Editing landscape photographs can be challenging. Much of the result depends on your vision for the photograph, the mood you want to set, and your skill in post-production. In the screenshot above, the original photo is on the left with the final product on the right. The final version has much more dramatic contrast, color that was truer to life, and the emphasis carefully placed on the outwardly expanding sky. We will cover the process I use in Adobe Lightroom to edit my landscapes in this tutorial.
After import, my first step when editing a landscape is to correct the white balance. This is one of the most useful benefits of shooting RAW files: non-destructive white balance correction in post-production. In the image above, the camera guessed 5900 K for the white balance, but I want to warm it up to 6740 K to bring out the glow of the setting sun. Remember, the camera is just trying to get the white balance to match an 18% gray, not a color cast that accurately represents the real scene.
Now different landscape photographers prefer different ‘looks’ to their work. Some photographers give every landscape a dreaming or impressionistic feel. There is nothing wrong with that—it is purely their interpretation of their photograph. A lot of the fun of photography is being able to communicate by using your work, and post-production is where a lot of that interpretation begins to come out. I prefer very punchy, high-contrast landscapes that are striking rather than subtle.
To convey the striking scene, I needed to add a considerable amount of contrast to the image, in addition to bringing the shadows out a bit (Shadow recovery set to +65) to make the foreground a bit more noticeable. The highlights caused a problem, because the contrast adjustment pushed some of the bright areas into the clipping zone, a pure white that is not welcome. To counteract this, I moved the highlight recovery slider all the way to -97. The last major adjustment I made was to increase vibrance by +71. Vibrance differs from saturation in that vibrance is a bit more subtle, by curving the adjustment so that the brightly saturated regions do not get pushed into the clipping zone.
My last step was to add a little noise reduction and sharpening. Because I’m shooting in RAW, the camera does not apply the sharpening or noise reduction that it could, instead of leaving it up to me to put in the values I want to apply.
If you are seeking to get your name out or become a semi-pro, do not be afraid to design (or get a friend to help you design) a signature copyright that you can place in the corner of your work. When I started out in photography, I was afraid that a signature would take away from people’s enjoyment of the photo. Now I know otherwise and leave it in my work, even in formal portraits I give to my clients. It lets everyone know it is a professional’s work and not to duplicate it, and it adds to the perceived value of it in the viewer’s eyes.
Here is the final image after the post-processing work: