Adobe Lightroom is the favorite photo editor amongst both beginner and advanced photographers. With an abundance of fairly easy-to-use tools, it’s not hard to understand why. But how do you make the most out of it? How can you create a efficient workflow for both organizing and processing your images?
Let’s find out. Below are 9 of my best Lightroom tips for landscape photographers:
#1 Rate and Keyword Images in Library Mode
Let’s be honest… Rating and adding keywords to hundreds, or thousands, of images, isn’t exactly the highlight of your day. It’s a tedious task but it’s one that needs to be done. Especially when your galleries increase and you have tens of thousands of images spread across multiple hard drives.
Starting to organize Lightroom catalogs at a late stage might be discouraging but if you start already from Day 1, it’s not that big of a task. Make it a habit to always apply keywords, ratings, or labels directly after importing. The keywords can even be added to bulks of images simultaneously.
The organizational tools in Lightroom’s Library Mode are one of the big advantages of using the software (besides its powerful editor). Use it correctly and you’ll save a lot of time and energy.
Recommended Reading: 11 Hidden Lightroom Features You Should Know
#2 Make Collections for Better Organizing
Keywords, ratings, and color labels are important tools for organizing images in Lightroom. It makes it quick and easy to locate images at any point. Sorting them into Collections or Smart Collections makes it even easier.
The folder hierarchy in the Folders Panel is an exact representation of the hierarchy on your hard drive. Unfortunately, it’s only visible from the Library Module. The Collections Panel, however, is also visible in the Develop Module.
You don’t need to add all images into collections but it’s good to use them for specific purposes. My ‘To Edit’ Collection is one example of how the feature can be used: All the images I plan to process is added to it so that I can easily find them without scrolling through hundreds of images.
#3 Use the Color Panel for Selective Processing
The Vibrance and Saturation sliders are simple ways of increasing colors in your images but in most cases, they do more harm than good; it’s rare that colors benefit from being adjusted globally.
Instead, use the Color Panel to make targeted adjustments to the Hue, Saturation and Luminance of the individual colors. This means you can alter the blues without affecting the greens, or the yellows without affecting the red. This gives you better control over how colors are treated.
#4 Apply Color Grading in Lightroom
The Color Grading Panel is amongst the biggest feature additions Adobe Lightroom has included in any update. This tool should be a part of your post-processing workflow. If it’s not, what are you waiting for?
It’s used to introduce a specific color to certain areas of your photo, such as the shadows, midtones or highlights. You can also use the Global Color Wheel to apply a color cast to all of the image.
Using the Color Grading Panel in combination with the Color Panel gives you an extreme control of how color is treated. You can use this to make small corrections or big adjustments for a more creative look.
#5 Apply Input Sharpening
RAW files are the superior files for photographing but they tend to come out a little softer than the more restricted JPG files. That’s why input sharpening has become an important step in most photographer’s workflows.
Input sharpening is applied to ‘correct’ the softer look of a RAW file. It won’t make the image appear a lot sharper and it’s not used for creative sharpening but it needs to be done.
This is quite easy in Lightroom when using the Detail Panel and Sharpening sliders. There’s no exact formula and most photographers use the tool slightly differently. I tend to use an Amount around 40-50, Radius 0.5 and Detail 100.
Learn More: The Ultimate Sharpening Workflow for Fine Art Printing
#6 Use Multiple Graduated and Radial Filters
Lightroom’s Graduated and Radial Filters are two highly underrated tools that can make a huge difference in your post-processing. Many use the Graduated Filter only to darken the sky but it can be used for so much more. It’s not uncommon that I use somewhere between 5-10 in one image.
The Graduated Filter can be used to balance tones, colors and light or, for example, to apply sharpness. You can add as many Graduated and Radial Filters as you want. It’s also possible to invert the Radial Filter which means the adjustment is only introduced inside the selection.
#7 Use Presets (…But Manually Adjust Them)
Lightroom Presets have gotten a bad name amongst many photographers but there’s no getting around the fact that they are useful. They save you a lot of time processing and they make it possible to achieve specific looks with a single click.
That being said, I don’t recommend applying a preset and calling it the day. For the best results, you need to manually tweak the settings to fit your photo. Remember that every image is unique and requires different approaches.
This could mean moving Graduated Filters, adjusting sliders or turning off certain effects.
#8 Create Vignettes Manually
Adding a vignette is a great way to direct the viewer’s attention towards the main subject of your photo. Lightroom’s Post-Crop Vignetting tool is found in the Effects Panel. This is the most common way of adding a vignette in Lightroom. While it does a decent job, it’s far from the most flexible method.
A better option is to create the vignette manually. You can do this by using the Radial Filter and making a selection around your main subject. Then reduce the exposure to darken the outer areas.
You can also make a duplicate of this filter to further enhance the vignette’s effect. This time, click the Invert button to apply the adjustment inside the selection. Increase the Exposure slider to brighten the inner parts of the effect.
#9 Add Contrast Without Using the Contrast Slider
The Contrast slider is a favorite amongst many beginner photographers. It’s understandable as it’s the obvious method of applying contrast to a photo. But it’s not the ideal way.
Applying contrast using the Contrast slider means that the brights are brightened and darks are darkened. The problem is that, unlike Luminar 4’s Smart Contrast, Lightroom doesn’t take the current contrast into consideration. This means that highlights quickly become blown out and the shadows turn pure black.
So how do you add contrast without using the Contrast slider? You use a combination of the Highlights, Shadows, Whites and Blacks sliders. Increasing the whites and decreasing the blacks does the same as the Contrast slider. The only difference is that you have full control over their values.
It’s also possible to add contrast using the Curves Tool. However, I recommend rather using Curves with a midtones Luminosity Mask in Adobe Photoshop to avoid unnecessary clipping.
I hope these Lightroom tips for landscape photographers help to make your journey a little easier. Do you have another tip you want to share? Let us know in the comments!