5 Simple Lightroom Tactics to Improve Almost Any Landscape Photograph


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.

Ls before after

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).

Adjusting the Blacks slider for added impact

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.

Tweaking the tone curve to add contrast

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.

Spot removal tool
Using the Spot Removal tool to clean up the image

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.

Using the Radial Filter tool to liven your skies

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:

Ls before

And after:

Ls after

So go open your old landscape shots and fire up a copy of Lightroom. You might just be surprised at what you can do.

About Author

Rob is the founder of Light Stalking. His love for photography started as a child with a Kodak Instamatic and pushed him into building this fantastic place all these years later, and you can get to know him better here.
Rob's Gear
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8

I just posted this wonderful article to my Facebook page. Tip 5 new to me and I will try it out soon Thanks Al Reiner

In the graphic, I saw the color tool to pinken the sky, bit I didn’t see a depiction of where to find the radial filter tool. Where would I find that?

Susan, this is the graduated filter tool (which indeed is usually used to darken the sky). The radial filter is three to the right.

I hope you’ve found it by now but just in case you haven’t, The radial filter is second from the right, above the basics panel. It’s symbol is a circle with a dot in the middle.

Cheers for the simple advice.

Do you always prefer the radial filter over a graduated filter to enhance the colours in the sky? What are some of the other adjustments you like to use in the filter besides the colour? If there are clouds in the scene I quite like to play with the contrast and clarity in the filter to give them a bit more presence.

The circular gradient tool is between the crop tool and the red eye tool. You can create a circle or oval and is very similar to the gradient tool and I have found it quite useful. I like the way it has been creatively used here in this article.

Play with it..you can create some very interesting effects.

I just happen to see this wonderful and timely article , I am scheduled to shoot some city scapes this wknd. Really looking forward to adjusting pics using your tips thanks again

Is there a reason you used the radial filter instead of the gradient filter? Even though the effect is the same, wouldn’t the gradient filter be easier to use (the options/sliders are the same for both anyway)?

5 is new to me. Tried it and like it. I often use Clarity to increase contract in mid-tones like the beach in your photo. Thanks for the excellent tips!
I live in Seattle where there are a lot of cloudy days so the clouds(sky) are often very bright compared to the rest of the photo. How do you compose, expose and Lightroom those types of photos?

I should use a good old-fashioned graduated grey filter; LR is pretty good but it can’t recover detail where there isn’t any in the first place. You can always use LR to tone down the effect of the ND filter later using the linear or radial gradient tools.

Can you post something about sharpening in LR, both for High resolution pictures for print media and Low resolution pictures for Electronic Media ?

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