How to Work with Through the Woods – High Dynamic Range tools

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  By Pia Lopez
How to Work with Through the Woods – High Dynamic Range tools

Hello everybody. In today’s tutorial about working with our “Through the Woods” Lightroom workflow for landscape photography, we will take a closer look at high dynamic range improvement. More specifically we’ll go into how to improve the range between the lights and darks in your photograph.

We will get started with our first photograph if the sun setting over an area of wetlands. To begin this one, we will go into our “Through the Woods” presets and apply Base – High Dynamic Range. Once applied, this preset has greatly improved the overall photograph instantly. Before we started this photo was very underexposed, but now the details, shadows and color have been brought out quite a bit. Although it brought a lot back to this photo, this HDR preset needs to be tweaked a little, for this image, to make the clarity, sharpness and color look like it is overdone. To do this, we make a few adjustment in the tool panel to the right. When we applied the preset, the highlights were set all the way down and the shadows all the way up. We’ll just adjust those slightly. Then, we are going to move the Saturation and Black sliders down, just a bit, and the Whites slider up. Next we’ll go into the Detail panel and lower the Amount under Sharpening, just to make it a little more realistic. This is all about finding the balance. Sometimes when we apply HDR effect to a photograph the outcome can be a bit unrealistic, so finding the balance would be keeping the desired HDR effect while maintaining the realistic appearance of the scene, unless unrealistic is what you’re going for. That we’ll save for another day. To further tweak this preset, we’ll also adjust the colors a little. So going into the Color tab, we’ll slightly turn down the yellow and orange, then turn up the blue and green, just a bit.

In the final image we can see that, with only applying one preset and adjusting it, there is a huge difference between the before and after. We have brought a lot of that lost detail back, as well as the color and definition in the sunset and clouds. After you’re done here, come and learn more about bringing back color and light with “Through The Woods”.

Now we will move on to our next photograph which is some area that appears to be at the base of a mountain. For this photo, we’re going to start it off by applying the Base – Punchy preset. Although this isn’t an HDR preset, it does give us many of the same effects such as improved that range between lights and darks, as well as the color and details. We will also be applying a Tone preset, so scrolling down, we’ll select Tone/Tint – Warm it Up. To improve the clarity we will also apply the Polish – Add Clarity preset, then for the color we will apply Tone/Tint – Color Pop. Once we’ve applied those, we will go over the our panel and make a few adjustment to tweak these presets a little. First we’ll turn down the Clarity, then open the Detail tab and turn down the Amount under Sharpening.

That was a really quick edit. In the end result we can see that this photograph now has a much warmer tone. A lot of the detail has been returned to this photo as well, especially in the water and the grass. All of this was done with just a few presets, stacked on top of each other and adjusted a little.

Side note: If you are into landscape photography this is definitely a great tool to have, especially when you want to make edits quickly.

On to our third and final photograph, looking out through the trees over a mountain range. We will start this one with the Base – Morning Light preset, which has an effect similar to HDR, but a little more subtle. For a bit more of the HDR effect We’ll also apply the Base – High Dynamic Range preset. Once this has been applied, it seems to have blown out the color quite a bit, appearing unrealistic. To correct this by applying the Tone/Tint – Desaturate preset, which will take away some of that excess color. We will go back over to to panel and make a few more adjustments. We’ll start in the Detail tab by turning the Sharpening amount dTown, then going into the Basic tab, we will turn up the Highlights up and the Shadows down, both just a tiny bit. Finally, we will go into the Color tab and turn both the Green and the Yellow up a little.

That edit was a quick one as well. Starting out with photo that is backlit by the sun, losing a lot of the detail in the shadows and darker areas. By applying and adjusting only three presets, we were able to bring back all of that detail and color, really enhancing the through the woods photograph quite a bit.

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Pia Lopez

Pia Lopez is a self-taught photographer, graphic designer and ArchViz artist. As Content Director of, her work is driven by her two biggest passions: technology and art.

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