Re­fine land­scapes us­ing soft­ware

A balanced ap­proach to post-pro­duc­tion is nec­es­sary for great land­scapes

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

It’s easy to go too far with post-pro­duc­tion; the temp­ta­tion is al­ways there to push the sat­u­ra­tion slider a bit fur­ther, or add a lit­tle ex­tra sharp­en­ing to give your im­ages more punch. The ini­tial im­pres­sion might be that these im­ages have the ‘wow’ fac­tor, but on closer in­spec­tion faults ap­pear – un­nat­u­ral colour, poor tonal tran­si­tions, haloes around edges and ‘crunchy’ tex­ture. So what we should aim for is bal­ance – an im­age that makes an im­pres­sion, but still looks nat­u­ral.

The first pro­cess­ing step is usu­ally to en­sure that the tones fill the histogram. There are of course ex­cep­tions to this ‘rule’: snowy and misty scenes, for ex­am­ple, are low in con­trast and util­is­ing the full width of the histogram can re­sult in an overly con­trasty im­age.

Ad­just­ing con­trast and clar­ity adds punch to im­ages, but make sure it suits the scene and don’t push it too far – blocked-up shad­ows, haloes and in­creased noise will re­sult if you do. With shad­ows, it’s vi­tal to strike a bal­ance – some pho­tog­ra­phers have a ten­dency to open up shadow de­tail too far, so that the im­age looks flat. It’s also im­por­tant to make the shad­ows look like shad­ows.

It’s prob­a­bly fair to say that there is a ten­dency in mod­ern land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy to over­sat­u­rate im­ages: in the com­pet­i­tive world of so­cial me­dia, some pho­tog­ra­phers feel that this is the surest way of at­tract­ing more ‘likes’. This may be true, but if you want to be taken se­ri­ously as a land­scape pho­tog­ra­pher, one who un­der­stands colour and tone, then a mid­dle way is what you should aim for – vi­brant but nat­u­ral colour.

Sharp­en­ing is a key skill in post-pro­duc­tion and the aim with land­scapes is to re­veal fine de­tail. To achieve this in Pho­to­shop or Light­room, sharpen with a small ra­dius, mod­er­ate amount and mod­er­ate de­tail. Se­lec­tive sharp­en­ing – and se­lec­tive ap­pli­ca­tion of clar­ity and con­trast – to ar­eas such as skies and fore­ground tex­ture can also help im­ages stand out. Again, mod­er­a­tion is cru­cial, as pushed too far it will look un­nat­u­ral.

Above BALANCED PRO­CESS­ING A punchy, but nat­u­ral-look­ing im­age with vi­brant colour but good tonal tran­si­tions. Lo­cal en­hance­ments have made the most of tex­ture inthe sky and fore­ground

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