As you probably already know, Adobe Lightroom is one of the most versatile pieces of post production software available and is used by the majority of photography professionals to organize and do basic edits to their images. But what specifically can you do for your landscape images in Lightroom? Let's look at a few simple LR edits that will get most landscape photos popping a little more.
Note: If you're interested in landscape photography, then do yourself a favour and shoot in Raw and learn to shoot to the right.
We are going to look at a few edits that we used to get the following effects from this fairly standard seascape. This was a lowish light shot and the settings used were ISO 100, f/20 and 6 seconds shutter speed. The lens was a Sigma 10-20mm 3.5-5.5 shot at 14mm on the front of a Nikon D90.
1) Use the Blacks Slider to Add Punch – The shadows and blacks have a major impact in most landscape photographs. Sometimes they are too dark, but often they are too light (especially if you follow good practice by shooting to the right as mentioned above).
In this instance, I took the blacks down slightly for a more punchy look. You can sometimes get a similar effect by playing with the shadows slider, but in this instance, I used the blacks slider. (If you are interested in the technical differences between these two sliders, there is a good discussion here).
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2) Tweak the Tone Curves – Tone curves are a very powerful part of Lightroom for landscape photographers. Some people even prefer adjusting the tone curve alone without touching the other available sliders. Most often with landscape photography, I find myself creating an S on the tone curve graph.
3) Alter the Contrast – The contrast slider is another one that offers quite dramatic results, but be careful not to overdo it. Like most post production, a little goes a long way.
4) Use the Spot Removal Tool – Nothing can be quite as irritating as a small spot of dust on an open area of sky for a photographer. Every smudge, dust particle and blemish will show up too, so make liberal use of the Spot Removal Tool to make sure there are no distractions especially in the sky, but everywhere else too.
5) Use the Radial Filter on Your Skies (WARNING: This heads into the territory of “manipulation” so you will get slammed if you try to pass this off as photojournalism or even in some competitions, depending on the rules.)
Sometimes your skies just don't turn out as you remember them. Anybody who ever worked in a photo lab invariably heard the complaint that the skies in the print were washed out and they were so much “bluer” on the day.
The tool to turn to in this scenario is the Radial Filter. Use it to drag a large area across your sky and then select a colour. In this instance I used a pink (50% red) as this image was taken around sunset, but you can choose whatever suits your taste. It can even be used to enhance the blues in washed out midday skies.
Make it cover the whole sky, invert the layer, give it a decent feather and apply your colour.
Basically these five Lightroom tools can have a dramatic impact in your landscape imagery. How much you choose to use them is up to your personal taste and how you plan to use the image. Whatever the case, these tools are a huge helper and ones that you should definitely learn how to utilise if you need them.
The final results. Before:
So go open your old landscape shots and fire up a copy of Lightroom. You might just be surprised at what you can do.