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Landscapes are one of the most popular photography subjects, and for good reason. Nature is enchanting to the human eye, and it’s only natural for people to want to capture that stunning natural scene with cameras. Some landscape pros and über-enthusiasts will plan ahead with tripods, shutter release cables, filters, and extra gear to make sure they really nail the shot they have in mind.
Then there are more casual photographers like myself who tend to shoot landscapes on a spur of the moment basis, usually during vacation. If you fall into the latter group, this article is more geared toward you. Maybe you have a single landscape shot that looks pretty good, but you’re looking for some light post-processing tips to top it off. If that’s you, read on!
In this article, I will present a few methods for enhancing natural scenes to keep them looking close to how you originally viewed them. All of these techniques have to do with enhancing a single shot, and the effects are not too dynamic or exaggerated, keeping you safe from overdoing it with say, HDR.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to polish any photo is to apply image sharpening. There are several ways to do this in Photoshop. For this article we’ll focus on applying the High Pass filter’s image sharpening effects to the landscape image below of Haleakala, a hiker-friendly dormant volcano in Maui, Hawaii. The before image is above and the after one is on the bottom. The effects may seem subtle from a zoomed-out perspective, but compare distinct areas such as the rock formations to see the sharpening in effect.
It’s not uncommon for landscape images to appear hazy or foggy when the natural weather conditions are such. The image above was shot on the Oregon Coast a few summers ago using a Canon 70-200mm at f/11 with just a basic clear UV haze filter on the lens. The mist in the air give the photo a dull look in the unedited, straight-out-of-camera version (top image below) but luckily this can be easily fixed in Photoshop (bottom image below).
Since the biggest problem with hazy images is soft contrast, the quickest fix is to simply select the Auto Contrast function, located in the top menu dropdown under Image. Poor image contrast is then instantly fixed based on pixel luminosity, resulting in overall finer image contrast. After Auto Contrast was applied, I also adjusted Levels, Saturation, and Vibrance, and the resulting image looks much more balanced and vibrant despite the hazy conditions of the scene.
Most sunset photos are already quite spectacular when they’re captured with a camera, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to enhance them a bit more, to fully convey an exceptionally surreal or beautiful scene you witnessed. The photo below is an unedited sunset shot taken at the Grand Wailea in Maui, Hawaii. It looks pretty fine on its own, but I wanted to paint a little more orange and pink into the sky.
How do you process your landscape images? Do you have any other tips or tricks? Please share in the comments below.