Tag: landscape

Photographer Focus: Laura Oppelt Photography

Several weeks ago I was contacted by Sleeklens and interviewed  [ Graham Daly Spotlight Interview ]. Needless to say, I was delighted to be interviewed and allowed to share my photographic journey and insights with the Sleeklens audience. Now, I am also delighted to actually be writing and contributing content towards this very same great audience – how cool is that!

To start things off, I wanted to introduce a new “Photographer Focus” series whereby I intend to place the focus on various photographers that have caught my own attention and whose photographic work inspires me to head out with my own camera. In this edition, I am focusing on Laura Oppelt, an incredibly talented 20-year-old landscape photographer from Germany.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

1) Who is Laura Oppelt?

My name is Laura Oppelt and I was born in 1998 in a small town near Munich, Bavaria, Germany. Growing up in the countryside, I enjoyed being outdoors and discovering nature. When I was younger, I got a cheap camera and started to literally photograph everything around me. The images were poor in terms of photographic quality and just snapshots really but I kept going and later decided to save money for my first DSLR. Since that time back in the summer of 2013 I really worked hard on improving my photography knowledge (a continual work-in-progress!) and I decided to focus my attention and energy on landscape photography.

The greatest step so far in my development took place in 2016 when I switched to a Full Frame DSLR. Even though the camera is just a tool for taking pictures and by far not the most important thing, it gave me a more satisfied feeling and afforded me new possibilities. But the best teacher is practice! The importance of trial and error really cannot be underestimated. During my travels, I learned a lot, discovered stunning places and experienced the beauty of our world, which is the basis for all my pictures. I still consider myself as a learner and search for my own style but I’m very curious what will come next.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

2) Do you find that your passion for photography consumes a lot of your time?

Yes! I try to head away on photo trips as often as possible and especially on the weekends I’m really busy with photography. As it’s my biggest hobby, I love spending time with it, but that’s not always possible of course. A very time-expensive aspect of photography is also the post-processing. I’ve still got loads of unprocessed images and I don’t know if they will ever be processed!

3) A question that all photographers are asked – What is in your kit bag?

I’m shooting with the Canon 6D and the Canon wide 16-35mm f/4 lens. I also always carry a Sigma 20mm f/1.4 in my camera bag for night photography. Let us also not forget the Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens. Lastly, I use a Sirui tripod and LEE Filters.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

4) What is your general workflow when taking pictures?

That depends on the conditions and the scene. I always use the Live View function of the camera to compose the image and try to find leading lines as well as foreground interest. Then I decide if filters are necessary or not and if yes, which specific filter (e.g. a graduated hard or soft filter). Besides that, I often take three different exposures, in case that I need them later in post-production.

5) What is the key ingredient that you always look for when producing images?

I think an interesting foreground is always a great way of strengthening your image composition, especially in landscape photography. Sometimes I include people in my images as well to add some scale.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

6) How crucial is post-processing to your photography?

It’s an important issue for me because I want to make the best out of my images and with some very easy steps, such as boosting contrast or adding a vignette, you can increase the overall effectiveness of the image. But I also don’t want to spend too much time with the post-processing and I try to keep the image as natural as possible.

7) Do you have a favorite image?

That’s a quite difficult question because I’ve got different favorites due to different reasons. There are favorite images because of the experience I had when taking them and there are favorites because I’m very satisfied with the editor the composition or the light captured within the image. If I had to pick only one photo, I would choose a photo I took during a backpacking tour on the Faroe Islands in the summer of 2017 because everything just came together perfectly: the landscape (a mountain above the sea with a great view over the fjords and the villages at the coast line), the light (right before sunset) and the experience (it was pure freedom on top of that mountain peak with an incredible view). I titled the photo “Experience for a Lifetime“ because it had such a great impact on me.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

8) Are there any challenges to being a Landscape Photographer?

Yes! The constantly changing weather situations and that it sometimes takes huge power and resolve to overcome your own laziness! And of course that you manage to make the people who look at your images feel the same that you felt in the moment when you pressed the shutter. That is probably the most difficult and challenging aspect of all.

9) Any tips for other photographers?

Maybe that the most important thing about photography is that you like what you do and that you have fun. Take the images for yourself and not for somebody else. Try to develop your own style which is very challenging in its own right because I think this is a never-ending process.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

10) What inspires you?

Our beautiful world has so much to offer that I think inspiration can come from everywhere. Other photographers who have a lot of impact on my own motivation are Dennis Polkläser, Nicholas Roemmelt, and Bruno Pisani, to just name three of them.

11) What does your photography future hold?

A challenging question because there are so many possibilities. I would like to just improve my image making abilities further and to experience some new photography adventures. I would also really love to publish some of my pictures in magazines or to have an own exhibition someday … But that’s very far away from now.

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

12) Is there anything else you want to say?

Go out, explore and enjoy life! Simple, but so difficult at the same time!

Laura Oppelt Landscape Photo

13) Lastly, where can we see more of your great work?

I have a brand new website now at www.laura-oppelt-photography.de . My 500px account is https://500px.com/laura_oppelt. You can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lauraoppeltphotography and my Instagram profile at https://www.instagram.com/oppdager/.

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Six Dolomitic Destinations a Landscaper Couldn’t (And Shouldn’t) Miss

For who don’t know, Dolomites are a group of many mountains located in Italy, between the regions of Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige.These peaks are known for their bizarre shapes, formed millions of years ago because of many erosions.Over the years The Dolomites became among the most visited mountains in the World and many tourists from different countries go for miles on foot to admire the magnitude of that peaks or enjoy atomic sunsets.As that places are so peculiar and full of drama, many landscapes photographers search inspiration there and the business of photo workshops is greatly fruitful.  seceda dolomitesThis is why, as I explored The Dolomites for years, many foreign photographers asked me a lot of information about spots and places to visit there.Of course, every angle of this area should be explored, and there are wonderful locations are not included in this article cause I should write a book about all the places to visit in the Dolomites… this is why I’ve chosen the six most powerful locations where I tried the strongest feelings as a photographer and as human.

1. Mount Seceda 

Seceda is part of the Odle group, in Val Gardena, in the province of Bozen. You can reach the summit of the mountain with a cable car from Ortisei and be at about 2500 min 15 minutes. There you can admire the imperiousness of the inclined Seceda peak turned towards the valleys and other mountains of South Tyrol, until the Austrian peaks like mount Großglockner. Behind your sight, you will recognize some of the most famous mountains and massifs in the Dolomites, like Langkofel, Plattkofel, and Sella group. As a photographer you can use many different kinds of lenses there; I think the best focal length to immortalize Seceda is 24mm even if telephoto lenses are necessary to create images of the far peaks, that are very fascinating, especially in a misty nightfall.  According to my photographic tastes, I think that the best time to take great shots of Seceda is in the foggy days, especially when fast clouds, lower than the summit of the mountain, move against this one; this kind of weather can be present in every season, particularly in Autumn and Spring.

 2. Seiser Alm

Coming up by car from Kastelruth you will arrive in a little town of hotels named Compatsch. If you park and proceed by a walk on a restricted traffic route, you’ll discover a little and pacific rural environment at the foot of the majestic Langkofel and Plattkofel mounts.During your shooting time you can play with the curves of hills, and little details of them, like trees and little alpine lodges. I recommend focal lengths from 24mm to 70mm even if also telephoto lenses could be used to capture details of the valley and far mountains.A foggy weather is perfect to take pictures in Seiser Alm; I really love when the light of the sun or the moon creates visible oblique rays that illuminate the fog and are contrasted by the shadows of the elements in the valley. My award-winning picture “The magic of the night” is an example of the disarming beauty of Seiser Alm bounded by the mist at the moonlight.The best months of the year to visit this fairy location are May, June, July, during the flowering of the meadows, October, November and in the wintertime (but only if the hills are covered by the snow).seiser alm dolomites

3. Lagazuoi hut   

Lagazuoi is a mount located in the Dolomites near Cortina D’Ampezzo, lying at an altitude of 2835 m. It contains a mountain hut, accessible by cable car in few minutes, which has one of the best panoramic views in the Dolomites.   This is why I consider it a landscaper friendly location: every kind of lens, especially from a focal length of 24mm to higher, is addicted thanks to a view rich of peaks, valleys, trees and every kind of detail.Every month of the year is great to visit Lagazuoi hut, above all, when low clouds form a kind of “sea” and only the highest peaks come out from them. The funniest thing is that, at that altitude, the weather changes very fastly! This is why you can take shots of a red sunset and immediately after of some lightning.lagazuoi pelmo croda da lago cortina sorapiss sorapis

4. Lake Sorapiss

At the foot of the Dito di Dio (God Finger) peak is located the most colorful body of water in the Alps. Sorapiss is characterized by an intense turquoise water, given by the rocks at the bottom of the lake.You can arrive at this fairy place from Passo Tre Croci, near Misurina (district of Auronzo di Cadore), in about two hours and it’s possible to book at the Vandelli hut, near the lake.A colored sunset or a shiny sunrise can help you to take a memorable capture of this location, even if the totality of the lake makes the most of the “wow effect”.I recommend a wide-angle lens to get a large visual of the mountains and the water, with some rocks in the foreground.You can visit Sorapiss lake from the thaw in May until the first ices at the beginning of November.

  5. Vajolet Towers

When you reach the “Gartl” hollow after a sloping rocky trail, you may think to be in another lonely world; and on your right, there are three majestic bastions called Vajolet Towers. On your left, there is a yellow house which is the Re Alberto I hut and in front of it is placed a little pluvial lake. The rocky garden of the “Gartl” hollow is located at 2621 m between the Fassa valley and the municipality of Tires, in South Tyrol. Photographers can take shots from many points of view like the lake and use some rocks as foreground.The best lens for this location is a wide angle, that’s especially addicted to the nightscapes lovers, cause the sky at that altitude is very clear and deep.The way to reach Re Alberto I hut from Pera di Fassa is long but you can get really warm hospitality and discover the taste of Italian and Tyrolean food at the hut; I will never forget the polenta with cheese before my shooting time.Re Alberto I hut is open from the end of June to the end of September and the best weather is, of course, a red cloudy sunset but if a dark night follows it.stars vajolet towers milky way

6. Tre Cime di Lavaredo

I couldn’t avoid writing about Tre Cime (Three Peaks), a place that every tourist knows, a classic postcard of the Italian Alps. You can reach the Locatelli hut from Auronzo hut by a more than one hour walk. The trail is boring, but when you are in front of the Three Peaks can’t stop to admire their majesty.I suggest you take a look also at lakes of Piani, two bodies of water behind the Locatelli hut.I recommend you to use a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens only to take shots at far peaks like Cadini di Misurina or Dreischusterspitze. Tre Cime di Lavaredo are fascinating in every period of the year, with every weather (even if I personally prefer a partially cloudy sky in the daytime and a clear night). Be sure that in Winter the trail is walkable and there isn’t ice on it.tre cime

Best use of foreground in your images: Enhancing your photos today

An important factor to photography is not only our background but also our foreground. Foreground can be used in many different ways in your photography by framing your subject, adding texture, and design to an image, which can all lead your eye to your main subject. Foreground can also tell more of the story in your image and pull you into the image.
To some of us photographers, foregrounds can become a little daunting and intimidating because we worry about distractions within an image. This is one factor that I think we can all grow and experiment with in our photographs. Making a foreground work in an image can really create a more artistic photograph altogether and also tell more of a story. Here are a few tips on how to create photographs with a great use of foreground.

Since photography is a two-dimensional art form you will want to add some depth into your image to let your viewer feel as though they can step into the image. Using a foreground will add some depth and dimension to your image. One of the simplest and also important ways to make a foreground work is your knowledge of the depth of field. You can use a shallow or deep depth of field depending on the subject you are trying to photograph. If you are photographing a landscape you will want to keep a deep depth of field if it is a wide-angle shot. What if it’s a telephoto photograph and your image is compressed, such as wildlife photography? In this case, a deeper depth of field could add a little bit of distraction. In this case using a shallow depth of field could frame your image and add some environment without causing distractions.

Foreground

Foreground

There are different ways to work with a foreground based on your subject. When you are photographing a landscape it can be as the reflection in a pond or body of water from your landscape or image. This is a great way to show mood in your photography. Getting lower in your image will help improve your vanishing point and bring some drama into your image. A popular landscape photography image is a road using the leading lines into your vanishing point and a simple way to show depth in your image.

Foreground

The foreground is most commonly used to frame your subject and works for people and landscapes.For example, if you set your subject behind a bush or tree you can use the leaves or greenery in the foreground to frame your subject’s face. This shows a sense of the environment that you are in, showing not only what is behind of your subject but also in the front. If you use a shallow depth of field this will show the environment without becoming distracting. One popular portrait idea that works with creative foregrounds is to have your subject hold an item out in front of them as a focus point.

Foreground

Foreground

Foreground

Foreground

Now that we have talked about foreground and background in our images we want to work all of these factors into one image. The easiest way to think of working with a foreground, middle ground, and background is if you can find three layers in an image. Your foreground doesn’t have to be far away from your subject either, it can be as simple as people walking in the foreground or a glowing sign in front of a building.

Foreground

Foreground

Some ways that your foreground could be distracting is if it’s sharper than your subject. You want to make sure that your focus is still the main point of your image and you have to remember the rules of backgrounds and incorporate that into foregrounds.When we talk about focus we are not only talking about the sharpness but what’s bringing the subject into focus. Make sure your focus point is the sharpest and also the brightest object in your subject. If you have a light background and foreground you can contrast that with a darker color. Objects that are brighter, lighter, or more saturated than your subject tend to become a distraction.

Foreground

Foreground

The foreground is not only a good technical skill to have in your photography but also a great way to boost your creativity and bring more oomph into an image.

What is DOF? An introduction to one of the pillars of photography

Depth of field is a crucial concept in photography on a technique and artistic scale. Since photography is a two-dimensional art form, depth of field gives us the ability to feel as though we are stepping into an image. Your depth of field is also known as your focus range. The “field” is the subject you are photographing, and the depth is the distance between the nearest and furthest objects that are sharp and in focus.

You might often hear of a “shallow” or “deep” depth of field. A shallow depth of field has less in focus around your main subject, and a deep depth of field shows more in focus around your main subject. Aperture easily controls the depth of field. Aperture is made up in f-numbers (f/5.0, f/16, f/22) and is also known as f-stops. The higher the f-stop number, the deeper your depth of field will be and the smaller the f-stop number is, the more shallow your depth of field will be. Aperture also has an effect on your exposure. The numbers represent the lens opening diameter size, and that will also determine how much light passes into the camera. The range starts at a larger diameter size and works down. The smaller the f-stop, the larger the diameter of the lens opening, this also adds more light. The larger the f-stop, the smaller the diameter and the less light will pass through.

The easiest exercise to demonstrate aperture and how it affects your depth of field is to set your camera on a tripod and find a subject that shows a foreground, middle ground, and background. A tripod is not only important in this because you want to have a continuous shot but because your shutter speed is going to start slowing down to compensate for the light as your depth of field goes up. Set your camera to AV which is aperture priority. This will let you change the aperture how you please and lets the camera choose the shutter speed and ISO for your best lighting.

apeture

You can also change your depth of field based on your camera lens; this can get a little more tricky. The more you zoom, the more depth you will receive because it is also compressing your image and you will have more of a focus on your field rather than use a wide-angle lens. Using a wide-angle lens is great if you want a deeper depth of field and more in focus. The higher the focal length, the shallower your depth of field will be because it is compressing your image.

How to use depth of field in your photography

Shallow depth of field is very common in portrait photography, wildlife photography, sports photography, and detail shots. Portraits are best with a shallow depth of field because it blocks out any distractions which can also apply to wildlife photography. Another good reason to use a low aperture is that it will add more light in. This will give you the ability to use a faster shutter speed to catch candid moments and a great tool to have for fast sports photography.

mariahbaumgartle_shallowdepthoffield

A deeper depth of field is common when photographing a landscape and architecture. When shooting a landscape, you will want to have your foreground, middle ground, and background crisp and in focus. The higher your aperture is, the slower your shutter speed will be to get a correct exposure so always be prepared with a tripod while shooting landscapes in lower light to avoid any camera shake.

mariahbaumgartle_deepdepthoffield

Depth of field can give you as much or as little texture that you are looking for in an image as well; this comes in handy while shooting macro photography. You can see in this example just how much the background texture changes from 2.5 to 5.0.

aperture

You can also use shallow depth of field when learning and working with bokeh, a popular style in fine art photography.

Depth of field is only one piece of the exposure triangle but, as you can see, it offers a lot of tools to make your photography stand out.

A Day on Dartmoor – Photographing the National Park

The South West of the UK is home to a number of moors but Dartmoor is the most well-known around the world, and among photographers. The 954km2 national park is famous for its rugged and often mysterious landscape which offers many opportunities for stunning shots in unique locations.

To access the best bits of the moor, and not just the tourist hotspots, a good pair of walking boots and a map is required. So it’s always worth knowing what to expect, where to find things, and what kind of kit is needed so unnecessary equipment isn’t dragged through bogs, up steep hills, and along stony trails.

Kitting Up

Aside from walking boots, a waterproof bag and jacket, a map, compass, and something to eat and drink, you’ll want to think about what camera kit you’re going to take with you. With a variety of locations and subjects on the moors, it’s a good idea to be prepared to ensure the number of shots missed is minimised, though you also want to be careful of making sure you’re not taking too much equipment if going on a long trek.

Dartmoor National Park Sign

Two lenses, a prime lens, and telephoto, are a good option. A telephoto lens with a broad range can be useful for switching between landscape and wildlife photography. The other advantage of the telephoto lens is that it can minimise the need for lens changes is bad weather conditions as it’s often hard to find sufficient shelter for a quick switch when you’re out in the middle of the moors. Prime lenses will be better for indoor shots, and night photography.

If you’re planning to stay out late to capture a moonlit tor or try long exposures it’s worth taking a spare battery as plug sockets are few and far between as well. A tripod is going to be essential for taking long exposures of waterfalls, streams, and stars but a monopod might be a better option as a standby depending on what you want to capture (and it’ll also make a great walking stick).

Sunrise/Sunset

The best place to go for sunrises and sunsets, based on the number of tripod-laden photographers that congregate there on a regular basis, is Brentor on the western edge of the Moor. Not only is it home to a church that’s the best part of 1000 years old, and the remnants of an Iron Age hill fort, but at 330m above sea level, the tor offers breath-taking views over Dartmoor.

Brentor Church

Although it’s a fairly steep climb up to the church there is a car park close by, so it’s safe to take the heavy kit with you.

Mid-morning

There’s just no other way to get to some of the best parts of the moor than by hiking there, but more often than not it’s worth it – especially in the case of Whistman’s Wood. The ancient wood is one of unique spots on the moor with its twisted Oak Trees offering visitors a Middle Earth-like experience. There’s a car park located on the opposite side of the road to the Two Bridges Hotel, and from there it’s about a two and a half mile walk.

The claustrophobic little wood has a unique character so whichever way you shoot it there’s a good chance you’ll get an interesting shot. Whether using a wide or narrow lens to capture the expanse of the wood or its quirky details you can’t go wrong. If you don’t have a wide lens with you panoramas can really help to capture its unique character.

Whistmans Wood Panorama

If you want to photograph an equally enigmatic but wider landscape Cosdon Hill is another spot which is also panorama-friendly, offering excellent views and an ancient stone cairn.

Cosdon Hill and Cairn

Midday

If it’s a clear day on Dartmoor (which happens more often than you might think) you aren’t going to get the most exciting shots in the midday sun. However, it’s the perfect time for grabbing a spot of lunch in one of Dartmoor’s many inns and exploring its many quaint villages. Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a popular tourist spot but there are many other less well-known spots to have lunch and collect a few great snaps. The Highwayman Inn is one particularly interesting spot which is reportedly one of the most haunted inns on the moor and features a dining room made from an old shipwreck.

Highwayman Inn

When shooting indoors in confined spaces a fast prime lens is a good option, as long as the focus length isn’t too narrow, or a wider lens combined with a high ISO setting.

Afternoon

Dartmoor isn’t just home to natural wonders – there are plenty of fascinating buildings (and the remains of them) on the moors as well. The afternoons are a great time to visit some of the Moor’s castles with romantic ruins such as Okehampton Castle, and a complete castles like Drogo, being great places to shoot in the afternoon light.

The castles are run by Historic England and the National Trust so if you’re using your photos for commercial purposes you’ll need to seek permission. Lydford Gorge is another impressive spot to visit, also run by the National Trust.

Lydford Gorge

There’s a fee for entry but the gorge is the perfect spot for dramatic shots and the nearby village of Lydford is also worth exploring with its own small castle, and quaint church. It’s a great example of a place where having a telephoto lens with a wide range is useful as there are some areas where you’ll need to go as wide as possible to capture your surroundings and others where a narrower focal length will help to capture some unique details and textures.

Lydford Gorge Coin Log

Night

While it’s not recommended to go walking on the moors at night there are plenty of conveniently placed car parks that will allow you to get some impressive shots of the tors and the stars. Although Haytor is the most popular and probably most photographed spot on the moors and is usually good for nothing more than a picture postcard shot, the night time offers the perfect chance to put a more interesting twist on the familiar landmark and practice your astrophotography.

Time your visit so you leave at least a couple of hours after sunset so that all light will be gone and you have a nice dark (and hopefully cloud-free) sky. However, the hours after sunset do make for a deep blue sky which can help to create its own unique mood.

A Day on Dartmoor

The best settings for astrophotography will vary depending on your camera but using a prime lens at its widest aperture (or maybe just a few stops up for extra clarity) is a great place to start. In terms of shutter speed the longer you leave the shutter open the more likely you are to notice the movement of the stars – which is great for star trails but not for nice sharp images. How long you can leave your shutter open before trails start appearing will depend on your lens.

According to the “600 rule,” all you need to do is divide 600 by your focal length (x1.5 if you’re using a cropped sensor) and the answer will tell you the maximum shutter speed in seconds before your stars start streaking. For example, using a 50mm lens this will be 12 seconds. Increasing the ISO sensitivity will really help to pick up as many stars as possible but be wary of sensors which create a lot of noise at higher ISOs as it will become hard to tell the stars from the speckles.

Back Home

To get the most out of your moorland shots it’s well worth spending some time finessing them in Lightroom. While the moors can be magic while you’re up there, they can look less exciting in raw pixel form. With lots of greens and browns and greys colour pictures shot on a nice summer’s day can look a bit boring. Black and white suits the moors really well and really brings out the drama of the landscape, especially on cloudy days, though be careful as it’s easy to get carried away.

Cosdon Hill and Cairn Black and White

Processing pictures of stars can also be difficult, but one easy trick is to increase the clarity in Lightroom which will help bring all the little points of light out.

Photographing the moors can take practice, and may require repeat visits and persistence to get the perfect shots you want. Adverse weather conditions can make life difficult for a photographer, especially if it starts raining or snowing, or the fog rolls in. Whole tors can disappear in an instant in a thick fog so be prepared for disappointment, but greater rewards when you get the shot you’re after.

Must Have Accessories For Landscape Photography

Imagine you’re standing at Glacier Point, shooting the beautiful morning sun as it rises behind Half Dome. Sipping on hot chocolate, you adjust your settings accordingly to the flooding light. The air is wet and there’s a faint vanilla scent from the surrounding Jeffrey Pines. You screw in your Graduated Neutral Density filter and take a couple shots. The sun is rising slow and you are in no rush, savoring each moment you have, just you and the camera this morning. Nothing else matters.

Landscape Photography

Compare this to someone who ran up, took a shot, and then ran back to their computer for post-processing. They don’t care about crafting the perfect image in the camera, they know they can fix it in post. No hot chocolate for them, no smell of the Jeffrey Pines. No memories other than the photograph.

Where would you rather spend your time? Perfecting the image in camera on location, or spending the majority of your time behind a computer trying to fix the image in post? This answer should not be difficult. What draws photographers to landscape photography is the promise of long afternoons hiking up to the perfect spot and setting up the camera, the sole focus for the next few hours is to get the shot, nothing more.

To ensure you can maintain this lifestyle, you will need a couple accessories in your camera bag. While you can find lists of up to 30 must have accessories, you really just need a few essentials to get started, the rest is up to your creative vision. You cannot buy that, nor can you buy experience. So get out there!

Landscape Photography

Landscape Photography Filters

Polarizing Filter

A polarizing filter is great for stopping down the entire image. It will reduce glare from reflective surfaces, like water or even from leaves, by stopping down up to 3 stops, depending on which filter you purchase. A polarizing filter will also help to increase saturation in an image. While you may think these are easily replicable in post-processing, there are certain aspects of reducing glare that will be difficult to adjust in Lightroom, requiring more advanced knowledge of the program.

Neutral Density Filter

While you may be able to get away with not carrying a polarizing filter in your bag, a neutral density filter is a must. These filters are offered anywhere from 3-10 stops on average. What’s great about a neutral density filter is it’s ability to block out light, which will allow you to adjust one or more of you camera settings to more of an extreme. You can see this in an image of a waterfall or river, where the water is blurred, the result of a long exposure. The neutral density filter allowed for the slow shutter speed, while still maintaining proper exposure in the image. This is something you could not achieve in post-processing.

Landscape Photography

Graduated Neutral Density Filter

A graduated neutral density filter works in much the same way as a neutral density filter, but as the name suggests, the filter intensity fades from one end to the other. The purpose of this is for scenes where the sky is too bright when exposed for the landscape. We’ve all seen images like this, where the sky is blown out. Just having a graduated neutral density filter can make the difference between an ok and mind-blowing landscape photograph. While this can be applied in post processing as well, getting it right in camera will ensure the most natural looking image, while allowing for more time in the field and less at your computer. Where would you rather process your image? In front of a beautiful landscape or inside on your computer. Again, not a hard choice to make.

Landscape Photography

Other Must-Have Accessories

Tripod

An essential accessory for landscape photography, a tripod will allow for those beautiful long exposure shots of star trails and blurred waterfalls. Even if you are shooting a classic landscape image, a tripod is essential to have, in case exposure requires a slow shutter speed. This will happen often, when you want the entire sweeping landscape in focus. The wide aperture requires a slower shutter speed, and increasing ISO introduces more noise into the image. When shooting blurred water to create a dreamy landscape, you’ll need to pair your neutral density filter with a tripod, otherwise there’s no way to achieve this look. When deciding which tripod to get, first confirm what you need. Does it need to be lightweight? Will it get wet? Does it need to hold up heavy lenses? Once you know what you are looking for, then you can narrow down your options and decide which to buy based on price point. There are options at every price point now.

Landscape Photography

Remote Shutter Release

Pairing well with a tripod, a remote shutter release will ensure there is no camera shake when taking long exposures. Even with a camera on a tripod, the act of pressing the shutter can cause unwanted blur. Remove shutter releases are inexpensive and small, not taking up much space in your bag. It really adds no extra bulk to carry one along with you, you’ll be happy to have it. It could even force you to become more creative with your shooting, trying multiple long exposure options where you normally would shoot handheld. It could add a new dimension to your photography.

Landscape Photography

While there are more accessories you can carry in your landscape photography, these are the essentials. Don’t get bogged down thinking you need a ton of gear just to get a good image. You can take beautiful photographs without even using the above. The most important is to get out there with what you have and start shooting. Buying more accessories will not make you a better photographer if you don’t know your camera. As your skills grow, so too can your equipment, but for now, keep it simple and enjoy the journey.

Mastering Travel Photography: Avoiding Cliche Travel Shots

You’ve finally saved up for that amazing trip! You can’t wait to get some great shots to help build your portfolio. But, you don’t want to travel only to take the same, overshot image of that iconic place. And how demotivating is it to walk up and see hundreds of other people doing the same thing? But isn’t it funny that you always see the hundreds of other photographers standing in the same spot? Having other photographers around doesn’t mean you can’t get a unique image. Just, avoid standing where they are. Follow the below to help in avoiding cliche travel shots and get unique images of iconic places.

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Do Your Research

Before traveling, do your research to begin planning out your ideas and shot list. This includes actually knowing what the cliche images are! Otherwise, how would you know what to avoid? You should also plan out some shot ideas to avoid the cliches. Of course, this is not meant to be a hard schedule, it should be a guideline, something to adjust if needed. Some travel photographers prefer to wait until they are in a new place to figure out the story. This way, it is a more natural process. Even so, doing research beforehand will help give you an idea what to expect. You may learn an interesting fact that could change the way you shoot in a location. Before going to Porto, I learned JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book while living in the city.  This changed the way I walked around the city. I found small details of buildings I could reference back to the Harry Potter books. It was so much fun! If I hadn’t done the research, I may not have known this fact until after I left. As a photographer and Harry Potter fan, this would have been frustrating and heart-breaking!

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Golden Hour

The time of day you shoot can be the difference between a hobbyist and full-time pro. How often do you see people shooting iconic landmarks smack in the middle of the day? D’oh! If you were there at the right time of day, you would have a higher quality image. Shoot the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. During the day when the sun is brightest, shoot indoors or be aware where the sun is. Using a reflector can help reflect light where you want it to go.

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Walk Around

First, assess the scene. What do you see? What do you want to capture? Take a nice walk around the scene. Search for interesting angles or actions happening. What does this subject look like from the side? Look up, look for ways to shoot down. Walk across the street and see what it looks like far away versus up close. Try shooting a few frames and see how they come out. How can you improve them? Does the image tell a story? It can be a good idea to walk away from the subject for a while as explore something new. Come back to it another time (if timing permits) with fresh eyes. This can change your perspective.

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Shoot a Portrait

Try finding someone interesting who would be willing to let you shoot a portrait of them. If you are near a famous landmark, this will be easy. Everyone enjoys a good photo of themselves, even more in front of a famous location. Play with aperture, blur out the landmark. It’s interesting the Eiffel Tower blurred in the background. Most would make it the main focus. Maybe it is an interaction between people or a candid unposed image. That will give you a unique spin on that location. Moments are singular and will never again occur in exactly the same way.

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Shoot Daily Life

Expanding on the above, try to create a sort of environmental street portrait. Look for a scene which speaks to the emotion of the place. It could be an interaction between a local couple, or a street vendor and tourists. Add the element of the landmark to your background to give it a sense of place. You will tell a story of daily life in this location, in a more interesting way than just each element on its own.

Avoiding cliche shots in travel photography is not difficult to do. Even though there are other photographers around, you can still walk away with a unique image. All you need is a plan and to do your research. Learn what to avoid and brainstorm how to avoid it. Take a nice walk around, get to know the locals, ask questions. A new world will open up before you if you just start a conversation and take an interest in the people and culture. This care and emotion reflect in the images. You’ll walk away with a great story and a better image.

Do you know your photo edit limits?

We are living awesome times regarding to technical advances. Our digital cameras improve every year, the optical of our lenses is high quality, and our photos have better resolution than ever. Also the software for photo editing is in continuum evolution. Photoshop, Lightroom… their editing capacities seem endless.  We can do easily some basic adjustments: hue, exposure, contrast, saturation, clarity or other similar features to improve the look of a photograph. It is what we call enhancement. But we can also clone out objects/persons from the frame; add interesting skies that were not there before, make eyes bigger, people slimmer… (manipulation). These software tools made us free to do as many things as we want. But the fact that we can do what we want means that we should do it? Is it ethical editing photos? Should be define our photo edit limits? The answer to this question is not as easy as it seems.

Photo edit limits
This is the Raw photo. Straight form the camera

Photo edit limits

This is the same photo after I did some enhancements in order to achieve the look I wanted (I darkened the background, I cropped and straightened the photo, adjust contrast, clarity and some other features). I also did some modifications because I deleted the two little bugs that were sitting on the flower and a lighter area next to the flower (lower right corner). I delete them because I found them distracting.

Do an internet search about ethics in photo editing or photo manipulation and you will find all sort of opinions about this subject. Some people think that photo editing is not right, especially when you are talking about photojournalism. Other people believe that photo editing is part of the photographic creative process. They say that photos have always being manipulated somehow. In the past photographers used the dark room to apply their manipulations. Now we do it in a computer. But there is has always been some kind of photo editing.

Photo edit limits

I enjoy editing my photos. In this one I played with Photoshop filters just to give a more painterly look to the photos.

The limits of how much photo edition is acceptable seem to be dependent on the photography field.  In case of photojournalism, there are ethical codes. Although excessive manipulations are not accepted, minor ones usually do. Unfortunately there are no clear standards that define the differences between minor and excessive photo manipulations. Oxford’s university’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in association with World Press Photo published a report on “The State of News Photography”. The report contains the results of a survey done to the photographers that entered the World Press Photo Competition of 2015.  1549 photographers completed the survey. They answered 63 questions about diverse subjects, including ethics. Almost 73% of the photographers said that they never manipulate their photos (meaning adding or removing elements). So it seems that manipulation is avoided for most of the photographers (notice that I said “most of”. The other 27% manipulate photos at some level sometimes). The answer about photo enhancement was more diverse. Just 9.4% of the photographers admitted never enhancing their photos. All the rest (90.6%) enhanced their photos sometimes (32.7%), half of the time (7.1%), often (21.8%) or even always (28.9%).  They also asked them if they follow ethical guidelines. The answer was interesting:  26% followed their company’s ethical codes and 58% their own standards. This means that more than half of the pictures are subjected to just individual ethical restrictions. Is this right? How do we know the type of editions that the photo we have in front has suffered? Just enhancement? A minor manipulation? What does minor manipulation means for the author of the photo? All these are difficult questions, aren’t they?

Photo edit limits

Did I edit this photo? Although it might seem a pretty simple photo (just a flower), it is also an edited photo. Here I enhanced the sky ad I increased the contrast and the saturation to make the photo more vibrant.

On the other side of the scale we have fine art photography. This field totally relies on photo editing. Fine art photographers use all the available tools to show their internal vision of reality. Fine art photographers are usually Photoshop masters too. However, things are not so clear in other fields. Fashion photography is not subjected to the photojournalism code of ethics. Does this mean that they can alter the image of a model to create an unrealistic view of beauty? How does this affect to the public? And what about nature photography? And landscape? Are the manipulations we do to enhance skies or to delete garbage acceptable?

Photo edit limits

Landscapes are also subjected to enhancements and modifications. I usually enhance the skies and I delete all the garbage I can.

After all this information, it is your turn: To edit, or not to edit: that is the question. You already saw how subjective this issue is. I will share with you my personal decisions about the subject.

My edition boundaries:

  • I do modify backgrounds in order to make them look cleaner: I delete garbage and objects that might distract from the main object of my photo.
  • I do enhance the general appearance of a background: I do basic adjustments and I apply presets if they can save me time or they can help me achieve my photographic vision.
  • I do enhance the look of my models: I keep my models natural and I just do light adjustments to add brightness to their eyes, skin and eyes. I delete pimples and red skin.
  • I do not change the body shape of my model or delete permanent marks (such as beauty marks). I do not change the color of their eyes or hair.
  • I do inform my clients of all the modifications and enhancements I will do to their pictures.
  • I do not hide the type of enhancements and modifications I do to my photos.
Photo edit limits
I do edit my portraits. I usually do basic enhancements and if I modify something, it is the background (to clean it) or some pimples or red skin. I do add brightness to the eyes, skin and hair. But I always keep my model as natural as possible.

Take into account that I am a portrait and nature photographer. I do not do photojournalism or fashion photography. I enjoy editing my photos and I consider it part of the creation of my photography. However, I try always to be respectful and think of the consequences of my editions. Might my editions be harmful to somebody? If the answer is yes, I won’t apply these editions. I hope my point of view will inspire you to define your own photo edition limits.

Lofoten – A Northern Jewel for Landscape Photographers

One of the interesting aspects of photography is that every type of subject presents different challenges and differs not only from a technical point of view, but also from the location where photographers need to look for those specific subjects.

Landscape photography is not an exception and, most of the time, is closely tied to traveling, which only adds an extra factor of enjoyment to it. Now, there are some places that are simply perfect for landscape photography, and if I had to make a list of those places, I am sure Lofoten would make quite high on that list.

In this post I want to give you an insight on what you can expect when visiting this amazing place. Since I am not intending to provide you with a travel guide, I will not go into many practical details about visiting the archipelago. Instead, I give a very general overview as well as some information on what to expect as a photographer.

Lofoten is an archipelago located within the arctic circle in northern Norway. The whole archipelago is formed by a series of small islands linked together by the E10 European road that connects mainland Norway to the islands reaching the southernmost town that has the characteristic name of Å.

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Even though some buses do travel daily between the mainland and different parts of the archipelago, probably the best way to explore Lofoten is by renting a car in Narvik and going at your own pace. After all, it is not unusual to simply spot a wonderful spot while driving and it is really easy to park at one side of the road, take out your photography gear, and capture a shot that looks like taken out of a photography magazine.

While you head south, you will find yourself driving between the blue waters of the open sea, majestic mountains and small colorful villages. Also, depending on the season, you might find a dramatic landscape completely covered in snow, or a combination of green meadows and rocky mountains.

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Another reason to select among the different seasons is that, being so far north, the light conditions change dramatically. While the midnight Sun is present in summer with 24 hours of daylight, in winter with some planning and a bit of luck, you might be able to experience one of the most amazing natural phenomena, the northern lights.

From one of the largest towns in the archipelago, Svolvær, it is possible to hire whale watching tours, even though this kind of activities might be easier to book in the summer months.

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There are also countless opportunities for outdoor activities including hiking and climbing and, due to a temperature anomaly, the temperatures rarely go below -5°, which is quite remarkable given the high latitude at which the archipelago is located.

In terms of accommodation, there is a large variety of options, including normal hotels, typical fisher’s cabins and even camping. In that sense, a trip to Lofoten can feel like a hybrid between a road trip and a hiking trip, making it possible to experience the outdoors and views that are usually reserved for remote locations while having the comfort of your car only a few meters away.

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In addition to the fabulous landscapes, Lofoten can provide wonderful sights related to the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Being fishing the main commercial activity, it does not come as a surprise that the atmosphere of the whole archipelago is somehow influenced by this. Not only are the villages shaped around this main activity, but it is also possible to find places around the islands where racks with stockfish are lined up.

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In summary, Lofoten is definitely a place to visit if one of your interests in photography is landscapes. While the weather is not particularly bad, as with any other destination, you can always encounter overcast days or rain/snow depending on the time of the year you visit the archipelago. For this reason, a good planning in advance will definitely pay off.

However, in contrast to other more common destinations, while Lofoten has seen an increase in visitors during the last years, it still is a relatively pristine destination. This means that, even though some places like Reine (a very scenic town in one of the islands, pictured in the first image of this post) have been photographed thousands of times and you can find pictures of them almost everywhere, a lot of the views are yet to be discovered, meaning that you can still go there and come back with a good amount of nice and original photos.

Introduction to Landscape Photography

Content

  • Introduction
  • Before you get started
  • Planning – Location and time
  • Technique – Camera settings (HDR, depth of field etc) and composition etc
  • Post-processing
  • Publishing

Introduction

Four years ago my passion for photography started and the main reason for this was that I explored the beauty of landscape photography. I wanted to get some wonderful wallpapers for my desktop but found myself astounded by the art that is landscape photography instead, I could browse landscape wallpapers for hours. My interest in landscape photography grew and getting my first camera I started doing it myself, today my landscape photography have progressed a lot and I hope to share some tips that will help anyone getting started with landscape photography.farsbooktober2014-10

Before You Get Started

There are of course no definite rules of what you need before you get started but there are some things that I recommend you have and some basic knowledge of photography. In terms of equipment, I recommend that you at least have a camera, lens(es), tripod and a computer with photo editing software (preferably Lightroom and/or Photoshop). That you need a camera is obvious, but what kind of camera? First of all, it needs to take good photos, but there are some other capabilities that are more or less a must. This includes the capability for interchangeable lenses, manual settings, and RAW-format. I recommend having a DSLR from one of the bigger brands since this will give you a wide array of lenses to choose from and a greater possibility to upgrade your equipment within the brand (so that you don’t need to buy new lenses when/if you decide to get a camera upgrade). Any newer DSLR will do just fine, but if you can afford it a full frame camera that is great (don’t be afraid to buy used cameras and lenses), there are also mirrorless cameras that would be suitable, but unless size and weight are important issues I would stick to a DSLR.      photographer-1031249_1920As with any type of photography the lenses are of great importance in landscape photography, and there are three types of lenses that will fill all your needs, these are the normal zoom lens (usually somewhere around 24-70mm equivalent to a full frame sensor, 18-55 on a cropped sensor), the ultra wide angle zoom lens (usually somewhere around 12-35mm equivalent) and the telephoto zoom lens (usually somewhere around 70-300mm). If you have all of these lenses you will be able to capture all types of landscape photography. I recommend that you buy lenses with a big aperture like f/2,8 if you can afford it, but there are cheaper alternatives that work great as well. Depending on your style of photography you will use different lenses more than others, personally, I use my normal zoom lens (24-70mm f/2,8) the most since I find it to be plenty wide for most situations and I also have the possibility to capture tighter images as well.dawn-1284235_1920I would also recommend that you use a tripod for landscape photography, and while it isn’t completely necessary I find that it makes you slow down and think more about the process, such as composition. A tripod will also help you eliminate blurry photos and is a must if you plan to take long exposures. Be sure to use a sturdy tripod that won’t wobble around too much. Another tip for when using a tripod is to also use a cable release so you won’t have to touch your camera, and in that way producing slightly blurred photos. You could also set a timer to eliminate this risk. There is various other equipment that you can use, primarily filters. If you want to achieve long exposures in the daytime you have to use a strong ND-filter, and a circular polarizer is great to have at hand to reduce glare and increase vibrance in photos.filter-1259839_1920For post-processing, you can use whatever software you like, but for some more advanced features, Adobe Photoshop is the way to go. I really like working with Lightroom as well, as it is easy to manage and very powerful.This guide will not be going over how the technical aspects of your camera work, like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, so if you are not yet comfortable with these aspects of photography I recommend that you read about it. I would say it is essential to know these things if you want to achieve great landscape photography.

Planning a Landscape Shoot

Before you head out to capture amazing landscape photos you need to make some sort of plan, it can be very detailed but it is often good enough to make a general plan. There are three basics in planning a landscape shoot, these are location, time of day and look at the photo/composition. Before you go you should, of course, know the location you are heading to, maybe you have scouted the location the day before or earlier the same day, or maybe you have just found a certain spot through other photographers photos on the internet. Often you will be taking photos in locations that you have never been to before and if you don’t have time to come back to a location several times it can be a good idea to research the place beforehand through sites like 500px. By doing this you will get some inspiration for what photos you want to capture when you arrive at the location. If you are staying in the same place for a longer period I would recommend that you spend a bit more time on scouting locations that you can go to when the time is right, for example during golden hour.branches-325411_1920Time of day is crucial when it comes to landscape photography since we are dependent on the weather and light gave to us by mother nature. We simply have to adapt to mother nature. As a rule of thumb, you should try to capture landscapes during golden hour. That is the hour (give and take) during sunset and sunrise. At this time the light cast by the sun is the most beautiful, and since we are usually trying to take beautiful photos this is the best time for landscape photographers. But of course, you can capture landscapes at different times as well, for example, long exposures during the night or on cloudy days. At least you want to avoid broad daylight since it makes everything very flat and boring. Lastly, you have to plan how you want the photo to look, this is, of course, dependent on the time of day and location but it is good to have an idea about composition and subjects among other things before you arrive at the location. paddle-839814_1920   When I took the photo you can see below I was staying with some acquaintances for two nights, in a beautiful small village at Österlen, Sweden. When I first arrived in the evening I went down to the sea to scout for a location (I didn’t bother taking the photos I wanted at this time since I knew it would be much better at sunrise the next day) and I found two spots that I really liked. I used an app to find out in what direction the sun would rise the next day and decided to try to capture an image where the lines formed by the rocks in the foreground were leading the eye of the viewer towards the rising sun. So the next morning I woke up at about 04.00 (4 AM) to capture the photo I had envisioned the previous day. The sun rose approximately 04.30, but the things you do for great photos… My plan worked out great and I got this photo that I am very happy about.      ÖsterlenApril2014-113

Technique

A big part of photography is technique since we must know how to use our cameras and how to compose a photo to get the best results. I won’t go over in detail how to set up you camera and how the technical aspects of your camera work but rather focusing on the specifics for landscape photography. Some keywords in landscape photography are sharpness and correct exposure. To achieve sharpness you have to use the appropriate aperture, make sure you have focused your lens at the right distance and that there is no risk for blur. Since we want the entire landscape in focus most of the time we should use a smaller aperture. This will also depend on your focal length since the depth of field is smaller on lenses with longer focal lengths. I usually never go below f/8 for my landscape photos, unless it is very dark or I’m using a super wide angle lens (like 16mm equivalent or below). The aim is to have as much of the scene in focus as possible, without having a too small aperture (since that might lead to softer photos). Somewhere around f/8 to F/16 is usually suitable for landscape photography. You also want to make sure that you focus your lens somewhere a third into the frame, which usually is the foreground. If you focus too far back the foreground will be out of focus, but if you focus on the foreground the background will most likely be in focus if you are using a fairly small aperture.dog-190056_1280It is also important that you eliminate any risks of camera shake, by using either a shorter shutter speed (the shutter speed should be no less than the focal length of your lens, so if you are using a 24mm lens the shutter speed should at least be 1/24th of a second) or a tripod. If you are shooting hand-held it is recommended that you use vibration reduction if your lens (or camera) has it (keep in mind that it is called different names depending on the brand). Additionally, It is very important that you have a correct exposure, no matter if you are shooting JPEG or RAW (recommended). Something that really can ruin landscape photos is overexposure, usually meaning that there is no possibility to recover blown highlights in the sky. It is also horrible to have such underexposure that the colors are destroyed by noise when you try to recover the shadows. You should aim for an exposure were highlights are bright (but not blown) and shadows bright enough to increase them a little bit in post-process (if needed). You should rather have a bit darker shadows than to bright highlights. Another option is to use the technique HDR (High Dynamic Range) where you take several photos with different exposures and combine in post-processing, leading to an image with both no blown highlights and bright shadows.waterfall-192984_1280Another very important technical aspect of landscape photography is composition. This is such an important part that is impossible to cover thoroughly but there are some basic tips for landscape composition that you need to know.One important part of composing landscape photos is the rule of thirds. According to this rule, the horizon should be placed either at the top or bottom third, but absolutely not in the middle. This is to create a balanced photo, but of course, there are some exceptions, for example when there is reflection, then it can be nice to place the middle of the reflection in the middle of the frame.

 

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Another tip is to take advantage of leading lines. You can use lines in photos to lead the viewer to where you want them to look. Lines should be leading into the frame and not out from it since you want the viewer to look at the photo and not be distracted. For example, you can use a stream leading towards a mountain or a path leading the viewer from the foreground to the main subject as leading lines.

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Post-Processing

When you are back after a landscape shoot the work is not done yet. What you do with the pictures after they have been taken is crucial to creating a fantastic image. I would almost say that it is in post-processing you turn the photograph from an image file to a piece of art. If you decide to shoot in RAW-format you will have much greater artistic freedom when you edit the photos, since RAW files have much more data in them, meaning you can change exposure and color to a greater extent. I use Lightroom for most of my editing and they use Photoshop for more advanced edits of my favorite photos.When I edit photos I usually try to enhance elements that are already in the picture. But first I create a base edit where I make sure that the exposure and contrast are what I want and then I go on to more in-depth editing, like modifying tones and details of the image. before-afterI highly recommend that you check out the different bundles for landscape photography that Sleeklens has to offer, they are a great and easy way to make your images look fantastic, and by combining different presets you can create completely unique looks.

Photoshop: Landscape Adventure Collection

Lightroom: Landscape Essentials Workflow

Conclusion

I hope you have found this short guide useful and that you will be comfortable to start exploring the wonderful field of landscape photography. This guide has just scratched on the top of an extensive subject and I recommend that you continue reading other guides that can help you get a better understanding for each part of the process, like the composition. Good luck with your landscape photography!

Orton effect – Creating dreamy images in Photoshop

Even though nowadays a large majority of the images produced daily are taken with a digital camera and even though the post-processing has become something familiar to every photography enthusiast, many of the techniques we use to enhance our images actually come from the era of film photography.

On this entry, I want to talk about a special filter that is quite commonly used in portrait photography and that has become popular in landscape photography as well: the Orton effect.

Introduced in the 1980s by photographer Michael Orton, the result obtained from applying it to an image is what can be described as a ‘dreamy effect’. If you have ever used some kind of plug-in software for Photoshop such as Color Effex, you might know this as ‘Glamour Glow’ and, when carefully used, it can produce very interesting final results.

Orton effect in Photoshop

You don’t actually need any plugin to obtain the same effect in Photoshop, though. The Orton effect is just a combination of two images, each of them with specific characteristics. The two images are of the same subject with the main difference being the focus. While the base image needs to be perfectly in focus, the overlaid one is out of focus. The opacity of this top image will affect the strength of the effect on the final image.

Luckily, with the tools available with Photoshop, you don’t even need to shoot different images with different focus. You can simply use a blurring filter in order to get an out-of-focus version of the image you want to process. What you need, though, is a sharply focused image on the first place.

Take, for instance, this image of the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, Germany.

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This is a classic capture of this amazing structure, built by the King Ludwig II of Bavaria and that has served as inspiration for the famous Cinderella castle, located in two of Disney’s theme parks.

Given the nature of the subject, even when the original capture can already show the magnificence of the structure itself and the location, the image can still benefit from some post-processing and it serves as a good example for the dreamy look that the Orton effect can provide.

The first step is to duplicate the original layer in Photoshop. Even though the basic idea of the filter is the combination of two (or more) images with different focus, simply stacking a blurred layer on top of the original one will give an exaggerated effect. The following image was produced by applying a Gaussian blur to the top layer (radius of 40 px) and reducing the opacity in order to combine both layers.

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You can see that the ‘dreamy’ effect is far too strong, making the image look more like foggy. The reason for this is how the blending of Photoshop works. For the image above, the blending mode was left in ‘Normal’, meaning that the layer is simply placed on top of the background layer and the opacity will just make a linear combination of both images.

Another problem with using the ‘Normal’ blending mode is that the final result of the Orton effect tends to darken the original image so a blending mode that increases the brightness of the dark areas is desired. An ideal one for this purpose is the ‘Screen’ mode. So what you need to do is, with the top layer selected, go to Image -> Apply Image… and select your background layer (here simply called ‘Background’) and ‘Screen’ on the Blending drop-down menu.

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This will give an overexposed version of your original image, but still retaining some details on the brightest regions. The next step is to duplicate the top layer. Once you have three layers, apply a Gaussian blur to the top one (Filters -> Gaussian blur…). The amount of blur to apply is not so important right now, since its effect on the final result can be controlled with the opacity of the layer, as we will see in the next step. The image below is a blurred version of the original image with a radius of 30.

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Next, merge the two top layers into one by selecting both layers at the same time and then right click -> Merge Layers so that you end up with only two layers. Finally, by changing the blending mode to ‘Multiply’, you get the final image with the Orton effect applied.

At first, the image will look too dark and the effect might be also too strong, so you can adjust the opacity of the layer until you are happy with the results. The image below was produced with an opacity of 70%. Additionally, I masked the effect with a layer mask around the trees and increased the overall brightness to counteract the effect of the Orton effect. In order to highlight the difference with the original image, I masked out the effect on the right side.

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And that’s it. As you can see, to achieve the effect requires only a couple of easy steps and, if used carefully, you can significantly enhance some of your images, so go ahead and try it and, if you have any question, just write me an email.

Giving life to the sky – Circular polarizer filter

Landscape photography is a complex subject with many variables that need to be taken into account when composing your image while having too little to no control at all in terms of the elements and illumination sources (except for fill flash, but that’s  a completely different subject). The whole capture process starts before leaving home when you are planning your photos and finishes when you are back at home while you post-process your images.

In order to make the post-processing stage as simple as possible, it is important that the image you get out of your camera is as close as possible to the final result you want to achieve.

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When capturing landscapes, the sky usually plays an important role in the composition and, apart from that, it is also one of the trickiest parts of the image when it comes to processing, mainly because any change in local contrast leads to an increase in appreciable noise.

In this post, we will look at a simple way of getting good structure and local contrast in the sky while capturing your image. It basically involves the use of circular polarizer filters.

Circular polarizer filters

Light is everywhere. All our lives are affected by it and, in face, life would not be possible without it. However, it still is one of the most complex elements in nature. Light is the visual part of the so-called electromagnetic spectrum that goes from the low frequency radio waves to high frequency gamma rays.

One of the strangest things about light is that it behaves both as particles (photons) and as waves and it is this latter characteristic that allows polarizer filters to work. Light can be seen as electromagnetic waves being propagated in space and as such, the magnetic field and the electric field can travel at different angles and this affects how light gets into the sensor of your camera.

Now, without complicating things further, let’s take that last sentence for granted and focus on what matters from the point of view of photography. Circular polarizer filters basically achieve a specific polarization that has the main effects of enhancing local contrast, especially on the sky, eliminate reflections on windows and the light scattering on water surfaces.

The following image was taken on a sunny day with the Sun relatively high on the sky, without any filter.

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Notice how, even though the sky has some clouds, the contrast between the blue sky and the white clouds is quite low. Now, by only adding a polarizer filter, a dramatic improvement is achieved as shown in the next image (no post-processing has been applied to any of the photos).

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Even though both pictures were taken within a few seconds of each other, the improvement in the sky is remarkable. There is also a change in the colors, like for instance the green of the grass and the trees, which seems to be a bit darker and more saturated on the second image. Also, since the polarizer is blocking part of the light spectrum, the second image is darker in general. To demonstrate the effect of the filter, I did not change the exposure time from one image to the other, but when using polarizer filters, it is often necessary to make small adjustments in the exposure time or aperture in order to compensate for the reduced light reaching the sensor.

The two images above were taken with the two extreme positions of the filter, but it is of course possible to apply a subtler effect by rotating the filter a smaller angle.

A great advantage of getting the right structure on the sky before post-processing is the reduced amount of noise that can be achieved. The next image shows a side-by-side comparison of the sky before (right) and after (left) applying the filter.

pol5

Even though the increase in contrast and structure was very pronounced, there is no noticeable increase in the noise. This is expected, since the way the sensor is capturing the incoming light did not change. If the image was captured without the filter and then post-processed to get a similar effect to that of applying the filter, the final result would contain a significant amount of noise, making the post-processing way more complicated.

The following image is a poorly post-processed version of the original capture without the filter, in an attempt to achieve similar contrast to the one obtained using the polarizer. Further processing steps can of course be taken to reduce the noise, but the point I want to make is precisely to show the effort that can be saved by simply using a filter.

pol6

So my final suggestion is, if you enjoy landscape photography and still don’t own a polarizer filter, go out and get one. Depending on what you want to achieve and your budget, you will find many options in the market but even having a cheap one will make an instant difference in your final images, so don’t hesitate too much and go for it. And as usual, if you have any questions, just write me an email!

Replacing an overcast sky in Photoshop

Unless you are a professional landscape or travel photographer, your resources when it comes to photography are limited. This not only includes the availability of gear, but also the time you can afford to spend at different locations to make your planned photos. Also, unless you are incredibly lucky, you must have been standing right on the spot you envisioned so many times with all your gear and ready to press the shutter button only to realize that the scene is almost perfect but the sky is simply dull. This could be due to an overcast day or even a completely cloudless day!

sky1

My main interests in photography are travel and landscape and I always try to get the images I want right out of my camera or at least get images that require minimum post-processing before I publish them somewhere on the internet. However, if the above described situation occurs to me and I definitely don’t have the money to go back to that same spot some other day with adequate weather, I think doing a bit of cheating and fixing the sky in Photoshop is relatively harmless. After all, you can always state that in your posts so that no one can accuse you of being dishonest if you want.

Replace a sky on a photo is not a very hard thing to do with a powerful software such as Photoshop. The difficulty lies in making the final result look credible which basically involves a smooth transition between the foreground of the original photo and the new sky as well as matching the color saturation and luminosity of both parts.

sky2

Take, for instance, the above image from the Isle of Skye in Scotland, UK. Even though the landscapes on Skye are unique, a dull sky like the one on the picture makes the scene looks like a completely uninteresting one. We were traveling through Scotland and stayed on Skye for only three days and, given the infamous Scottish weather, we were lucky enough not to be soaked in rain all the time, but not so much as to have clear, blue skies.

A completely different story comes from a trip we made to Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, Spain. Even though we were there in winter, there was not a single day without perfect skies. Sunny days with few clouds on the sky, just the right amount to give dynamism to an otherwise perfectly blue sky.

skies1

So what we are going to do now is take the sky from the photo from Lanzarote and use it in the one from the Isle of Skye. The first thing we need to do is select the sky on the second picture. There are different ways to select specific areas of an image in Photoshop. The two I use the most are Color Range (Select -> Color Range…) and the Magic Wand Tool (located on the tools panel on the left).

This time I used the Color Range tool. Once you open it, you will have the option to control the Fuzziness, which is like a threshold for how sensitive the tool will be. You will usually have to try with different values for this one until you find what works better for what you want to select. What you are telling Photoshop is to select all the pixels in the image with a color similar to the one you select with the eyedropper that appears while on the Color Range tool.

For this image, I left the Fuzziness at 64 and had to select different areas of the sky to make sure the blue as well as the clouds were selected in the end. Once you have a color selected, you can keep adding new ones by pressing Shift on your keyboard before clicking with the mouse on the areas you are interested in.

sky3

The image above shows the final selection. Once we click ‘Ok’, the sky will be selected so we just copy the selection (ctrl+c) and paste it in the image from Skye. The new image with both layers looks terrible. This is because the shapes of the skies in both images is different and there is a mismatch in luminosity as well.

sky4

So the first thing we need to do is change the shape of the new sky so that it covers all the sky regions on the original image. The match does not need to be good at all. We just need to cover the white region of the overcast sky on the left. For this, the Free Transform (Edit -> Free Transform) tool can be used.

Then, we select the overcast sky on the original image. For this, we make the top layer (the blue sky) invisible and, with the bottom layer highlighted, we select the sky with any tool we like. This time I used the Magic Wand Tool. With this tool you will have to play a bit with the tolerance. I usually use relatively low values, between 1 and 10. With larger numbers, more pixels will be selected with each mouse click. Again, by pressing the ‘Shift’ key while selecting we can keep the previous selections and add new ones. With the ‘Alt’ key we can remove parts of the selection, in case we end up selecting some areas we did not want to.

The Magic Wand Tool has the particularity that only surrounding pixels will be selected, in contrast to the Color Range Tool that will select pixels with similar color, no matter where those are.

Once we have the sky selected (keep in mind that the regions close to the horizon can have colors similar to those of the sky, so be careful when selecting those regions; decrease the tolerance if you are having troubles getting the right selection), we save the selection in case we want to do some changes later on. You can do this by going to Select -> Save Selection… and giving a name of your choice to the selection. Then, you invert the selection (Select -> Inverse), make the top layer visible, highlight it and press ‘Del’.

sky5

Now, here is where ‘credible’ becomes important. There are a few issues with the image above that need to be fixed. First, the saturation of the colors need to be similar on the top and the bottom parts; otherwise, the sky will look fake no matter what we do. Second, the transition from the horizon to the sky needs to be subtle.

To solve the first problem, we load the selection we saved before (Select -> Load Selection…) and we change the saturation of the selection until it matches the foreground. This is a subjective step and how much we decrease or increase the saturation will depend on what we like. Here, I decreased the saturation to -40.

sky6

The image starts to look more realistic, but we still need to change smoothen the transition between the foreground and the sky. For this, we merge down the Hue/Saturation layer with the sky layer (Layer 1 in the image above) and create a layer mask. With the layer mask, what we want to do is to reduce the opacity of the sky layer close to the horizon. We do this by selecting the Brush Tool with an opacity of around 50% and a relatively large radius (I used 1900 px for this image) and paint over all the line of the horizon.

Be careful with this last step, since this will define whether your sky looks realistic or not. Play with the opacity but in the end, for the regions close to the horizon, the final opacity needs to be of 100%. You achieve this by passing the Brush Tool several times until you see no transition at all. The final result, after adding some contrast, warmth and vignetting can be appreciated in the following image.

_MG_6171_1024_nob

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. It might be a bit tricky to get the results you want at first, but with practice you will be surprised in the end. Try this with some of your photos and don’t hesitate to write me an email if you have any question!

Enhance your Images with Split Toning in Lightroom

Let’s take a look at Split Toning Lightroom to help you on your Freelancing journey or just to groom your photoshop skills and see how that can get photographers the best out of our images or photos.

Our range of Presets use Split Toning incorporated into them, so definitely check those out if you want to see a wide variety.

 For this tutorial, we’ll be looking at exactly how to use this. While Presets do this at the click of a button, Lightroom Split Toning will require just a little bit more patience, trial and error to achieve the look you are happy with.

So let’s start with the split tone or tones of the photos.

Split Toning

The addition of two different colors to shadows and highlights of a photo is known as split toning. It is a variation on toning where only one or two colors are added to the image. After reading this popular article, you will see your creative side getting enhanced.

We’ll start off with our standard image below that hasn’t been edited yet, and I’m thinking it’s a little dull and saturated.

Adobe Lightroom Split Toning will definitely add some great colours from it.

st1

Open up the Develop module and on the Right side, you can choose to use Split Toning 4th down on the list below HSL/Color/B&W.

st2

You now know where that is and you’ve had a quick look, we’ll come back to that in a minute.

Open Basic

First, we’re just going to tidy our image up a little and have a look at how the Basic panel can help out your image from the start. This step may not really be all that necessary because you might have already taken a pretty good image, but just in case improvements can be made, this is what I do.

These are the settings I would use for a landscape photo.

I add a little contrast first, anywhere from +20 to +30 should be enough.

Then, I put my Highlights down and my Shadows up.

With Blacks and Whites, I hold Alt then select or choose the hue Slider. You will see you screen Turn all White for the Black Slider and all Black for the White Slider, what you do is slide the Black to minus until you start to see Black dots appear on the White balance Screen, don’t go too far you want them to just start to appear. Then, do the exact same for the White balance Slider, only this time you slide right toward plus instead of minus. Choose sliders wisely and remember there are various colors that aren’t used more often such as blue, yellow, sepia, etc.

Now add a little Vibrance and Clarity, anywhere round +30 should be fine.

Remember these setting are not set in stone, so whatever you feel is good for you is good.

You can always go back later and adjust.

st3

Back to Slip Toning.

You will see Highlights and Shadows split tone or tones, this means that the Split Toner adjusts those colours separately.

To the Right of where it says shadows and highlights, you will see a Rectangle, when you click on that your colour picker will pop up.

That will allow you to directly select a colour with the Eye Dropper tool from the color wheel, which will affect all of the Highlights/Shadows of the image.

At the bottom of that pop-up, you will see a saturation slider with ”S” and a percentage, that indicates your Saturation (How greyed out colour can become, or how strong the colour can become)

You can use that to get precise colours or you can just hit the button and move around inside the pop-up, it is also on the lightroom split toning panel as well.

st4

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Shadows work in the exact same way.

 I’m going to use my Shadows to intensify the grass and Highlights to intensify the colours in the sky.

Try to work a balance here so you don’t get too much of one colour, the balance slider will assist you with that.

The cool thing with the Balance slider also, is you could make your image look more Winter-like by cooling everything towards the Blue side or more Summery by going the opposite way.

Then, you can go to your Basic Panel and Lighten or Darken to suit the feel with the Highlights and Shadows.

I would also give Vibrance a small tweek to intensify those colours just a little more if it Helps.

Have a look at the before and after of the image, and the difference that it has made. Check out the example that we have added –

Before.stbAfter.stb

 If you want to get great looking images or photos like these without having to go through this whole process, remember, we have lots of great Presets that will do this in a split second. All the photographers reading our post, remember, imagination is the key. Finally, we hope that this tutorial adds more value to your knowledge. For more tips on editing, read our other articles.

Quick-fix Your Pictures with Lightroom in 5 Easy Steps

Hi everybody, my name is Eduardo and this is my first Lightroom tutorial here in Sleeklens. For this first tutorial, I would like to show you a little trick I use when I’m in a hurry and want to do a quick-fix on a preview image for a project I’m working on, or for a set of pictures for a client to choose from. It’s very simple and only takes 5 easy steps. I recommend you check out the Lightroom Presets and brushes that Sleeklens sells if you want to create more professional edits.

Before and after

I’m going to use an image that I took a while back that unfortunately, was with too much highlight with the sky, clouds, and background blown out. So, I’m gonna tweak the tone control and bring those highlighted areas to life, increasing the details and washing the shadows a little bit. Above is the before and after, so you can see the difference. Let’s get started!

Step 1) The first step is to import the image into Lightroom, select it and go to develop mode. (in case you have no idea how to do this step, you can start with THIS tutorial)

Entering Develop Mode

Step 2) What we’ll basically do is make some adjustments in the tone controls, decreasing the shadows and highlights levels:

Basic Panel

In the basic panel, under the tone control tab, we’ll tweak the highlight levels until we can clearly see the details of the highlighted area coming to life (in my case, the mountains in the background). Also, we’ll increase the value of the shadows, that way we can soften the shadows a little bit, and the ending result will get closer to the ambient lighting at the very moment we’ve taken the picture, almost like an HDR picture. (you can check a great tutorial on how to add an HDR look to your BW photos HERE )

Adjusting Tone control

Step 3) To increase even more of the details in the highlight areas, we can also tweak the contrast and clarity controls, but it may vary from image to image. In my case I’ve used the values below:
Tewaking Contrast and Clarity

Step 4) The next thing we can do is to adjust the vibrance, located in the presence control tab, bringing the original colors back to the image. In these steps, you can work with different values depending on your style of post-processing and/or subject you´re shooting.

Vibrance control

Step 5) The final step is totally optional, but I like to tweak with the sharpening tool, located in the detail tab, so that way you can improve the quality of the image and sharpen some details in the foreground or background, that may get a little blurred when you took the picture.

Final Sharpening

This is the final result and we can note how really simple it is to improve your images, using only small tweaks and adjustments, and the final result is great!

Final Result

Hope you guys liked my first tutorial, and I’ve got plenty more to come. If you have any suggestions or doubts you can write a comment below or contact me directly. See you next time!

How to Create Panorama in Lightroom CC

Have you ever desired to take a panoramic photograph and your camera doesn’t have the panorama feature? Do you want to do panoramas without switching to Photoshop or other specialized software? Have you forgotten to take your wide angle lens with you on your vacation? Do not give up on the amazing scenery that is in front of you. Following this tutorial, all you will have to do is photograph some parts of the scene and the software will process your images to produce a panoramic image within Lightroom CC (2015).For those who are not familiar with Panoramic Photography, it is a technique of photography that captures a series of images using a photographic camera and aligns them all together, to make a single photograph with a wider aspect ratio than a commonly used photograph.

Before Lightroom CC (2015) came out, in order to stitch together multiple images, you needed to switch between Photoshop or use other specialized software. Even though there are some cameras that have the panorama feature built into them, but most professional DSLR cameras do not.

Recently, after the latest update, you can create your panorama images inside Lightroom CC itself. The best part is that after the software process all the images, it will create a brand new seamlessly stitched RAW file from the images without rendering the images in pixels, with this new raw file, you will be able to retouch the panorama preset in Lightroom as you would any other image. So, you have to know first how to install Lightroom preset and once it has been installed, you can now create your panorama images inside the Lightroom CC.

Panorama is a feature that has been missing for a long time in the software. In order to create breathtaking panoramas, just follow the simple steps below.

Step 1 – Take multiple shots with your camera

  • With your digital camera take multiple pictures from left to right or from bottom to top, depending on the scenery you have chosen.
  • After the first shot is taken, while shooting the subsequent photos, make sure to get a little bit of the scene of the previous image so that Lightroom has data to render them together.
  • If you are using a DSLR or a camera that can manually change its settings, do not change the aperture of the camera. For example, if you use an aperture opening of F11 make sure you use it in every single shot.
  • I did not use a tripod to shot the images used in this tutorial, although it is not crucial, the use of a tripod is recommended.

import

Step 2- Import your images into Lightroom

Import the images that you have photographed.

File/Import Photos and Video 

import_select

Step 3 – Select the images

Select all the images that will be used. Shift+click the first image and click on the last image in order to select all the images.

If your images are not in sequence, (cmd+click on the mac or ctrl+click on the PC) on each image to select them.

There is no need to adjust your images on the Develop Module at this stage. We will do it afterward, on the final image.

photomerge-panorama02

Step 4 – Merge the images 

After selecting the images, go ahead and merge them together.

Photo / Photo Merge / Panorama (cmd+M on the Mac or ctrl+M on the PC)

pano_autosphe

Panorama Merge Preview box will appear.

  • Auto Select Projection: Lightroom will choose automatically which projection fits better.
  • Spherical: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were inside a sphere. Best for wider or multi row panoramas.
  • Perspective: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were mapped to a flat dimension. Best for architectural photography.
  • Cylindrical: The images will be aligned and transformed as they were inside a cylinder. Best for wide panoramas, but with straight lines.
  • Auto Crop: The white edges will automatically be cropped. You can also crop it later on even crop it inside Photoshop, that way you can recover these white areas.

click Merge after the best settings are chosen.

After that, Lightroom will render all the images together. Depending on your machine it may take some time to do the renderings.

newpano

Step 5 – Adjust the final stitched image

The neat thing is that Lightroom creates a brand new RAW file, that means that you will end up with the maximum capability to edit your image.final01

Select the new file and adjust it on the Develop Module as you would normally do in any other image.

In the end, you will end up with a nice panoramic picture.  So, did you enjoy our tutorial?  You may want to check on other tutorials such as How to Correct White Balance in Photoshop and let me know if you find it helpful.

final02

 

Improve Your Photos with Landscape Vista by Sleeklens

As a part of our popular product “The Ultimate Lightroom Preset Bundle” we are going to go through the wonders that Landscape Vista presets can do for our pictures. In only a few clicks you can completely turn dull and inexpressive photos into beautiful works of art.

Start by opening Lightroom and selecting the picture you want to work with.

01_landscape_vista

If you have to import the images from your camera, you can always do it by clicking the Import button on Lightroom’s Library Module and setting the destination for where you want to import your images.

02_landscape_vista

As you can see, this set of presets offers us the chance of adding sunlight to the scene, like if the Sun was placed at a certain position of the scene, which can enhance the effect on this picture, as if it was inviting us to go into this forest.

03_landscape_vista

Or you can boost the tints of your image by using one of the ClassicBright Preset adjustments, in order to tune the image for a better quality.

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This package also offers some other really nice looking effects, like converting our picture to Black & White mode

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Sepia tones

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Travel back through time with Vintage tints

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And why not fall in love with pastels?

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But if we go back to the point where we were, all the image needs is a bit more detail, which I will add via Clarity Slider, and some good looking vignetting effect to get this appealing result.

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Now, let’s compare with a Before/After how Landscape Vista helped this image to stand out, by enhancing its qualities.

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The results speak for themselves, and now the image looks more pleasant and vivid for the public.

If you want to get really impressive results in only a few clicks, please take a look at our newest bundle “Through The Woods Workflow” – Meant for both amateurs and professionals, this bundle of presets and brushes can quickly turn your landscapes into professional pictures while conserving the intent of the photographer.

How to Use the Graduated Filter Tool in Lightroom

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of landscape photography is finding the perfect exposure, that will give you a well-lit landscape and a beautiful looking sky in one mesmerizing photo. Before digital went mainstream, the common tool was to use the graduated filter that would go in front of your lens, it is still widely used with digital technology as well. You also have the option to shoot with two exposures and stitch them together, but even if you ended up shooting only one image, you can still achieve a similar effect using the Graduated Filter tool in Lightroom.

In the example image, we see a landscape scene, showing green rolling hills and a mist covering an early morning valley. The image has potential, but the sky, unfortunately, looks overexposed and dull. The foreground could use some minor tweaking as well, to bring out the dark tones.  These are the two problems we will want to fix with the Graduated Filter tool.

What Lightroom Develop Module Tells Us

Begin by opening the image you want to be corrected in Lightroom and find the Develop module. In the develop module you will find the Graduated Filter tool – the fourth adjustment tool in the module. Alternatively, use the Keyboard shortcut “H” to access the tool.

lr develop

Once the tool is selected, hold the mouse and drag it down from the top of the image, towards the lower half. You want it to go comfortably over the land areas in your image for a more realistic final look. Naturally light scatters, it does not get cut off unless an object interferes with its path – we want the changes we make to the sky areas of the image to reflect that; therefore, we allow the adjustments to transition just a tiny bit into the foreground as well.

graduated filter

Fixing Common Mistakes

If the graduated filter you applied does not align with the horizon, rotate it by moving the mouse cursor towards the center of the filter. Once you are close enough, the mouse icon will change indicating you are able to rotate it. To prevent the graduated filter from misalignment in the first place, hold down the ‘Shift’ key when dragging it.

Once you have the graduated filter you will notice that it allows you to change a number of settings. They include: exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness and add color. The changes you make to these settings will only affect the area covered by the Graduated filter.

filter settings

What do we Use the Graduated Filter Tool for?

Since we aim to darken the sky, we begin by lowering the exposure levels. Lowering the exposure will also lower the highlights for that area, if you have clouds in your image, you will want to regain some of their whiteness by raising the contrast ratio. Making these changes to the image will usually increase the saturation of the image – adjust it accordingly.

filter settings2

Further, if you aim to have a dramatic looking image, you can increase clarity of the Graduated Filter – it will increase the edge contrast ratio. Beware that increasing the clarity of the sky can reveal uneven color graduation, going from dark to light, if you are seeing that reduce the clarity. If you aim to have a smoother sky then decrease the clarity to achieve a softer look.

While you are applying changes to the Graduated Filter beware of the land areas of the image. Often, parts of those areas will become underexposed when lowering the filter setting. You will likely need to bring the shadows back slightly or move the graduated filter higher so that those areas are not affected.

Lightroom’s Graduated Filter tool is not only limited to for use on skies, feel free to experiment by adding it to any part of the image. For instance, the Graduated Filter can be further used in the example image to deepen the black tones in the foreground area.

graduated filter2

The same process as the one used on the sky applies. We drag the Graduated Filter across the areas we want to be corrected, once it is applied we change the settings for the filter. In the case of the example image, we increase the clarity, add sharpness for a crisp look,  lower the highlight by lowering the brightness, compensate for saturation and add warmth by adding just a little bit of a color cast to the gradient.

lightroom graduated filter