If you have a digital camera chances are at some point you took a landscape photo which you thought it would look awesome but in the end it didn’t look quite as how you expected. In this article I will demonstrate again how using gradient maps and a few Adjustment Layers you can turn your boring photos into something a lot better.
What I’m going to show you next works best for landscape photos that include sky. If you have a silhouette image even better. For this tutorial I will use an image that I took from the window of my bedroom one afternoon as the sun was setting behind a mountain. So as you see, I didn’t travel to any exotic place to take photos. You can use my image if you want to follow this tutorial. You can download it: click here (right click and save target as)
Preview of the final result (hover for before/after)
My goal with this picture was to enhance the sunset, particularly the warm light coming behind the buildings so I exposed for the sky in order to get the silhouettes of the buildings and have the clouds and sky perfectly exposed. Actually I underexposed the sky about a stop. If you don’t understand photography don’t worry about what you just read.
So, in order to enhance the sky and the sun light I used a Gradient Map adjustment layer which is one of my favorite as I mentioned on my other tutorial: Landscape Photography Editing – Gradients & Adjustments. In general, whenever I want to change the temperature or the mood of the image I use the Gradient Map adjustment layer.
After adding the Gradient Map on the layers palette, you have to decide the colors of the gradient. The colors depend on the colors of your original image and also on what the effect you want to achieve. In my case I liked the color of the sky but I wanted the light to be a bit more orange.
So I selected a Photoshop preset and changed the purple color to dark blue tone.
Another reason why I like this adjustment layer so much is because depending on the blend mode, I get all sorts of interesting results. For this particular image I used Overlay and the Opacity of the layer set at 50%.
Next, I duplicated the Gradient Map with CTRL+J and changed the colors slightly. I used the same blend mode (Overlay) but this time I reduced the Opacity to 25%.
Having finished with the gradient maps, I used Curves to increase the highlights a bit more.
As you can see, enhancing a picture can be as easy as using a couple of adjustment layers. Hope you liked this.