Do not understand why your evening landscape, taken on the sea coast, looks worse in the photo than someone else’s sunset shot from the window of an apartment in a residential area? It’s very simple — you also need to learn post-processing. Many beginners underestimate the importance of this action, but by learning a few simple tricks, you will significantly improve the quality of your shots. To achieve good results in landscape photography, you will be helped by the image processing recommendations that we have prepared for you.
1. We shoot taking into account future processing
This advice is not so much about post-processing, but about the shooting process. When photographing an object, think over everything so that later you have the opportunity to correct the image using a graphic editor.
Landscape photos have a high dynamic range, so shoot in RAW. In this case, when processing, you will be able to restore maximum details in shadows and light, and this is important for any landscape. The matrices of modern cameras are designed in such a way that it is much easier to restore graphic information from shadows than from overexposed areas. That is why it is better to shoot landscapes with a reduced exposure so that when post-processing from a RAW file, the necessary details can be pulled out of the shadows.
2. Remove unnecessary details from the frame
Your landscape can be spoiled by a lot of unnecessary objects accidentally caught in the frame: your own shadow, specks on the lens, power line wires, a leaf falling from a tree, and so on. All this can be removed with a tool called “Stamp” (Stamp), which is in Photoshop. With the right skill, it can do wonders for clearing entire houses or trees that you don’t think fit into the frame.
The Stamp works very simply. You need to select it from the toolbar on the left, adjust the brush size, transparency, degree of pressure and other parameters. Next, manually set the area from which the information will be copied (by pressing Ctrl) and paint over the unnecessary area.
3. We build the right composition
Composition is something that can be easily corrected in post-production. The main thing is that the picture covers a wide enough area so that it can be cropped. Nature does not tolerate symmetry — if the landscape in your picture is divided in half by the horizon line, it will look static, lifeless and uninteresting. This is a common composition mistake and is easy to fix.
The finished picture is easy to adjust using the cropping function, which is available even in the simplest graphic editors. First, determine which area you want to focus on. Imagine which of the areas of the picture will look more advantageous. For convenience, you can overlay a 3 x 3 grid on the photo to place the key object at one of the intersection points of the lines. After composing properly, crop the picture.
You can make several options, then compare them. Analyze mistakes, and you will learn how to avoid them even at the shooting stage. Although even professionals often resort to cropping their shots, this is normal.
4. Leveling the exposure
Beginners usually shoot in manual ISO and aperture mode. In this case, the camera automatically determines the exposure and shutter speed, taking into account the entered exposure compensation (you can read more about this here). If you miss the sensitivity when shooting landscapes, the frame will be overexposed (ISO too high) or underexposed (ISO low). In the second case, and subject to the availability of a RAW file, the situation is easily corrected in the post-processing process.
When correcting the exposure of a landscape that is initially too dark, you need to gradually lighten the frame. If there is a sky in the photo, you need to focus on it so that it does not turn out to be illuminated — a white or gray spot.
5. Use presets
This is a good way to refine the landscape without complex multi-stage manipulations. Presets, that is, ready-made sets of settings (popularly, filters for photos), are also convenient to use when batch processing images, although in this case the result is not always predictable. To work with landscapes, the Lightroom graphic editor is suitable, in which there are many built-in presets, and you can also add options found on the Internet to them. Photoshop also has ready-made options for color correction settings, but they are fewer and less convenient to work with.
With the right use of presets in the process of editing landscapes, you can save a lot of time and achieve better results than with manual settings, if you do not have enough experience in graphic editors.
6. We carry out color correction
One of the most common mistakes in landscape photography is wrong colors. If they don’t look the way you intended, you need to adjust the saturation settings. You just need to do this wisely, otherwise the lack of flowers will turn into an overabundance of them, and the landscape will look unnatural.
Photoshop has many features for color correction. There are basic adjustments and more subtle adjustments to change the saturation of individual objects or areas in the frame. If you wish, you can turn the red tulip into pink, and the green leaves on the trees into yellow. The possibilities are endless, but it all takes the right skill.
7. We place accents
This task is somewhat more difficult than the previous ones. The main thing is to focus on the foreground, making it brighter. A gradient with a positive exposure will help achieve this effect. This is where Photoshop comes in handy again.
To make the landscape look more voluminous, you need to slightly darken the middle plan. You can use a darkening brush for this, or apply two intersecting gradients: one dark from the upper left corner (for example, to make the sky and grass less visible), and the second — light. As a result, a darkening strip with soft, blurred borders is formed. The brush makes it easier to focus on small objects or darken unnecessary ones that should not be distracting.
8. Making colors more harmonious
This is not the same as color correction, but a slightly more tricky technique. In this case, there are no specific instructions or rules. Make adjustments to your liking to make the colors look natural. The most common combination is based on contrast — use shades that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue and yellow. Accordingly, pictures dominated by contrasting pairs always look brighter and more advantageous.
9. Converting a photo to b/w
Properly done black and white shots always look stylish. By converting a landscape photo to b/w, you can show the environment in a way that no one sees it. This technique makes the picture more romantic, minimalistic or atmospheric, depending on the composition and correction.
Of course, you can try to immediately shoot in b/w, using the possibilities of technology, but this is not necessary. It is much more convenient to subsequently turn color photographs into black and white.
10. Get rid of highlights
Good lighting is the key to success in many situations, including landscape photography. But even it will not save if the camera is not configured correctly. Overcast shots can be very dark, while sunny shots can be overexposed. The correct post-processing will correct the situation, with the help of which you can adjust the tone, the radius of the glow or darkening, as well as set the intensity of the effect created.
That’s all the basic techniques for post-processing viewpoints. If you’re into landscape photography and want to capture beautiful shots in any conditions, we also suggest taking a look at our tips for shooting overcast conditions.