Tips for Post-processing Forest Images in Lightroom

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Tips for Post-processing Forest Images in Lightroom

If you like nature and landscape photography you probably take photos of forests, your local wood or even parks. I can teach you how to install presets if you want. In Mark Jones’ article you will find nice tips for forest photography. I take a lot of forest photos in autumn, so in winter I usually find myself with a bunch of photos to post-process. In today’s article, I am going to give you some tips that will help you on the post-processing in Lightroom of all the forest images you already collected. This is a lot different from editing a macro photography in Lightroom.

Decrease shadows and increase blacks

When you take photos of trees, with the light coming from up and going through leaves you usually get the upper part of the image with a nice exposure but the soil remains in the shadow.

This is the non edited photo. As you can see, the leaves are well exposed, but the earth is way too dark.

You can improve your photo by opening the shadows (moving Lightroom preset Shadows slider to the right). Maybe this will make you lose a bit of contrast, but you can fix it easily by darkening the Blacks (moving the Blacks slider slides to the left). With these two adjustments you will make appear the details in the shadows without losing contrast in the blacks.

If you want to open the shadows a bit more, you can do it using the brush tool. Select a brush with the shadows slider towards the right and “paint” the area you want to work with.

You can “paint” areas of your image with a brush that will brighten the shadows even more (Shadow slider towards the right side). If you check the box that says “Show Selected Mask Overlay” you will see in red the area you are painting in.

With these adjustments you can improve a lot a photo with a combination of light and shadow

On the left, the non-edited photo. On the right the image after brightening the shadows and darkening the blacks. I will probably work a bit more in this image (color, highlights…), but as you can see, just with these simple adjustments you can improve a photo a lot.

Adjust the highlights

When you take photos of forests you will end up with images that are well exposed in some areas, but others are quite overexposed. It happens for example when you take photos of a tree from its base.

forest images
This is the non edited photo. The sky and some of the higher branches are clearly overexposed.


The tree is well exposed, but some branches and the sky can get quite overexposed. In these cases, adjusting the highlights might help you. You can do it in the whole image.

As you can see, in the non edited photo the Highlights have a value=0.
Once you slide the Highlights to 100, you will see that you recover detail form the overexposed area.

Or you can do it in just some areas by using the brush tool.

As before, you can “paint” areas of your image with a brush. This time its setting will affect the Highlights (slider towards the left side).
This is the final edited image.

Adjust colors

Colors are an important element in forest photography. The way you adjust the colors will depend on what you want to communicate with your photo, so it is quite subjective. With forest photography, increasing the intensity of the colors might work quite well. To do that, you can increase the vibrance and/or the saturation by moving its sliders to the right.

Here the non edited photo. The values of both vibrance and saturation are 0.
You can increase both vibrance and saturation, but take care because too much color might look unnatural. Try to find a balance.

You can be more selective by adjusting individual colors in the HSL/Color/B & W section. You can see that each color has its own slide of hue, saturation and luminance. I usually modify just the saturation.

In autumn forest photos, increasing the saturation of just red and orange might be enough.

Highlight the main subject of your photo

You can highlight the main subject of your image by making it a bit lighter or a bit sharper. This is easily achieved by adding a circular filter.

This is the original photo. I would like to highlight a bit more some of the leaves in the foreground.
If you add a circular filter, to make adjustments inside the circle you need to check the box “Invert Mask. A Feather value of 100 makes changes in exposure and sharpness (in our particular case) look smooth.

Add a dreamy look

If you are looking for a dreamy mood, you can achieve it by blurring some parts of the photo and adding a matte effect.

I made some little adjustments in this image (exposure, highlights…). Now I would like to add a more dreamy look.

To blurry some parts of the photo you can either use the brush tool or the circular filter tool. In both cases, you need to decrease the sharpness and/or clarity.

Here I applied a brush to decrease both the clarity and the sharpness of just the leaves.
You can see like the blurriness achieved by the brush give to the trees a more dreamy effect than when they are sharp.

To achieve a matte effect you will need to make some changes in the Tone curve.

forest images
This is the Tune curve adjustment panel. When you move the cursor on top of the curve it might appear as a little cross. If it does not, click on the little box mark here with a blue arrow.

You can select a point in the curve that it is around 30%-40% to anchor it. When you select it, you see a circle in the curve. This means that you can move any other part of the curve, but this particular spot will remain there.

forest images


Then you can drag up the left bottom of the Tone curve. You can try with 10% up and adjust it according to your taste.

Try some presets

If you need to post-process a lot of photos you might find useful to check some made presets as the Through the Woods Workflow. They will speed up your editing.

forest images
This original photo has potential, but it seems a bit dull right now.

The good thing of these particular presets is that they have been designed for landscape photography. You can stack several presets on one single image, giving you a lot of flexibility.

In the History panel you can see that I applied 5 presets and their effects stack on top of each other. The photo looks totally different now.

They also provide you with brushes.

Here you can see all the brushes provided for doing local adjustments In this case, I chose the one for Brighten the shadows and I applied in some of the trees.

Another thing I also like is that the names given to the presets and brushes are intuitive, so you can easily find the ones you need. And if they are not exactly fitting your needs, you can always adjust them a little. However, they already gave you a good starting point.

forest images
Final image. It took me to edit it just 2 minutes.

I hope you liked this tips for post-editing your forest photographs. Do you have any other tip? I would love to hear about it! Have a happy post-processing!!!

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I am a biologist and a self-taught photographer based in Barcelona (Catalonia). Buddhist philosophy has a strong influence on me: I have a deep appreciation to life and I give a huge value to the little things that makes our days happier. I became a passionate about photography when I got my first camera and I understood that photography allows me to express my way of approaching life. I love learning so I am always willing to trying new things. These days I am shooting mostly nature and portraits.

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