Lightroom Basics For Forest and Landscape Photography Part 1

March 22, 2020  •  1 Comment

Whilst so many of us are confined to our homes at the moment, many photographers turn to their picture archives. If your archives are anything like mine, there are huge amounts of pictures in there, that need editing.

In Part 1 of this Lightroom series, I will try to inspire you to get more out of Lightroom and to take away a bit of the overwhelm felt by so many when starting to edit. I believe that education is vital, because knowledge helps you create the things you wish to create. Learning how to do something for yourself, helps you make well thought through decision when editing, rather than having to rely on presets or actions. I also believe in inspiring and motivating people, which in these times is more important than ever. Spend some time learning new things, trying out things....It will help you steer clear of anxious feelings or worries. Let's get started!

Lightroom Basics For Forest and Landscape Photographers Part 1Lightroom Basics For Forest and Landscape Photographers Part 1It is often believed that nice edits come from great filters, actions or presets. In this blog post I discuss how editing with intention can be done very effectively in the basic panel of Lightroom Some photographers only do basic editing in Lightroom and then move on to use a couple of filters. Others skip Lightroom (or Camera Raw ) altogether and go to Skylum's Luminar 4 or something else, others do the entire editing in Lightroom and than there are those who, like me, optimize their pictures in Lightroom to keep the maximum amount of data available in our files before moving on to Photoshop.

For those who don't have a lot of experience with editing in Photoshop, this massive piece of software can be pretty daunting. Layers, adjustments, cloning, blend modes, brushes, masks, selections and filters....It all looks like you should know all about this before your pictures can ever be amazing. Let me tell you that Photoshop might have a plethora of options available, but if you learn to use a few options well, you are well on your way. Let me tell you about those in another blog post.

Today I want to show you that a lot can be done by using the sliders in the basic panel of the Develop Module in Lightroom. The same options are available to you in Adobe Camera Raw, but it is laid out differently. I am going to start with a foggy picture that looks incredibly bland without any editing. 

The starting point

This picture was taken in very foggy conditions and the contrast is very low. The exif date are as follows : iso 100, 70 mm, F/11, 0,6 seconds and this picture was taken with the Panasonic Lumix S1R and the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200 F4 with a B+W high transmission circular polarizing filter.

Many people believe that it is a good ideas to just use everything there is and this will in the end lead to a magical image. I find it much better to edit with intent. This means that I start with a clear idea of what the picture needs and I make notes of how to get there. In this case I know I want the picture to have a cooler white balance to convey the feeling of a moody, cold winter's day better, I want the contrast to improve, especially in the tree on the left, there needs to be some added depth, because the dense fog and the use of a telelens compresses the fog to such a extend that it flattens the scene a bit and I also want the picture to look really moody. When I took this picture I had encountered a few people who all felt uncomfortable in this foggy forest and even I felt the slightly unnerving atmosphere there. This is something I want to convey in the picture. 

Original White Balance


Now that I know this I am going to get started with this list...First I am going to fix the dull white balance and make it slightly cooler. To be able to see clearly what the effect will be of shifting the temperature and tint I temporarily move the vibrance slider all the way to the right. This makes it easier to see which hue is most apparent in the picture. After finding the best colour, put the vibrance slider back to zero. Keep in mind that a warm colour would convey an entirely different mood than a cool colour like this.

Whilst adjusting the temperature and tint slider I can clearly see that a green tint is becoming too dominant and I reduce this by moving the slider toward the magenta tint (to the right). You can clearly see how using the vibrance slider gives you an excellent indication of what tones are the most dominant ones in your image

The new white balance looks like this

Time to work on the contrast. Most people immediately turn to the Dehaze slider but let me show you what Dehaze will also do to your image.

You see that the colour shifts. Dehaze was originally created to remove atmospheric haze. The kind of haze that you see in the distance when you are in the mountains. It is a blueish kind of haze that is corrected by this slider by adding contrast and....warmth. In a picture where you don't want the colors to shift though, Dehaze is not the best option. I use the black and white sliders instead. Here you can see that this leaves the colors intact. 

Adding contrast will also saturate the picture more and to counteract that I will make a quick adjustment in the HSL panel to tone down the blues.This will only affect the blue tones and keep the rest of the colours intact. If I were to reduce saturation in the basic panel all colors would look dull. 

Use the target adjustment tool indicated by a circle with an open dot in it at the left side of the word Saturation to drag in your picture. Drag to the right and the saturation will increase and drag to the left and the saturation will decrease

Fog also softens the details and I opt to bring some fine details back by adding a bit of texture. To not make this picture looks harsh I bring down the clarity slightly, because the contrast that this adds looks quite unnatural in foggy images. I constantly keep an eye on the histogram when making adjustments. If you click on the little arrows above the histogram they will show you were clipping occurs. In this case the picture is slightly underexposed, which is what I wanted as this was a dark and moody atmosphere that I don't want to ruin by raising the exposure. 

This histogram shows there are no true highlights in the image (the values to the right are missing). This is how its should be in a forest on a dark foggy day, so I would advice against stretching out the histogram all the way from the left to the right if you like to keep the atmosphere intact

I would still like a bit more contrast. The contrast slider is not a slider I use a lot, but in this case it helps make the tree stand out a bit more. I counteract the darker shadows a bit by raising the shadows slider and I raise my highlights to add a bit more separation between the shadows and highlights. 

It is a lot of going back and forth. The contrast slider made the shadows too dark and so I chose to open those up again and sometimes bringing the blacks down and the whites up requires an adjustment to the exposure and saturation. 

I hope this gives you a little inspiration for your editing. In part 2 I am going to take you through some other panels and options in Lightroom's Develop Module. I hope to give you some new inspiration twice per week on my blog in the upcoming weeks, so please come back in a few days to find a new tutorial. 

If you want to learn how I edit my pictures in my signature painterly style, please consider purchasing my eBook The Magic Of Forest Photography : The Recipes. You would help me out tremendously in these times of a huge loss in income due to the COVID 19 crisis. If you would like to learn all about photographing forests, I can recommend my eBook The Magic Of Forest Photography





Ernest J. Schweit(non-registered)
Very helpful post, Ellen. Thanks.
I was also very excited to read that your archives are filled with photos that need editing. I thought I was alone in that problem; now I know that I'm not. Again, Thanks!
ernest j. schweit
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