This page is a chapter in the book Post Processing Articles.
It’s been a while since I posted the landscape processing tutorial part 1.
I thought that I’d post part 2 before I go away for a few months! The title suggests that I use this alot for landscapes , but I find that I end up using it alot for portraits too.
The images I will use are as follows :
Firstly, the lightroom export image:
Then, the image that is produced at the end of the first part of the tutorial :
With this particular image, I removed most of the blue cast from the original, used some colour layers to bring out the warm colours in the rock. The techniques I use are always pretty similar to what I described earlier.
Much of the time, I’ll leave the image as it is after these steps, but quite often, a subtle glow and softening (while retaining sharpness and clarity) can be desirable. For the next steps , I’ll start by using the base image created from above that has had all the layers flattened with the EXCEPTION of the high pass sharpening layer (this is important).
The first step I usually do is the duplicate the original layer 3 times (keyboard shortcut Ctrl J). I then rename the layers to make sure I know what I’m doing with each layer. The soft light and luminosity layers refer to the blending modes that use. The sharpening layer is a high pass filter layer which is blended either as “overlay” or “vivid light”.
Next : click the ‘eye’ icon on the sharpening layer so you disable visibility of that layer. Work on the “luminosity” layer. The aim of this layer is to provide a “glow” to the image. I’ve found it very tricky to use tools like diffuse glow due to unusual shading but it is another option. Apply a Gaussian Blur to this layer until the image is blurred significantly (in other words, a lot) but not so much so that the whole screen is just a blob! Usually, I go to a radius of about 25-30. Next, change the blend mode from normal to luminosity. Next, move the opacity slider on the layer down to about 20-30% (varies on the image depending how much glow you want).
You might notice that the harsh lighting on the rocks is somewhat diminished with this effect. An unwanted effect however, is that the water is very blurred too. Overall, the image looks very smooth but seems to have lost all of its clarity – this gets fixed later. If you don’t like the effect on certain areas of the image , use a layer mask and mask it out!
Next: work on the soft light layer. The aim of this layer is to provide extra contrast. Change the blend mode from normal to “soft light”. You’ll notice immediately that you end up with an oversaturated grungy looking image with too much blacks and striking whites.
One way to combat this effect is to just slide the opacity bar down , however, I’ve found a couple of other adjustments far more useful:
On this layer, use a hue-saturation adjustment to reduce the saturation (until the colours look appropriate) and shift the lightness up until the shadows are as dark as you want them to be.
If you want to refine the contrast further, you can use a levels adjustment on this layer as well. From the diagram below you can see the effect “lightness” adjustment has had as there is no blacks on the histogram any more. Adjust the mid tone section to the left until you’re happy with the overall contrast in this layer.
Lastly: enable the shaperning layer by clicking on the eye icon on its left. From the top bar , use Filters > Other > High pass. The radius you choose should be what is required to see the details in the grey preview box yet have smooth grey in areas you do not want to sharpen (eg flowing water or plain sky). Usually I end up with a radius from 1-2. Change the blend mode of this layer to vivid light or overlay depending on how much sharpening /quality of sharpening that you want.
Now that I have plenty of storage, I end up keeping those layers and saving it as a big file (if it's something I think is worthwhile and may consider printing or refining further).
The end product : (which may or may not be better than the 2nd image at the start of the post - but has a different appearance)
So there’s an explanation of what I’ve been developing of late in terms of ongong post processing development:
- The soft light layer brings out contrast : remember to adjust saturation, lightness and levels to gain the desired amount of effect rather than solely using the opacity slider
- Luminosity layer with Gaussian blur softens harsh highlights and gives the image a glow.
- The high pass sharpening layer gives back details from the original image that were lost in the luminosity layer.