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Four Lightroom tips to improve your landscape photos

The message Four Lightroom tips to improve your landscape photos ' s first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Simon Ringsmuth.

Lightroom has a large number of buttons, sliders, and check boxes that can enhance almost any photo, but sometimes the options are so overwhelming that you don't even know where to start! It is impossible to say which specific adjustments will work for a particular photo, partly because there are endless possibilities and every photographer is unique. However, there are a few Lightroom tips that you can use with certain types of images, such as landscapes, that enhance them with just a few clicks. If you ever wanted to merge your landscapes quickly and easily, there are four options that you can use right away to make every landscape look fantastic.

Four Lightroom tips to improve your landscape photos

If you import a landscape photo into Lightroom but are stunned and stared at the range of editing options, you can concentrate on the four items below. I use this on most of my landscapes, and you may be surprised how well they work for you.

Of course you can always continue tweaking and adjusting with as many options as you want, but these are great to start with.

  • Basic tone
  • structure
  • Sharpening
  • Graduated filter

By learning to use these four adjustments, you not only enhance your landscapes, but also many other types of photos.

As you gain more editing experience, you begin to find out what your editing preferences are and learn to adjust the options accordingly. Maybe you like a little more tone contrast or a little less saturation? Maybe you prefer your images to be a little less sharp? Experimenting with these options helps you understand what you prefer. It helps you develop your skills as an editor to get the results that you like.

Basic tone

Four Lightroom tips to improve your landscape photos

There is a reason that the development module in Lightroom has a panel called Basic. This contains the most popular adjustments that most photographers use immediately. They are especially useful for landscapes. The following is what I recommend as a starting point for this type of image.

highlights: Drag this slider to the left to darken the brightest parts of your landscape.

Shadows: Drag this slider to the right to make the darkest parts of your landscape a little brighter.

White laundry: Drag this slider to the right to whiten the white areas

Blacks: Drag this to the left to make the black parts blacker.

To show you how much effect these simple adjustments can have on a landscape, here is an image without adjustments directly from my camera.

Image: Shot in the National Tallgrass Prairie Reserve in Kansas. An unedited photo directly from ...

Shot in the National Tallgrass Prairie Reserve in Kansas. An unedited photo directly from the camera.

The image is boring, lifeless and not that interesting. 15 seconds after adjusting those four sliders in the Basic panel, it works wonders and transforms it into a whole new image.

Lightroom tips for landscape photos' s

Highlights -43, Shadows +26, White +70, Blacks -51. No other adjustments have been made.

The resulting image is vivid, lively and exciting to look at, especially when compared to the original. It doesn't take a lot of work to use those four simple sliders when editing a landscape photo and the results can be breathtaking.

structure

The effect of the Structure tool is not that pronounced and does not take your breath away in the same way. However, the latest addition of Adobe to Lightroom can produce impressive results. Although texture is particularly useful when editing portraits, it can also highlight details in grass and rocks and other areas of a landscape image with lots of natural texture.

Many landscape photographers are already familiar with the Clarity tool, which can have a similar effect to Texture. But the former can often lead to images that seem over-processed and artificial. Texture is really designed to improve the look and feel of textured surfaces. If you haven't tried it, you may be surprised by the results.

I took the photo below in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and while editing some basic marker / shadow / white / black, I really want to bring out the details in the evergreen trees.

Image: I shot this while walking in the Seattle, Washington neighborhood.

I shot this while walking near Seattle, Washington.

If you increase the value of the Texture slider, the trees stand out. They come to life while leaving the clouds and sky almost untouched. Adobe has designed the Texture option to specifically search for textured surfaces. It only applies the effect where it is really useful, rather than the entire image as a whole.

Lightroom tips for landscape photos' s

The same image, with the value Texture +90.

At full resolution the result is remarkable, but even on a small screen you can see that the trees have become more pronounced. The background trees are clearer and also more perceptible.

This new option in Lightroom is not yet as popular and known as Clarity, but it is a blessing for landscape photographers who want to beautify their photos without going overboard.

Sharpening

The Sharpen tool has been an integral part of Lightroom for years, but may be overlooked by new landscape photographers who feel overwhelmed by all the functions that stand before them when editing their images. Unlike Clarity and texture, the Sharpen tool helps you to emphasize the edges of everything in your images, while also giving you the option to specify exactly how you want to apply the sharpening.

As with the Structure tool, your results will not immediately have an effect like other operations, such as the Basic panel. However, careful adjustments to Sharpening can add a level of resonance to your landscapes and bring the small details to life.

Image: shot just outside of a small town in the north of central Kansas. Some basic operations applied, but no s ...

Shot just outside of a small town in the north of central Kansas. Some basic operations applied, but no sharpening.

The Adjust Adjustment, which is in the Detail panel, has four parameters: Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking. While this is all important, the ones I focus on are Amount and Masking. Move the Quantity slider to the right to make your photo look sharper and add a sense of sharpness. Then use the Masking slider to tell Lightroom where the actual sharpening should be applied.

You can hold down the Alt or Option key (on a Mac) to see how this works and adjust if necessary. The black and white example is updated in real time. While holding down the modification key and dragging the slider, you will see exactly where the sharpening is applied.

Image: Adjusting the Masking parameter while holding down the Alt or Option key (on a Mac) gives a ...

If you adjust the Masking parameter while holding down the Alt or Option key (on a Mac), you'll see a live preview of where the sharpening is added.

Using the Sharpen tool is a great way to improve your landscapes, especially in combination with some other editing options.

Image: sharpening added with the following values: amount 114, radius 1.0, detail 25 and masking 85 ...

Added sharpening with the following values: Amount 114, Radius 1.0, Detail 25 and Masking 85.

Graduated filter

If you have never used the graduated filter on your landscape photos, you are in for a real treat.

With this tool you can apply gradual adjustments to part of the image and even edit the adjustments using selective masking and brushing. It's a great way to bring out the rich blue of a sky, the subtle greens of grass and foliage, or perform other edits in part of your photo without affecting the whole thing.

To show how the graduated filter works, I took a photo in southeastern Nebraska without any editing except removing some dust spots on the lens. The foreground is dark and I would like to change the color of the sky to reflect what I actually saw. However, general operations such as the Basic panel do not work.

Image: shot in rural Nebraska on a cold evening in February.

Shot in rural Nebraska on a cool february evening.

For comparison: here is the same picture with some simple adjustments, as in my first example. The basic adjustments help, but do not produce the results that I am looking for.

Lightroom tips for landscape photos' s

Highlights -18, Shadows +100, White +34, Blacks -7.

It is an improvement but still far from what I want. Fortunately, the Graduated Filter is here to help! By applying this type of operation, I can change the lower part without affecting the upper part. The processing is also applied gradually, so that it appears more natural as the foreground retreats to the horizon.

Image: no edits to the original, except for one graduated filter applied in the foreground. Too ...

No edits to the original except a single graduated filter that has been applied in the foreground. Temp 76, Lighting 2.16, Shadows 21, Blacks -13, Texture 50, Sharpness 20.

You can go one step further and add extra graduated filters, which is especially useful when working with landscapes. In this image I want to bring out the rich, deep colors in the sky without affecting the field in the foreground.

A graduated filter is the perfect tool for the job.

Image: Second graduated filter applied to the air. Temp -73, Exposure -.50, Highlights -45, Dehaze 1 ...

Second graduated filter applied to the air. Temp -73, exposure -50, highlights -45, Dehaze 10, saturation 16.

I mentioned the Graduated Filter last because it is the most complicated of these four adjustments that you can apply to your landscape, but in my opinion it is also the most powerful. There are many options to customize your graduate filters, and it will be worth your time to discover more. However, the above example should be sufficient to get you started.

You can do so much more with landscape photos ' s in Lightroom than what I have demonstrated here. These basic principles should be enough to get you started and help you bring out much color, detail, and vibrancy that your landscape photos may be missing.

I hope that after learning these options you will explore the other options that Lightroom has to offer.

I would like to see examples of your landscape photos in the comments below!

Lightroom tips for landscape photos' s

The message Four Lightroom tips to improve your landscape photos ' s first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Simon Ringsmuth.

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