Processing Landscapes can be simple and fun!

Introduction

Last week I took you through processing a glamor portrait using Lightroom. You saw how to process the entire portrait inside Lightroom including skin softing, eye enhancement, blemish removal, and more.  The results I think were stunning.

 

Last week I took you through processing a glamor portrait using Lightroom. You saw how to process the entire portrait inside Lightroom including skin softing, eye enhancement, blemish removal, and more.  The results I think were stunning.

 

This week we’re going to do much the same, but with a landscape.  Like portraits, there is a lot to processing a landscape, no single process will fit all landscapes.  What processes we use depends heavily on the image we captured and the subject matter within.  Still, most of what we learn today can be carried over and I encourage you to open your own landscape and follow along.

  

Cropping The Image

You should notice that Lightroom is set up in such a way that working logically from top to bottom is almost always the best way to complete the steps.  Not all steps or functions of Lightroom will be necessary.  White balance is where we start.  Let’s look at the image right out of the camera.

 

You should notice that Lightroom is set up in such a way that working logically from top to bottom is almost always the best way to complete the steps.  Not all steps or functions of Lightroom will be necessary.  White balance is where we start.  Let’s look at the image right out of the camera.

 

Looking, it appears I did my job and framed it near perfectly during capture.  But on second take I’d like to bring the right side closer in to the small pagoda we can see on the right and to crop out the weeds right in front of my lens in the lower right.

 

Looking, it appears I did my job and framed it near perfectly during capture.  But on second take I’d like to bring the right side closer in to the small pagoda we can see on the right and to crop out the weeds right in front of my lens in the lower right.

 

See how I cut out the weeds and brought the pagoda more to the right?  This would also be the time to straighten your horizon with the cropping tool if needed. 

 

Camera Profile and Lens Correction 

Lightroom 3.2 brought several new features and I like using this at this point in the work flow.  First the lens correction to remove any lens distortion.

 

Lightroom 3.2 brought several new features and I like using this at this point in the work flow.  First the lens correction to remove any lens distortion.

 

Notice the 24-70mm has a bit of inherent barrel distortion at 24mm?  This tool easily corrects it. 

Now we’re going to choose the profile.  Each camera manufacturer has several color profiles embedded in their raw files.  The drop down menu will show Adobe98, Camera Faithful, Camera Landscape, Camera Portrait, Camera Neutral, and others.  Usually I use Adobe98 and any changes I do manually.  But because many of you are just beginning a good hint is if processing a landscape, try “Camera Landscape.”

 

Now we’re going to choose the profile.  Each camera manufacturer has several color profiles embedded in their raw files.  The drop down menu will show Adobe98, Camera Faithful, Camera Landscape, Camera Portrait, Camera Neutral, and others.  Usually I use Adobe98 and any changes I do manually.  But because many of you are just beginning a good hint is if processing a landscape, try “Camera Landscape.”

 

Notice how it added much needed contrast and color saturation?  A nice and welcome change to a landscape.\

 

White Balance 

Now we have to look at the colors and see if the white balance is as desired.  To me, it’s a bit cold so lets warm it up a bit.

 

I raised the temp from 5400 and the tint from +8 to a temp of 6151 and left the tint at +8.  This warmed it up a bit to compensate for the cloud cover.  It helps it look like the sun is a bit more involved.

 

I raised the temp from 5400 and the tint from +8 to a temp of 6151 and left the tint at +8.  This warmed it up a bit to compensate for the cloud cover.  It helps it look like the sun is a bit more involved.

 

 Exposure, Recover, Fill Light, and Blacks

I enabled the highlight indicator which makes RED any area which is blown out.

 

I enabled the highlight indicator which makes RED any area which is blown out.

 

Notice the histogram and general image shows the exposure to be very good, but look at the red highlight warnings I have since I enabled the control above?

 

Notice the histogram and general image shows the exposure to be very good, but look at the red highlight warnings I have since I enabled the control above?

 

What you want to do is to slowly move the Recovery slider to the left until the red ‘just’ disappears.  No further. 

The “Blacks” is more of a contract control and I’d like to increase the contrast just a bit.  The default starts at 5, so let’s move it to 8.

 

Notice a more pleasing contrast, but also we’ve got a bit of black clipping warnings going on over on the right and left sides?  Black clipping a bit is totally okay, most imagers will have some.  Highlight clipping is another story and must be avoided.

 

Notice a more pleasing contrast, but also we’ve got a bit of black clipping warnings going on over on the right and left sides?  Black clipping a bit is totally okay, most imagers will have some.  Highlight clipping is another story and must be avoided.

 

Presence 

Next are three controls, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.  I find that if your image is correctly exposed vibrance and saturation will take care of themselves and be fine. Still, if you want more saturated colors now is the time to change them. “Clarity” however is essential.  Clarity is a sort of micro-contrast which shapes around the edges of objects in the composition.  Strengthening the clarity helps these edges, or the objects with the edges, stand out.  I find in a landscape a clarity strength of 30 works well.  You don’t want to go too far though or you’ll get halos.  Let’s move the clarity to 30.

 

Next are three controls, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation.  I find that if your image is correctly exposed vibrance and saturation will take care of themselves and be fine. Still, if you want more saturated colors now is the time to change them.  “Clarity” however is essential.  Clarity is a sort of micro-contrast which shapes around the edges of objects in the composition.  Strengthening the clarity helps these edges, or the objects with the edges, stand out.  I find in a landscape a clarity strength of 30 works well.  You don’t want to go too far though or you’ll get halos.  Let’s move the clarity to 30.

 

Notice how the trees and shrubs now stand out a bit more?  Every change should be subtle, remember, the enemy of good is better.

  

Detail 

Next is sharpening.  Sharpening should almost always be last, especially if not processing a raw file.  I find with the Canon 5d Mark II a value of 85-95, a radius of 1, and detail of 25 works best for most images.  You can vary it from there.  You’ll need to experiment if you use a different camera, but these settings will make a good starting point.  Pick a point of the image so it’s in the magnified viewing window, and slowly increase your sharpening level to taste, while making sure no halos or artifacts appear.

 

Next is sharpening.  Sharpening should almost always be last, especially if not processing a raw file.  I find with the Canon 5d Mark II a value of 85-95, a radius of 1, and detail of 25 works best for most images.  You can vary it from there.  You’ll need to experiment if you use a different camera, but these settings will make a good starting point.  Pick a point of the image so it’s in the magnified viewing window, and slowly increase your sharpening level to taste, while making sure no halos or artifacts appear.

 

Notice how now the trees and shrubs are showing real definition as the sharpening and clarity help overcome the softening brought on by your anti-aliasing filter?  Notice the edges of the clouds? 

 

Noise Reduction 

Lightroom 3.2 brought with it several new features, and one of the really nice ones is a great noise reduction routine.  You want to be very careful with this control and not negate the nice effects of your sharpening.  I know, at this view you’re thinking you can’t see any noise and it was shot at ISO 100 so there shouldn’t be any noise.  Not so fast.  If the image is perfectly exposed and shot at a low ISO, noise will be ‘minimal’, but not nonexistent.  HOWEVER, every change we make to a file including clarity, sharpening, exposure, recovery, and more, ADD NOISE.  It’s a fact of life.  We try to take the best picture we can in camera so we need less post processing, so we create a higher image quality (less noise).  Lets zoom in on this image and see just how much noise is there.

 

Lightroom 3.2 brought with it several new features, and one of the really nice ones is a great noise reduction routine.  You want to be very careful with this control and not negate the nice effects of your sharpening.  I know, at this view you’re thinking you can’t see any noise and it was shot at ISO 100 so there shouldn’t be any noise.  Not so fast.  If the image is perfectly exposed and shot at a low ISO, noise will be ‘minimal’, but not nonexistent.  HOWEVER, every change we make to a file including clarity, sharpening, exposure, recovery, and more, ADD NOISE.  It’s a fact of life.  We try to take the best picture we can in camera so we need less post processing, so we create a higher image quality (less noise).  Lets zoom in on this image and see just how much noise is there.

 

This is a very good image so even at 3:1 (a large zoom) the noise is well controlled, but present.  If we were going to print this at 8x10 or even 11x14 I’d leave it alone.  You could never tell.  But a 20x24 you could tell.  So let’s apply some noise reduction, just enough to make it go away.

 

This is a very good image so even at 3:1 (a large zoom) the noise is well controlled, but present.  If we were going to print this at 8x10 or even 11x14 I’d leave it alone.  You could never tell.  But a 20x24 you could tell.  So let’s apply some noise reduction, just enough to make it go away.

 

See how effective these controls are?  I didn’t move them that much.  There are two controls, luminance noise and color noise.  Moving each one will quickly show you which type of noise you have.  Here, we had a bit of each.  It’s not all the way gone, but this would print very well at 24x30 so I won’t go any further and soften the image more than I need to.

 

 Is It Done Yet?

I know, you’re thinking “nice picture Steve, but it’s not jumping out at me like your landscapes normally do!” True, guilty as charged.  The above steps are my ‘first’ steps in landscape processing and sometimes I’ll stop here, or sometimes I’ll go further.

 

I know, you’re thinking “nice picture Steve, but it’s not jumping out at me like your landscapes normally do!”  True, guilty as charged.  The above steps are my ‘first’ steps in landscape processing and sometimes I’ll stop here, or sometimes I’ll go further.

 

But what if we want more.  What more could we want?  How about darkening the clouds a bit?  There are several ways we could do this, and while I’d probably pick CS5 to do the job we can show you how to do a decent job in LR3. 

See the ND filter tool right next to the localized editing brush? Let’s click it.  See the controls that come up under it? 

 

See the ND filter tool right next to the localized editing brush? Let’s click it.  See the controls that come up under it?

 

Okay, now I’ll bring the filter down over the sky and to the top of the mountains in the rear.

 

Okay, now I’ll bring the filter down over the sky and to the top of the mountains in the rear.

 

I hear you, now you’re saying “that’s more like it Steve.  I love that dark sky.  Foreboding and cool!”    Yes, it is.. Much more dramatic imo.  But how could we easily make it better?  Yep, flip the tool around and bring some light to the bottom!

 

I hear you, now you’re saying “that’s more like it Steve.  I love that dark sky.  Foreboding and cool!”    Yes, it is.. Much more dramatic imo.  But how could we easily make it better?  Yep, flip the tool around and bring some light to the bottom!

 

See how it looks like the sun is peeking out from under a cloud and lighting the foreground?  Now you have a darker and more blue sky, a more visible foreground, and a contrast of light and colors that work very well together. 

There are more finer touches, but practice with these steps for a while.  If you have questions email me and I’ll answer your questions.  PLEASE send in some of you work and share with everyone.  I know you guys like seeing each others work and this is a great way to share. Or go to the forums and post a picture and ask for a critique.  You can even put a selection of images in a user gallery here 

You’ve gotta admit that was a lot of fun and not nearly as hard as you thought it was eh?  Practice on some of your images and send them in.  It will be a lot of fun.

 

You’ve gotta admit that was a lot of fun and not nearly as hard as you thought it was eh?  Practice on some of your images and send them in.  It will be a lot of fun.