Image: Kishore Sawh/slrlounge.com

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.

Source: Youtube chan­nel Serge Ramel­li Pho­tog­ra­phy

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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com

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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com

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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com

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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com

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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com


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.

Pho­to: Serge Ramel­li / petapixel.com

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.