Landscape image editing for beginners

Landscape image editing is a workflow that enhances the original image. There are endless types of approach to this specific topic. In this short tutorial, we will show the elementary method of how to improve the look of a landscape or nature image

JPEG or RAW

Definitely RAW. I always prefer RAW images when speaking about retouching or enhancing any photography. However, this time we will edit the JPEG image.

The reason is simple. I visited the Lipton Seat in Sri Lanka, and my wife and I decided to take a trek to the top of the Lipton Seat hill and not to take an expensive taxi.

Moreover, we will have an opportunity to shoot some beautiful images during the trek. Unfortunately, something went wrong with my mirror in my Nikon D750.

I repaired it somehow, but what I did not notice my setting was reset to JPEG image format. I realized it in the evening in the hotel during checking the whole day shooting in my camera. 

And that is another reason to show you it is still possible to work even with a JPEG image and have decent results.

Smart Filter 

So let’s choose one of the shots that seem to be the most suitable and open it in Photoshop. The very first thing before the editing steps will be to convert the background layer to the smart filter. Obviously, it is not a must, but it should be a standard step for a professional retoucher. It makes the application of any filter non-destructive. It means you can return to this point and change the setting of the filter at any time. So right-click on the background layer and select the Convert to Smart Object.

Landscape image smart object

Basic enhancements with Camera RAW Filter

Now we can start making some basic enhancements. In this case, I decided to use the Camera RAW Filter.

It is easy to use, and you can set many parameters in one single place. So in this particular image, I increased the exposure as the picture was underexposed a bit.

I increased the brightness in the shadows a bit by moving the Shadow slider to the right side. Any changes are always your personal preference and depending on your personal artistical feeling.

Camera-RAW-settings-1

So I have increased the texture a bit to enhance the beautiful texture of the tea bushes. On the basic enhancement page, I have changed the Dehaze slider to the right side to increase the deepness of the blue sky.

Lastly, I increased the Vibrancy a bit as well.

The next step of the editing by Camera RAW Filter was to go to HSL Adjustments. Here I have just adjusted the Luminosity settings of the most prominent colors. 

Camera-RAW-settings-HSL

So that is for the Camera Raw filter basic settings. Now let us move forward and use an old but still effective method of image editing and enhancing, and that is Dodging and burning.

Dodging and Burning in a Landscape image editing workflow

Again as always, there are more options on how to do the dodging and burning method image enhancing. Generally speaking, dodging and burning allows you to emphasize the darks and lights of particular parts of any landscape image.

So the first step will be to create a new layer but in a specific way. By holding Alt (PC) or Opt(Mac) key, click the new layer button and then choose Overlay Mode and click the option named “Fill with Soft-Light-Neutral Clor (50% Grey).

Dodging-Burning-Layer1

Then select a soft brush with a size accordingly to the object you want to paint. Do not forget to set the flow pretty low - around 10% or even less. 

Now the whole process consists of painting with black or white color on parts you want to darken or brighten accordingly.

In my particular image, I wanted to brighten the tops of the tea bushes. 

Additionally, I intended to increase the contrast between dark and bright parts of the clouds in the sky. So I did it again using the dodging and burning.

Here is one small trick that could make your work easier. When you need to paint a straight line, click the starting point with the selected brush, and then click the ending point. Photoshop will automatically paint the line between these points.

Adjusting specific colors in a Landscape image

I wanted to pick a particular color and make it more prominent. As you can see in this specific image, there is the most prominent green color. And I realized there is a small pathway. So I decided to emphasize its color and make it more saturated. 

One of the possibilities here is to use the Color Balance adjustment layer. So let’s make a new color balance layer.

We want to make the pathway redder and saturated to see how it stand out of the green tea bushes in this landscape image.

So take the first slider in Color balance setting and mix a beautiful red color. Move it to the right side. Then move the middle slider a little bit to the left side.

LAndscape-image-Color-Balance

And if you want to have the red color more on the warmer yellow side, move the last slider also to the left side.

Then change the Tone setting and repeat the process.

Again, there is no exact recipe for how much of which slider you should move to the left or right side. It is by your own artistical feeling and choice.

Masking

Okay, you may say we have changed the color toning of the whole image. Yes, of course, we have to mask in only the part we want to apply the red color toning. 

There are several ways how to do it. We could even prepare the mask before making any adjustment color using photoshop channels, for example.

In this case, we will create a black mask and hide the whole Color Balance adjustment layer. So let’s click on the mask button on the bottom of the layer menu and fill it with black color.

Now select a soft brush and select the flow below 10%. Select the size appropriate to the size of the pathway. Now select the white color and start to paint over the pathway. It will begin to reveal the red color as we wanted. 

Landscape-image-masking

Finally, you can finetune the intensity by decreasing the opacity of this color balance layer.

Conclusion

As you can see, you can achieve a dramatic improvement in any landscape image just by using a couple of simple editing or retouching methods.

We applied the Dodging and burning method to increase the contrast between dark and bright parts of the image.

And we have emphasized the specific color of an object - pathway - using our creativity and Color balance adjustment layer.

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