Photography Tutorials

Use and Control Colour to Elevate your Landscape Photography

Today we’re talking colour. Beautiful vibrant colour or even the complete lack of it. We’re going to look at how colour feeds into the entire photography process and how we can use and control that colour to improve our landscape photography.

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Style

One of the first things to strike us when we first look at an image is the colour. This is particular true if the colour is designed to make a statement or the photographer has just made a complete hash of it, like some of those horrible HDR’s where it looks like you’ve just thrown up all over the page.

How you use colour in your landscape photography is an important part of what gives you your style. Do you prefer big vibrant colours? Do you use more muted tones? Are you a black and white person?

It doesn’t really matter and no one way is better than the other but what is happening with the colour in your image is something we need to think about and not just let it end up happening by chance.

So how do we start controlling the colour?

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Planning

The first part comes right at the start during the planning phase. Photography is all about storytelling so when planning a shoot I will first decide what kind of story I want to tell. Colour has a big impact on story. Big vibrant saturated colours create a story of hope and happiness whilst more muted subtle, colours have a more thoughtful, down beat, artistic feeling. Colour is directly linked to our brains and affects our emotions heavily so as a photographer I want to use that to my benefit to take the viewer on an emotional journey.

The type of story I want to tell will then guide the location I choose to shoot in. The weather also has an impact on colour. Sometimes I will head out chasing a story. For example, I am in a happy mood and I want a big colour sunset type shot. I’ve checked the weather, I know there is a chance of a colourful sky, so I head to the beach. Finding a composition it then time to hope that the big sky comes. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off but often it will and the story be chased is told.

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On other occasions I’m not in control of where the shoot is happening so it is necessary to adapt the story to the landscape and conditions. Thats exactly what happened in the Peak District last week. That location was set because I had plans with a friend. I knew the weather would be changeable and there was a good chance it would come good at the end of the day. I used colour in the images to drive the story of adverse weather from the desaturated drought shot, through the monochrome rain shot, to the black & white bleak, shot at the top before heading through the extreme clouds and into the sunny colourful sunset at the end.

Watch the video here - https://youtu.be/bsMlvi_RBxI

Compose with Colour

Placing some striking colour into an aspect of your composition can take a photograph from a good shot to a great shot. A blue sky compared to a big colourful sky is an obvious example and it is true of the foreground and mid ground too. Take British moorland as an example. It’s covered in heather and most of the year it is an uninteresting browny green colour. But every Autumn/September time it flowers and turns into a stunning and vibrant pinky purple colour that can turn a composition.

We can take this a step further by using good light. We all know about the golden hour but having the warm light hitting a scene will enhance the colour of everything, without creating nasty highlighted area that you can get during the middle day. This definitely happens with the heather but the same is true of rocks, sand, buildings, trees and pretty much everything else.

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When good light is absent a scene will be much less vibrant, like in dull grey conditions. When I am faced with that I will often combine the more subtle colours with a long exposure to produce a more ethereal and fine art feel to the scene with muted colours or monochrome.

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Black and White and Monochrome

Black and White is an interesting area of landscape photography. To get the best images it is really important to try and decide at the time of shooting if the final image should be black and white, rather than just using it in post to try an rescue a bad image. It does not mean the image need to be captured in Black and White, just have it in mind for the final composition.

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I use black and white when there is a really interesting composition but the colours are dull and actually detract from the image. Even in those dull colours, interesting tones are present that will work well in black and white. You can also post-process grey tones much more aggressively than a colour image to really add drama to a black and white photo.

A black and white image in monochrome but a monochrome image is not necessarily black and white. It just means we’re working with the varying tones of one colour. Monochrome images are difficult to plan for but it’s something I am massively attracted to when the conditions present themselves. Often it will happen in cloudy or foggy conditions. When the conditions present themselves it is good opportunity to create something a little more unique..

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Post-processing

With Adobe Lightroom and other modern editors, they provide a massive amount of control over the colour. Several adjustments can be made to change the colour and transform an image.

White Balance

White balance is the first in the list. This is also the first time I have even considered white balance. When shooting in RAW white balance can be completely changed in post with no reduction in quality whatsoever. Setting the camera to auto white balance will be accurate most of the time and my method in post is to match the sight and feeling I had of the scene at the time.

Vibrance and Saturation

Vibrance and saturation both affect colour but in different ways. Saturation will change all of the colour in the image. It is a bit like the contrast slider in that it can be very tempting to add too much. A good tip is to dial it up to where you think it is right, then dial it back a bit to end up in the right place.

Vibrance on the other hand is smarter and only affects the middle colours so the changes are often more subtle. In the majority of my landscape images I add about 20 vibrance and 10 saturation and that gets me near to where I want to be.

HSL

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The HSL panel gives control over hue, saturation and luminance. It gives massive control over colour in an image. It is through this that many of the presets out there are built around and it certainly creates the opportunity to make an image look unrealistic or stylised. I do not use this very often but it can be handy when you want to control individual colours. With a sunset boosting the overall saturation can take certain colours like orange and yellow overboard, so dialling those individual colours back in the HSL panel can balance the image back out. I try to keep things fairly natural so any changes I make in the HSL panel are mostly very subtle.

Grads and Brushes

Next we have software grads and brushes which give control over the colour in individual parts of the image. It can used especially to give control over the sky or the ground separately and is a very useful tool for colour.

NIK Collection

One bit of software I would massively recommend is the DxO NIK collection. It is collection of photo editing plugins that has changed hands now on a number of occassions. Silver Efex Pro is the pick of the bunch and is a way to convert and edit a black and white image. I don’t use it for every conversion but I think it’s worth it alone for the toners that mimic old dark room toners like selenium and sepia.

Printing

When it comes to printing we’re really just looking to control the colour as much as we possibly can so our prints look as much as possible like they do one screen. I have done a video on Printing before but three good tips here are:

  • Add about a 3rd of a stop exposure in Lightroom before you print. This extra brightness will help compensate for the fact there is no backlight on your paper and stop the image looking a bit dull when it comes out the printer.
  • Use the best paper you possibly can. This is particularly important for reproduction of saturated colours. Canson Premium High Gloss is the best I have found for this and holds more colour than pretty much any other paper I have tried.
  • Calibrate your monitor - I’m going to be making a video about this soon.
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Conclusion

Thinking about colour throughout the landscape photography process will assist every aspect of what you are trying to achieve. This includes composition, exposure, perspective and many other things. Colour is something most of us are lucky enough to experience everyday so we can easily take it for granted. Using it carefully and intentionally however will see your photography elevate to the next level.

Editing Landscape Photography for Natural Results

Edit your landscape photos in natural way to make them shine like the scene you witnessed.

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In this lightroom tutorial we go over several images to discuss how to edit your landscape photography images in a natural way. 

 

Ramp Up Your Sunset Photography with this Easy Technique

We use a very simple technique and a bit of layer masking to take your sunset landscape photography to the next level. 

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In this landscape photography tutorial I show you an amazingly simple technique to ramp up the quality of your sunset photographs when you are shooting straight at the sun.

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There are two difficulties when shooting directly at the sun that we need to overcome. First is the exposure difference between the sky and the ground. The sky is almost always brighter than the ground so we must take action to balance the exposure across the frame. This is easy to solve and we have a choice of two different methods.

We can use either ND Grad filters, that darken the sky at the point of shooting, or use bracketing. This is where we combine images of the same scene with different exposures to have well exposed highlights,  mid tones and shadows. The video tutorial below gives details of how to do bracketing when doing sunset photography.

https://youtu.be/ndoolGymQJM

The second problem is dealing with lens flare. Those nasty, ever expanding rings that enter your image and ruin the shot. They can be avoided by not shooting at the sun, keeping the sun to your side or using your hand or a lens hood to block it. Sometimes that is not possible or the composition necessitates pointing toward the sun. Thankfully there is very simply technique that anyone can apply, with any camera, as long as a tripod is employed.

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The trick is to very simply place your finger in front of the lens and block out the sun with your finger. We take at least two shots, keeping the camera perfectly still, to expose once for the ground and once for the sky. When exposing for the ground just pop your finger between the sun and the lens and it removes the flare. In the video I show how to then combine the two images using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop with simple masking.

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It is an easy technique and will work in many situations. On some occasions some additional luminosity masking can help balance the exposure if there is a big difference between the ground and the sky. Luminosity masking is a subject for another day and I only mention it briefly in this video.

One small safety point. When you are shooting straight at the sun do not look at it directly through  the viewfinder as it can damage your eyes. It is much safer using live view and this will not damage the sensor of the camera if only done occasionally.

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The on location section of this video is an extract from landscape photography settings tutorial.

https://youtu.be/0uhG0HvjXGw

How to Enhance Autumn Colours - Lightroom Tutorial

Take your Autumn landscape photography to the next level with this easy trick using Adobe Lightroom.

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In this Adobe Lightroom tutorial I show you how to make some very easy adjustments to your Autumn Landscape photography to make those beautiful autumnal colours really pop.

Landscape Photography in Autumn

Autumn is an amazing time if you shoot Landscape Photography as the swathe of colour we are treated too is truly spectacular. The summer of lush greens and high sun gives way to vivid oranges, yellows, reds and and maroons. Shooting a landscape photograph from one position can look completely different in the Autumn to how it does in the Spring, Summer or Winter.

Autumn Colour Gamut

Despite the amazing gamut of colour on offer, the overriding colour is often still green. Normal Lightroom edits can result in over saturated greens that leave the beautiful Autumn colours we are seeking, overwhelmed.

It can be resolved using a very simple trick where we desaturate the greens to enhance the appeal of the Autumn colours. Using Adobe Lightroom in two slightly different ways will effectively give the desired control. In the Lightroom tutorial I show you how it is done, and, how it can easily take your Autumn landscape photography to the next level.

Lightroom HSL Panel

The Lightroom HSL panel lets us easily control the saturation of colours across the spectrum. It is an effective Lightroom tool in so many areas of photography where careful control of colour is required. The colour panel will also let you adjust the luminance of colour and also the hue. If you have never experiment with the adjustment Lightroom provides in the area it is well worth a go.

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Landscape Photography Tutorial

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The essential elements to capturing beautiful landscape photography images.

In this video we give you an introduction to landscape photography. Landscape photography is arguably the most popular area of photography as we capture the amazing scenes the world has to offer. Most people who have ever touched a camera will at some point have taken a landscape photograph. This does not mean it is easy however with most of these images being nothing more than snapshots. The interest in viewing these images is also massive with landscape photography shots capturing far greater attention on photo sharing mediums such as Instagram and Flickr.

With this in mind, truly great landscape photography is not as common as you might think. A quick flick through Instagram will show this and is proof that landscape photography is an art. Having the natural talent and 'eye' for things will be a large help but there are certain rules that, if followed, will allow you to start capturing some beautiful images.

Gear - Great landscapes can be captured with any type of camera including smartphones. To take things to the next level though you will need a camera with the ability to shoot at wider angles. Having these wider angles allows more of the scene to be captured. Extreme wide angles can also give the sense of how big the scene is when used correctly.

A tripod is also extremely useful for landscape photographs. It becomes essential for long exposure landscapes or even when the light begins to fade and your shutter speed slows down.

The Secret - The absolute key to getting amazing landscape photography images is to travel to somewhere with amazing scenery. A simple fact that is not always easy achieve.

landscape photography tutorial

Rule of Thirds - This is a common photography rule that gives guidance to composition and to what can create pleasing images. In landscape photography the rule of thirds is best applied to where we place our horizon line. Keeping the horizon line along the bottom third of the image or the top third of the image will create a much more pleasing image than a horizon that runs along the middle of the frame.

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The Golden Hour - The hour after sunrise and before sunset is known as the golden hour. When the sun is low in the sky it creates a beautiful golden light that will flood your scene and produce long interesting shadows. Use this to your advantage when composing your shot.

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Focusing - Most landscape photography will require sharpness from the front to the back of the image. Focusing on the area about 1/3 of the way into your scene will usually provide the optimal focus. Hyperfocal distance dictates the science around this and can be read about here. If you have a key point to your image such a castle, then focus on that point.

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Camera mode - Manual. Use landscape photography to introduce yourself to shooting in manual and controlling your exposure in every way.

Aperture - To get everything in focus we generally want to use a small aperture (large f/stop number). To get front to back sharpness, f/11 or f/16 will nearly always provide this. If your shot does not contain any foreground then f/8 can be used to maximise sharpness as many lenses are at their sharpest at f/8.

ISO - 100 or lower.

Shutter Speed - Control your overall exposure with the shutter speed. If the shutter speed starts to get slow then ensure you employ your tripod.

Lighting - Shooting into the sun might, at first, seem like a silly thing to do. However it can result in some really interesting images and includes all sunset shots. Shooting with the sun directly behind you will often result in flat images in terms of contrast. the same applies when the sun is directly above.

Filters — Your landscape photography can be taken to the next level by introducing filters such as neutral density gradients, circular polarises, infrared and big stop neutral density filters that allow you to capture long exposure landscapes.

Long Exposure Photography tutorial - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/tutorials/long-exposure-photography-tutorial

Infrared Landscape Tutorial - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/tutorials/infrared-photography-part-1

Use the timer - When using a tripod, using the timer or a shutter release cable will ensure there is no unwanted movement in the camera.

Following these simple rules will give you a solid base on which to start building your landscape photography portfolio. Be warned, it is an addictive pursuit and you will find yourself regularly checking weather forecasts, tidal times, sunset and sunrise times and travel times to certain locations. Good luck and enjoy.

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