Adobe Lightroom is an incredibly powerful tool for photographers, but it can be a little overwhelming if you are new to Lightroom. There are so many sliders, settings, and tools that it can be easy to get lost and confused.
There are many different ways you can use Lightroom to improve your photos, and in this article we’ll look at some of the most useful and practical ways you can work specifically with landscape photos. As a landscape or nature photographer there are some challenges that you will face over and over again with your photos. The topics that we’ll cover in this article will be relevant to many of these situations.
There are a few different ways you can work in Lightroom. You can do everything manually by adjusting each slider or setting. Another approach is to make use of presets to speed up the process. You could create your own presets for settings that you use frequently, or use presets created by someone else. We sell our own Landscape Legend Lightroom Presets to help with all of the most common challenges that you’ll face in processing your landscape photos. Landscape Legend includes 4 different components: one-click presets for instant effects, stackable workflow presets that give you more flexibility, graduated filter presets that can be used in combination with any of the other presets, and adjustment brush presets for working with the fine details of your photos.
In this article we’ll mention some specific presets that are a part of the Landscape Legend pack. If you already own Landscape Legend hopefully this article will help you to see some new ways that you can use the presets. If you don’t have the presets, the content in this article will still be relevant to you as we’ll cover the settings that you can adjust manually. And of course, if you decide you want to try the presets and see how they can help you to save time, you can learn more about the presets or get them here.
Now, on to the specific ways that you can use Lightroom with your own images.
1. Increase Dynamic Range
One of the most common challenges of landscape or nature photography involves dynamic range. Camera sensors have come a long way in the past few years, but no current camera sensor is capable of replicating the same dynamic range that you are able to see with your eyes. The result is that many of your photos are likely to suffer from shadow areas that are too dark, and/or highlight areas that are too light. You may be disappointed when you open the photos on your computer and you notice that the results don’t match up to how the scene looked to your eyes.
There are a few ways to handle this. First, you could bracket your photos and merge/blend multiple exposures of the same scene to create an HDR image. Lightroom has a built-in HDR merge feature, and software like Aurora HDR is even better. The downside is that processing HDR images can be very time consuming, and it’s probably not something you are going to want to do with every photo.
Fortunately, Lightroom offers us some possibilities for improving the dynamic range without needing to go through the process of creating an HDR merge for every image. In the “Basic” panel you’ll find sliders for Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks. These are some of the most powerful sliders in Lightroom’s Develop Module. Move the Highlights slider to the left (negative settings) to darken the highlights and recover some of the detail that may be lost in washed out highlights. Move the Shadows slider to the right (positive settings) to lighten the dark shadow areas of the photo and reveal more detail.
How far you push the settings will depend on the photo, but moving the highlights slider left and the shadows slider right is probably something that you will do with almost every landscape photo that you process.
The Whites and Blacks sliders are also very powerful. These sliders set the white and black points (the edges of the histogram). Moving the Whites slider to the right will give you more bright white in the photo, but be sure that you’re not pushing it too far and losing detail. Moving the Blacks slider to the left will give you more solid black in the photo. In general you’ll want to avoid having too much pure white or pure black in the photo.
Most of the one-click presets included in Landscape Legend will open up the dynamic range of your photos to some degree. There are 6 one-click HDR presets that really open up the shadows and highlights.
The workflow presets in Landscape Legend include a section for creating the tone base for your photos. These tone adjustment presets will impact the settings for the Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders only. There are several different options, so you can click on each and very quickly see how it impacts your photo. As an example, the photo below has the Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks at the default setting of “0”.
As you can see, the shadow areas are very dark. If the exposure slider is increased it will lighten everything in the photo, which will make the highlights in the sky too bright. So the solution is to use the Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders to get the best look.
I tried a few different tone presets in the Landscape Legend workflow presets, and the one I like best for this photo is called “Bold HDR Tones 1“, which easily opens up the shadows. After clicking that preset the photo looks like this: