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Editing your landscape photos is really easy but getting some stunning results is another story. In this article I will show you how to make the “normal” adjustments to your photo so that it looks as it is supposed to. That includes: contrast, color balance, sharpening and saturation. So we are not doing anything creative (I will show you how to do that on future tutorials)
Although the most important thing is to have a great photo to start with, with post editing you can enhance that photo and make it look as close as possible to the scene you saw when you took the photo. Remember that cameras don’t see what we do because they have a narrower dynamic range than our eyes.
Since I live in a city and I can’t take any landscape photos I used a picture I found on sxc.hu which no longer exists but you can apply this to your own photos or you can get an alternative here.
Before doing anything at all you must look at you picture (and the histogram if you’re more advanced) and see what you can do to make it look better. Usually increasing the contrast makes the image look better. As I mentioned in my manipulation tutorials, you should always use Adjustment Layers so that you can modify settings at any time and also keep the original safe.
In my example I used curves to increase the overall luminosity of the picture. I increased the mid-high tones and also darkened a bit more the shadows. You can also use Levels if you prefer, you will get the same result. Hover the mouse over the image.
Another way (there are many other) to add contrast on your image is by duplicating the photograph, turn it into black&white, change the blend mode to Overlay and reduce the opacity to the point where you like how it looks (Vivid Light and other blend modes also work nice depending on the photo). This will give you a slight HDR effect.
If you want to add more light in the mid tones, a good tool for that is the Exposure Adjustment Layer. With this tool you can make a Gamma Correction and add more light in the mid-tones. Hover the mouse over the image for the Before/AFter.
Increasing the saturation of your photo will make it look better most of the times but be careful not to over do it. The best tool for enhancing the saturation is the Vibrance Adjustment layer. Vibrance is slightly different than Hue/Saturation in that it is applied to less saturated areas while the saturated areas remain almost unaffected. The great thing about this adjustment layer is that it has the Saturation option built in so you can also increase Saturation if necessary.
Sharpening is something I always apply on my photos. It’s very likely that when you post your images on the internet you don’t post the full size 4000 pixels wide. When you scale down the image you will loose some details. You can bring those details back by sharpening the image.
I usually use Unsharp Mask but there are other ways of sharpening in photoshop like for example the Paint Daubs filter located under the Artistic filters group. You should only apply this filter on higher resolution images. Smart filter also works great on some situations.
The point is to get that image sharp without destroying the edges of smaller details
This is the result of sharpening. Hover the mouse over the image.
Final result. Before & After
With just a few basic edits we improved the quality of the image quite a bit.
On future tutorials I will show you how to simulate Gradient Filters and how to create more artistic and dramatic looking landscape effects. This was just a basic editig tutorial.