How to make a real work of art out of just a good picture? Of course, correctly twist the sliders in Lightroom! We have translated an article by French photographer Serge Ramelli, in which he shares some cool photo editing tricks to help you create your own masterpieces.
Want to get the most out of your work this year? I’ll show you five simple processing techniques that will dramatically change your photos. I will do this using the example of one picture that I took in Paris with a Canon 5D Mark II (released in 2008 — translator’s note)to prove that these tricks work for cameras of almost any age.
Adjust the exposure for the story you want to tell
For me, one of the best ways to get a great shot in landscape photography is to take three shots at different exposures instead of one: one normal exposure, one overexposed to bring out more detail in the shadows, and one underexposed for detail in the highlights. These three photos taken together can work as a kind of “super RAW” file. This method is often referred to as HDR photography or bracketing.
There is a simple story in this shot: a beautiful, simple sunset. I like the idea of using the statue as a silhouette in the foreground — I think it adds to the aesthetic of the shot.
Adjust white balance for aesthetics
Depending on the software you use to edit your photo, you may be able to use white balance presets. However, I still strongly recommend that you set the white balance manually with the appropriate color temperature and tint so that you can recreate the feelings and emotions you had while taking the photo. For me, this is the key to maintaining realism and getting the right colors so as not to distract the viewer from your visual message.
Don’t Overuse Clarity and Saturation
In the past, I often made this mistake and made my photos oversaturated with iteration of the clarity parameter (clarity). I thought it would make my shots more impactful, but in the end people only noticed that I was “good at Photoshop” instead of focusing on the photography itself.
Now, instead of twisting the Clarity slider, I use a negative value on the photo as a whole, and sometimes with a brush I increase the clarity a little in some areas. The same goes for saturation: you need to make sure that the viewer can fully experience the real colors and get carried away as you were at the moment you took the picture.
Adjust the shade to your liking
Using the Hue sliders is key when you want to get the right color and adjust your photo to recreate the colors you had when you pressed the shutter button.
Cameras continue to improve in correct color reproduction and exposure, but they are still far from being able to match the human eye. Very often, a photograph simply does not have the same visual impact as if you were looking at the scene in reality with your own eyes. You should try to make your photo look as close as possible to how you remember the scene.
I advise you not to exceed 40 on the Hue slider because it can create strange colors. On the other hand, this way you can improve magenta or orange if you are processing a sunset photo.
Use local adjustment tools to guide the viewer’s eye
For me, this is the most important point. Done right, you will see the difference between just a good shot and a real artistic photo.
Use gradients to close the photo so that your viewer’s eyes are on the main subject. You can use a radial gradient to improve how the sun looks, and with a brush you can restore some light and detail in some parts of your photo and hide other parts.
When you’re happy with your photo processing, you can copy the settings and apply them to the underexposed photo (depending on how you want to look), and with some very basic retouching, you’ll get great results, sometimes even with less noise.
I hope these tips were useful to you, and you can apply them in the process of processing!
About the author: Serge Ramelli is a fine art photographer and landscape painter who has published numerous books on photography. His works are sold in one of the largest gallery networks in the world. Ramelli also has his own YouTube channel where he teaches photography and image processing techniques.