Editing Landscape Photography

This post is based on a similar post I created for Tali Gibson Designs LLC‘s company Portfolio. It was a post that turned out far more detailed than originally intended, and I can see it being relevant here as well. It gives a fair amount of insight into how I photograph and edit photos, as well as what programs I use to do my work.

There are different ways to edit a photo based on how the photo was taken and the intention behind the editing. In the case of landscape photography, there is more leeway in how far to push an image, compared to the subtlety required for portrait retouching.

Photograph taken in September 2019 at Sugar Pine Reservoir in California.

As a personal preference for my own photographs, I like to bump the colours up into a vivid territory that, while still believable, may be brighter or more vibrant than “real life”.

The Before-and-After images shown in this post are split in half to show the difference between the left side (before) and the right (after). Some changes will be more obvious than others, and I have tried to use a variety of examples to give an accurate representation of what can be done.

I will emphasize the difference, through the images shown below, of photographs taken with a DSLR versus phone. DSLR will be first, with phone photos afterward. The largest difference seen here will be in the RAW images from before to after, especially if those images were underexposed initially. While I can take JPEG imaged with my digital camera, I have since taking a liking to using RAW files whenever possible. I love the freedom it offers in photo editing.

DSLR Camera: RAW Images

With RAW images, the files are considerably larger than JPEGS and contain more data, and need to be processed before they can be viewed in a “normal” way: they need to be turned into JPEGS. I use Adobe Lightroom Classic for this process, though there are other programs that can be used. Once photos have been adjusted to my liking, I will export them into a separate folder as JPEGs.

Once the files have been exported, I will take some into Adobe Photoshop CC for further editing. Here, the editing often involves removing unwanted elements in the photo. This could be oddly places branches, a passing bird, airplane, or even people.

I’ll also use Photoshop in the case of adjusting a specific area in a photo that may require masking, or something that requires a tool that either isn’t in Lightroom or just works better in Photoshop.

I’m more fluent in Photoshop, and I would likely end up using it for photo editing if Lightroom wasn’t so efficient for batch editing. Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time… 😉

Late September of this year, I went for a hike in the Sugar Pine Reservoir with my husband and mother-in-law. It’s a gorgeous area in Northern California with stunning views. The area is heavily forested with a large lake and wildlife such as deer and bears. (We didn’t see anything but geese this time, but I’m okay with that!)

It was the perfect opportunity to take my camera out, equipped with a new SD card with ample space so I can finally shoot everything in RAW.

In the past, I shot most images I took as JPEG, simply for lack of space on my SD card because, well… those cards could get expensive. Nowadays, it isn’t so much money for an SD card with a decent memory capacity. (My main one one is now 128GB.) I had to finally stop procrastinating and make the change.

It has been worth it!

The difference between editing a JPEG and editing a RAW is staggering. I have photos that would previously have been unusable because I wasn’t careful with the exposure, or the lighting was dim or overcast and washing out some of the colour.

The image posted directly above is one of my favourite examples of that from my trip to Sugar Pine Reservoir. The richness of the greens and blues was all still there in the image, waiting to be pulled out.

And I swear that yes, the water near the shore has a purple/magenta hue to it from the soil below. It’s gorgeous!

Phone Camera: JPEG Images

Now, it wouldn’t be fair if I only showed you images taken with a digital camera. Not everyone will have one or be able to take photos in RAW. In this section I have included a sample of photographs taken with my phone, some with better cameras than others.

In the case of the sunset photo above, there has been minimal editing and retouching done to a photo, and oftentimes that is all that is needed to make the necessary parts of it really pop. On the other hand, the photo is also quite old and I could not tell you what phone took the photo at this point.

All of the other photographs were taken using a Pixel 2 XL, which has a decent camera that can pickup a fair amount of detail even in low light. This is often the camera I will use for quick shots and I find it works out pretty well.

I’m noticing a trend with these images. Landscape shots of the sky, sunsets, and lakes have a certain appeal.

So, what do you think? What image was your favourite? Do you want to see more posts like this, such how how-to’s or how I work? Send me an email or let me know in the comments.

I would love to hear from you! ⭐ 🙂

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