Planet Earth is incredibly beautiful and diverse. There is always something to see, some new miracle to uncover and, hopefully, capture on camera. Landscape and travel photographers are among the luckiest in the world. Although in-camera technique is essential for photography, excellent Photo-editing and rendering skills can turn the dullest of images into an awe-inspiring capture. The prowess of photographers in the digital darkroom is becoming increasingly crucial for the success of images. It is even more important for landscape photography, for which a bit of contrast and luminance tricks could completely redefine the overall appearance.
Whether starkly beautiful, bursting with colour or magnificently minimal, no other type of photography offers more potential for stunning imagery than landscape.
There is always something to see, even if you look past your back-window. In this guide we will provide you with much needed tricks & tips for landscape photography. They are fundamental for highlighting the natural beauty of the landscape you have captured. Approaches to landscape shooting may have changed in the past few years, but the main rules remain the same: creating an interesting composition with the help of quality lenses, getting the time right, and enhancing a photo via post-processing tools.
1. Blending Raw Exposures
Photo cameras struggle to present scenes in high-contrast (it cannot record everything that our eyes see). With the Raw files you can create incredible results, because they contain an enormous amount of information. The Raw tonal controls now surpass those of Photoshop (especially when working only with RAW files). Here’s how you can blend raw exposures to add more depth and contrast to your landscape:
- Processing for Shadows: Insert your RAW image in Photoshop. From the basic panel set exposure to +.63, shadows to +63 and clarity to +55 (or a setting that looks good for your scene). Shift+Click the open object button to make it a smart object.
- Processing for the highlights: go to your layers panel and choose a New Smart Object via copy. Send the thumbnail back to Camera Raw. Now go to the Exposure, Shadows and Clarity menu and reset the values to -0.20 exposure, -50 highlights, and -19 whites.
- Blending Layers: Go to the Add Layer mask icon, and then grab the Brush tool. Choose the black color and set opacity to 30%. You can now paint the foreground to hide parts of the darker layer and reveal the light treatment bellow. Press X and paint with white to reveal the top layer more.
2. Lightroom Adjustment Brush
Lightroom adjustments are vital for color landscape images. No matter how hard you try to get details using ND grads during the shoot, there are still areas of the foreground and background that are shadowed or not very powerful (especially at sunsets or sunrises). With the Adjustment Brush you can lighten shadowed areas, and add warmth. It is particularly effective for lightening mountains and trees that can be found above the horizon. It can also be used to fine-tune and color the sky.
3. Creating Panoramas
Landscape photography can sometimes result in majestic panoramic scenes. If your lens isn’t wide enough to fit your entire scene into one frame, you can take multiple photos of the same scene and blend them together into a panorama. This can easily be done in Photoshop by overlapping frames and then sticking them together. The best thing about post-processing panorama building is the fact that resolution will be 4-5 times better than a camera panorama.
Use a tripod to take the shots). Go to your Adobe Bridge menu, hold down Shift+Click and select your desired images. Go to Tools->Photoshop->Photomerge and click OK. The results may not be perfect, but if you experience with different layout options in the photomerge box it will turn out well. Get rid of messy edges, and edit your image for contrast, saturation, luminance etc.
4. Surreal Landscape Editing
Surreal Landscape photography has become the next best thing. If you are interested in such projects you should definitely follow this advice. Using a simple landscape base image can make your surreal photo look a lot better. In this example we have concrete, clouds and a funny looking plant. Add some moody sky effect to it, a hazy horizon, sepia colors and burnt shadows and you get an interesting surreal image.
To make magic happen you simply have to add the photos one on top of the other. Add a Layer Mask and plot a black to white gradient to blend the land and sky together. Plot a white to transparent reflected gradient on the horizon to create the misty effect, lower the opacity of the element and drop any other element you would like. Desaturate it and make proper adjustments so that it becomes part of the photo.