I’d like to show you my new workflow in Lightroom. I’ve traveled a lot these past few months, so I’ve taken a lot of landscape images. So let’s take a look at how I retouched one of my favorite landscape photos using my start-to-finish workflow!
Here’s the original photo, which I took at Yosemite in the morning.
Step One: When it comes to daylight photos, I always advise that you start by opening the Shadows (+100), and then edit the Whites (+44). When dragging the Whites slider, hold the Option (PC: Alt) key. At first, your image should turn mostly black. Drag the slider until you just start to see some color appear in the image. Don’t go too far; you want to be right at the limit. Now, you can do the same with the Blacks slider, but this time when you hold the Option (PC: Alt) key, the image will turn white. Again, drag until you see colors appear in your image. It’s okay to go a bit further with the black point (–39) than the white point. Next, boost your exposure as needed (+0.40).
Step Two: Now start to play around with the white balance. First, set the WB drop-down menu to Daylight in the Basic panel. Then, tweak the Temp (5601) and the Tint (+22) sliders until you find something with which you’re satisfied.
Step Three: Next we’re going to work on the sky. For that, you can use the Graduated Filter (M). Drag out the gradient so it affects most of the sky in your image. We’re only going to lower the Exposure in this instance. It doesn’t matter how much you lower it at this point because you can always change it later.
Step Four: Because the mountain is being affected by the Graduated Filter in this image, we’ll set the Range Mask drop-down menu at the bottom of the Graduated Filter panel to Luminance. This creates a mask that we can alter so the Graduated Filter only affects the sky and not the mountain. First, turn on the Show Luminance Mask checkbox. The red overlay indicates what’s being affected in the image. Now when you drag the right Range slider to the right, you can visually see where the filter is being applied in the image.
You can also hold the Option (PC: Alt) key while dragging the slider if you prefer to see the black-and-white mask. Any areas that are white will become transparent, revealing the Graduated Filter; any areas that are black will conceal the effect.
I like to play around with different sliders in the Graduated Filter; for example, in this image I boosted the Clarity (+34) and the Saturation (+20). Whatever fits the mood of your photo will work. Be sure to turn off the Show Luminance Mask option so you can see what the sliders are doing, and then press M when you’re done to exit the Graduated Filter.
Step Five: I like to re-create the light of the sun in daylight photos, which works well in many images. Start by grabbing the Radial Filter (Shift-M), and draw a big circle where the sun should be. Turn on Invert so the changes take place inside the radial, Feather it to 100, and then boost the Temp (58) and the Tint (35). Press Shift-M to exit the Radial Filter.
Step Six: Once you’re happy with the result, you can go into the Tone Curve panel and play around with the contrast. In this image, I boosted the Shadows (+17) and the Highlights a little (+1), and lowered the Lights (–12) and the Darks (–26). Note: If you don’t see the sliders, click on the little curve icon at the bottom right of the panel.
Step Seven: When you see that part of the photo is too dark, like on El Capitan here, the solution is to correct it with the Adjustment Brush (K). Turn on Auto Mask so the Adjustment Brush only paints the changes on the mountain and not the sky. Paint the areas you want to affect, and then boost the Exposure (0.57) and Clarity (51).
Step Eight: Click the word “New” at the top of the Adjustment Brush panel to create a new brush, and then do some dodging and burning to make the photo more interesting and dynamic. The red overlay here shows you where I painted in this image, and then I raised the Exposure (0.30) and the Clarity (51). Press K to exit the Adjustment Brush.
Step Nine: Another tip to make your photo more dynamic is to crop it so it’s a panorama. A 16×9 aspect ratio works well for this image. Press R for the Crop Overlay, and then select the appropriate aspect ratio from the Aspect drop-down menu. Press Enter to commit the crop.
Step 10: To make a perfect photo and to prepare it for printing, make sure that it’s sharp! For that you can go into the Sharpening section in the Detail panel, and set the Amount to 90 and the Luminance Noise Reduction to 10 so the sum of the two sliders equals 100. And then you can use Masking (57) to control where the sharpening appears in the image. As with the Whites and Blacks sliders, you hold the Option (PC: Alt) key to see the mask. Any areas that are white will be sharpened; any areas that are black won’t be sharpened.
Step 11: Here’s the side-by-side split version of the before and after so you can see how it’s still very natural but more attractive.
And voilà! Here’s the final result.
Lightroom is really simple to use, and I’m always amazed by the endless possibilities. Have fun not only taking your photos but also developing them!
ALL IMAGES BY SERGE RAMELLI