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