5 Quick Lightroom Tips To Improve Any Landscape


Have you come across situations like these? Your landscape images look very dull and seem nothing like what you saw on location? The sky could be too bright with no details, the foreground too dark and the image as a whole looks boring with no colour or contrast?

Well, if your answer is yes to all or some of the above questions, do not worry. There are ways to rectify these issues in Lightroom and in this article, we will look at some quick and basic Lightroom edits you can make to improve any landscape image. Quickly dragging a few sliders should be able to get you better images, but bear in mind – start with a raw file.

Image by Joseph Barrientos

In order to illustrate this process, so that you get to see how a dull image can be turned into a striking image in a matter of few seconds, I will be using the image below, to start with. As you can see, the foreground is dark with no details, the horizon is tilted and the colours in the image look a bit cold (at least for me).

Image by Yera An

The best thing to do in Lightroom, before starting your basic adjustments is to:

1. Get The Basics Right:

  • Straighten the horizon and crop the image to get the composition right if you did not get it right in the camera
  • Make lens corrections to correct any distortions using the Lens corrections panel
  • Adjust the verticals using the “Transform” panel, if there are any vertical structures in the image
  • Sharpen the image a bit if required. A good tip would be to press the alt key and use the masking slider to choose how you want the sharpening. Again pressing the alt tab, adjust the radius and detail in the “Detail” panel. These values depend on how much sharpening you need for your image.
  • Adjust the exposure
With some basic changes made to the image, you can see that it is starting to get better. I have straightened the horizon, cropped the image, applied lens correction, increased the exposure a bit and sharpened the image. Image by Yera An

2. Adjust The White Balance:

Most of the time, if you do not use the correct white balance settings while shooting, your image may look too cold or too warm and sometimes with weird tints. In this case, make use of the white balance panel to get the white balance right. Make changes to the temperature and tint slider to get the desired mood in the image.

I would like the image to be a bit warmer. So, I have increased the temperature. This can be slightly adjusted any time to suit the mood you are looking for in the image. Image by Yera An

3. Get The Sky And The Foreground Right:

To get the details and textures in the clouds, you will need to decrease the highlights. Dragging the “Highlights” slider to the left lets you get as much detail in the sky. This adjustment will affect the brightest tones in your image. This helps with recovering details from very bright regions in the sky, especially adding texture and details to the clouds.

I have decreased the highlights in the image to bring some textures and details in the sky and clouds. Image by Yera An

Here is another image to show how some details can be brought into the sky by just dragging the highlights slider to the left.

In this image, you can see that dragging the highlights slider towards the negative side has brought out details in the sky without affecting other details in the image. Image by Image by Andrew Solomka

To retrieve details from the darker regions, you will need to to increase the shadows. If you have darker regions in the foreground or shadow regions in the image for examples mountains, dragging the shadows slider to the right will help you retrieve details from the darker regions. This will however make some images look a bit washed out. This can be rectified in the next step.

Dragging the shadows slider to the right for this image has brought out so much details from the darker foreground areas. Image by Yera An

4. Reduce The Blacks, Increase The Contrast And Clarity:

Drag the blacks slider to the left to add some contrast to the image while keeping an eye on the histogram. This will bring back any details in the darker regions that were lost while increasing the shadows. A quick tip is to drag the blacks slider to the left while pressing the alt key on the keyboard. As soon as you see black areas appear on the image, you can stop.

In have decreased the blacks, increased the contrast and clarity a bit. Image by Yera An

Drag the contrast slider to the right a bit to increase the overall contrast of the image (do not overdo it). Now increase the clarity a bit to add a punch to the contrast and this will make the image look a bit sharp with defined textures.

5. Increase The Vibrance And Adjust The HSL Sliders For Specific Colours:

If your images lack colour, drag the vibrance slider to the right to make the image pop. Increasing the vibrance adds colours to the lesser saturated areas. Be careful about going above 20 as it can make the colours look fake.

If you think that the sky or any elements in the foreground lack colour, use the HSL panel to bring out any specific colours. Dragging the blue slider a bit towards the left in the luminance tab should give a deep blue colour to the sky in your landscape images. If there are sunrise or sunset colours, play with that colour in the hue, saturation and luminance tab to get the right or desired colours.

I have now increased the vibrance a bit and used the HSL panel to bring out some colours. I have decreased the luminance for orange, yellow and blue, increased the saturation for orange, yellow and blue and slightly decreased the hue for orange colour. These settings depend on each person's preference of colours. Image by Yera An

The above adjustments are basic and should bring out most of the details and colours from your raw file.

Are you happy with the above adjustments?

If your answer is “no” you could use the following quick tips to make some more adjustments to your image.

  • If the image is hazy, make use of the dehaze tool sparingly to bring some more contrast to the image.
  • If there are snow that look a bit greyish in your image, you can use the whites slider to get the whites right in the image. Again, here you can use the alt key and drag the whites slider till you begin to see whites in the image. Also adjust white balance to get the right feel in the image.
  • After all the adjustments above, if you are still looking for more colours or details in the sky region, use a graduated filter to add some details and colours to the sky. If you are familiar with the split tone panel, make use of it to bring good colours to your image. Remember, this is optional and not mandatory.
Made changes to the highlights area in split tone panel. Image by Yera An
Make changes to shadow areas in split tone panel. Image by Yera An
I have used a graduated filter to the sky and made slight adjustments to the image. Image by Yera An
  • Remove chromatic aberration if you find fringes around the edges
The green frings on the right edge of the rocks have been eliminated after removing chromatic aberration
  • Remove sensor dusts if any using the spot removal tool
  • Always shoot raw so that you can make all required adjustments to your image

Here is the final image.

Image by Yera An

Please note, the mood you want in an image depends on what you are looking to achieve and it is different for everyone. So use this quick guide as a reference to make your dull images pop. You don't have to make all the adjustments mentioned here – only adjust or change what is relevant for your image.

Further Resources:

  1. How To Use AutoMask In Lightroom
  2. Bite Size Tips: Fundamental Lightroom Editing Skills
  3. 5 Ways to Reduce Your Editing Time in Lightroom
  4. How I Edited This Portrait Photo in Lightroom
  5. 5 Quick and Simple Lightroom Edits to make your Images Pop

About Author

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.

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