As we learn how to edit landscape photos, we see just how much we can improve the final results by how we capture the image file and how much we use post-processing tips. We have several articles explaining tips and techniques for shooting; here we will consider some important tips for processing landscape photos.
Processing landscape photos can involve several edits for different aspects of how to process landscape photos. Using a post-processing program that is not designed for non-destructive editing will either change our file in a way that we may not be able to go back to or require us to save several TIFFs after each edit.
I mention TIFF files since you can save lossless uncompressed versions as opposed to a JPEG which is compressed regardless of how large you save it. If you are shooting your landscape photographs in RAW, you generally don’t want to convert into a JPEG until the last step in order to preserve all of your processing options.
Among the first tips for processing landscape photos, or taking them in the first place, we usually suggest capturing RAW files primarily for having uncompressed information about exposure values, color space, and image content. With all of that uncompressed content, we have a lot of exposure information to work with.
In most of the programs we would use for processing landscape photos, we can either adjust the overall exposure value or adjust highlights, midtones, and shadows separately. One of my favorite tips for processing landscape photos is to adjust a small amount of overall exposure first, if at all, before going into the individual shadow, midtone, and highlight controls.
A general rule of thumb is that overexposed or blown out highlights simply won’t have a lot of detail in them to work with, while in pulling out shadow details we do, although we can start to have digital noise issues if we are adjusting the shadows by a large amount. Bonus tip: use the slider controls.
Assign a White Balance
Since we’re shooting mostly in RAW, that means we can assign a white balance to the image file during post-processing without losing or compromising any important color information. While it may seem as though a daylight color white balance is a normal choice, you can subtly change the feel of a landscape photo by changing it.
Also, you may be shooting during Blue Hour, Golden Hour, or under overcast skies, all of which are a distinctively different white balance than 5600K daylight. As you might suspect, the white balance will show clearly in white objects such as clouds, but it also affects all other colors within the scene.