Bring out more detail in the sky, enhance lighting, and add stunning definition with dodging and burning! Learn how to give your landscape images more impact with the powerful tools within Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop.
If you love working with landscapes, you’ll love our PRO tutorials on luminosity masking and creating a manual HDR. Both techniques are perfect for taking your landscape images to the next level.
Adobe Camera RAW
Adobe Camera RAW is Adobe’s answer for RAW processing in Photoshop and Lightroom. With it, you have access to all of the information within your RAW images to adjust exposure, correct colors, fix lens distortion, and more.
Whenever you open a RAW file with Photoshop, Adobe Camera RAW will open and allow you to make any changes you want before loading it into Photoshop as a Layer.
Be sure to select the option to open the image as a Smart Object, as this will allow you to go back into Adobe Camera RAW at any time to make any changes you want.
Global Editing vs. Local Editing
Before getting into Adobe Camera RAW, it’s important to understand the difference between global editing and local editing.
Global edits are any changes you make that affect an entire image. So if you were to open an image in ACR, and then bump up the exposure slider a bit, the exposure for the entire photo will be increased. Global edits are great for making general adjustments to exposure, color, and fixing common issues like lens distortion or chromatic aberration
Local editing is where things get a little more fun. Using tools like the Radial or Graduated Filters or the Adjustment Brush, you can select specific parts of a photo to apply adjustments to. So if you want to bring out more detail in a sky that’s too bright, you can use the Adjustment Brush to paint over the sky, and then make the necessary changes to the exposure. These changes will only affect the selected areas, in this case the sky, and will leave the rest of the image unchanged. Local adjustments are an important part of the editing process, as they will allow you to really dial in the exact look you want, and also help to differentiate different parts of a photo, helping to guide the viewer’s eye.
More Impactful Landscape Photos
There’s a reason that landscape images are everywhere. Whether it’s the default desktop wallpaper that came with your computer, or an Ansel Adams poster on the wall of your high school classroom, they play an important part in sharing beautiful locations, times, and ideas with the world.
As photographers and editors, there are some important steps we can take to ensure that the landscape images from our cameras are as powerful as the they looked to our eyes when we were there.
First, it’s important that the exposure be balanced, from the bright sky through the shadowy ground. Unless you’re shooting after dark, it’s easy for the sun to steal the show, drawing too much attention to the sky and clouds. Using a combination of filters and the Adjustment Brush, you can bring down the exposure of the sky, leaving the darker areas of the ground unaffected. If you’re shooting closer to night, you might need to lift the exposure of the sky to recover some of the detail in the clouds.
Next, you want to make sure there is detail present throughout the highlights, midtones, and shadows. Making the sky a bit darker will usually help recover some of the highlight detail, but you’ll also want to raise the exposure slightly of some areas across the ground and landscape. This will help bring back some of the natural textures and details that might have been a little too dark and muddy straight-out-of-camera.
Lastly, try to enhance the natural colors and detail in the image with color grading and sharpening. Nature is pretty good at giving us a beautiful palette to work with, all we have to do as editors is make sure those colors come through as vibrantly as they did in real life. And once the color is set, finishing off the image with some detailed sharpening is the best way to guide the eyes of the viewer through the most important elements of the photo.