could still be good maybe like two or three and I've definitely brought out more detail in this area I could even selectively put a brush there that's probably what I'll do so a brush in that area I'll turn on the overlay so you can just see where I'm drawing it so something like this and maybe a little bit in the mountains so I'm gonna decrease the flow because I don't want quite as much in the mountains just a bit so that's not bad something like this and this will let me increase just some of the shadow detail in these areas because I think that it could use a little bit more so I'm gonna turn off the overlay and increase shadows so that's actually looking pretty nice let me increase shadows to about plus twenty or so one thing that I mentioned at the beginning is that you've got this really cool Sun beam going through the mountains and I'd like to make sure that viewers can see it pretty well so I'm gonna have another local adjustment here just a brush tool I'm gonna go right there the overlay should show you roughly what I'm doing increase the flow a little bit more so yeah all that I'm trying to do is just add some interest to that Sun beam which looks really cool but might be lost in the rest of the photo as things are right now so you can see there's my overlay I'm going to potentially add a little bit of clarity maybe yeah that's just a Lightroom bug it just pops up sometimes like that add a little of clarity that actually is helping a decent amount you see what happens when I add D haze makes a little bit darker but it does bring out some more of that detail so I would like to increase maybe increase the highlights a little and increase the exposure just so that I can add a little bit of that D haze and not end up with the Sun beam area looking darker so yeah that's pretty good actually and you can see if I just go before and after just from that little area you can definitely see a little bit more detail it's certainly a subtle effect I might even make it a little bit more significant adding some clarity that's probably better so there's before any adjustment after adjustment you can see that it definitely pops out a little bit more and that's pretty much the effect that I wanted so I'm going to close out of that panel and now I'm going to dive into just a couple of more minor edits before this photos ready to be published I think that maybe the last things I'd like to do to this image are decreasing the clarity a bit adding some sharpening I might check out the D haze tool and see how it looks so let's dive into that I'll just start the clarity options right here so as you can see I really hate this kind of look where clarity is way too high and there are certainly landscapes we're all raised the clarity but this is another one where I do want to decrease it and I think that it looks better like this it just adds a little bit more of the mountain haze back rather than trying to crunch details that aren't actually there so never too extreme on clarity one way or the other it can definitely make your photos look really weird but minus 10 is pretty normal and I'll scroll down just a little bit and so you can see is the sharpening tab yours might have different values by default right now mine's just set as 0 on everything so I'm going to zoom in and that's just because it's a tiff file typically when you open Lightroom it will show maybe 25 on a mount and 1 on radius so I'm going to at one-to-one magnification increase the sharpening to about 30 decrease radius to 0.5 increase detail to 100 and I might change masking just a little bit but I typically don't want to change it that much it's maybe about by 10 and this here is not going to be the most dramatic of sharpening changes that you'll see but the reason why I like it is specifically because it's so subtle you don't end up with weird crunchy details or hard lines on the edges of different areas in your frame instead you're ending up with a much softer kind of transition that still adds a decent amount of clarity and sharpness at the low level details here so that's my preferred sharpening amount and radius you might prefer something different this is down to personal preference but as it is the photo starting to look pretty good and relatively sharp so I'm going to zoom back out so at this point I'm just going to take a step back look at the final photo and evaluate it maybe see what I need to change before I publish it so right here I like how it there are a couple things that I might want to change specifically some of these foreground details I might have gone overboard in trying to bring them out so I'm actually going to decrease the shadows not by too much because by too much it kills all that detail but maybe does something like I don't know 57 that looks pretty good and I'll also experiment with the D haze tool which is somewhat of a newer tool in Lightroom it's kind of nice I would never go too far on the negative D haze but a little bit on positive D haze might make a difference very little though in this case no more than probably three or four once I said that the photo definitely has a little bit more contrast it's certainly better than the original I can show you the before and after that's before that's after and you can see much more detail in the sky you can see definitely more detail in the foreground the colors are better and the overall image is just more interesting like this you can certainly tell what's going on far better than you could in the before so once I go back to the after sometimes flipping between before and after is a good way to tell if you've gone overboard on certain edits and in this case looking at the top of the sky right here it might be a little bit too blue so I'll tweak that quickly but I also don't want to go into too much detail here because I could go on for hours just with minor adjustments to these things that everyone's going to have their own personal preferences for anyway but this is one that definitely makes sense you can see where I'm drawing the overlay and a little bit more well just decrease the saturation slightly make it a little bit more yellow and it's a minor adjustment but all of these things add up and even adjustments that you might not think I had too much to the photo individually can combine to form a very significant effect so I'll show you one last time the before and after so there's the after there's the before and in my mind that's a significant improvement now you personally might want to add more detail in the foreground bringing out more shadows or you might want less detail in the foreground making it darker potentially making it look more like how it did straight out of camera but the main thing is that this is all about personal preferences and you want to have a goal in mind for your final photograph before you start editing it that way you don't just randomly move until something looks good and in fact in this case my goal stretched so far back that while I was actually taking this photo I decided to do an HDR specifically because I had a final photo that looked something like this in mind if I hadn't taken an HDR as you might expect in the overexposed photograph which was the only one that had the good I wouldn't have been able to recover any detail in parts of the sky and the final photograph would have been almost unusable so lastly let me just show you this photo as well as the other photo that I captured from the same sunset so as you can see I'm just gonna go back to the grid view and highlight only these two photos and I can alternate from left to right in fact let me do let me do a full screen so you can see that was one photo and that's the other one so looking at them that's pretty interesting actually one thing that this really hits home for me is how important scouting is I knew this location ahead of time I knew my composition and these two photos are very similar in that regards I did shift the composition a little bit to the left for this photo simply because I wanted to accommodate the weight of that Sun star but as a whole they're very similar in how they're framed and the location is identical and that's not something that I would have been able to do if I hadn't scouted this area if I hadn't planned for this and I didn't know exactly where to be at sunset and one other interesting thing is just how different the photos really are as you can see it's the exact same landscape very similar compositions taken no more than 20 minutes apart from each other and yet just because of the light you have entirely different moods and emotions from these two photos now the one that you liked more might depend upon your personal preferences but the important thing to mention here is that I had only planned for one of these photos initially but when I saw the opportunity to take an image where the Sun is directly touching the Grand Tetons and it creates a beautiful sunburst effect I decided that I needed to take a photo there and in fact I might even like that image more than the one that I had envisioned in the field it's not like the second photo doesn't work I do still like the colors above the mountains reflected into the river but when you're out in the field it's important to be flexible so I hope that you found this case study useful it's always nice to come back from the field with not just the photo that you plan to capture but something unexpected that also turned out really well and in this case I do like how the final photos look and they're certainly going to become a part of my portfolio you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *