Landscape Photography Post-Processing Tutorial in Lightroom

In this tutorial, I will show you how to transform boring landscape pictures to vibrant and beautiful images in Lightroom in quick and easy steps. I will show you the real benefits of using the RAW image format and just some of the possibilities it gives you to non-destructively enhance your photographs without ever leaving Lightroom. I personally use this technique for post-processing my landscape photography all the time and I hope you find it useful.

Read on if you want to be able to take an image like this (original, as came out of the camera):

Original

and transform it to an image like this:

Final

1) Shoot RAW, post-process RAW

If you are still shooting JPEG and you are not sure why you should be shooting RAW, check out my “RAW vs JPEG” article. This tutorial will only work on RAW images, so make sure that you are picking a RAW file before attempting to follow the steps. Lightroom will not let you change white balance or color profiles on JPEG images and although you can tweak some things like color temperature and tint, I still do not recommend messing with those. If you want the best image quality and the most options for post-processing, you should be shooting RAW.

2) Fix White Balance

Although I trust my camera’s “Auto White Balance” most of the time, the camera in some cases does not correctly choose the right white balance for me (which is normal in tough lighting conditions). In the above example, the white balance was way off, because the scene looked more yellow compared to what my camera captured during the sunset. Let’s try changing the white balance to “Daylight” and see what happens:

Daylight White Balance

Here is the change:

Fixed White Balance

Much better! Let’s play with camera calibration now.

3) Adjust Camera Calibration

If you are getting frustrated with Lightroom, because the image you load from your camera looks different than the image you saw on your camera’s LCD, then you should definitely check out the “Camera Calibration” menu option in the Develop module of Lightroom. Camera calibration profiles were introduced to both Lightroom and Photoshop by Adobe in order to be able to produce more realistic colors while reading and displaying RAW images. These profiles also try to mimic your camera’s profiles such as “Standard” or “Vivid” and generally do a pretty good job in matching the colors, shadows, and RGB saturation levels. When you originally import RAW images into Lightroom, they get converted to the standard “Adobe Standard” camera profile, which looks rather pale, especially on Nikon RAW images. For landscape photography, I find that the best color profiles are either “Camera Standard” or “Camera Vivid”, depending on vivid I want the image to be (if you have a Canon DSLR, you might not have a “Vivid” color profile).

Here is how you can change the camera calibration:

Camera Calibration

And here is how my image looks like after I changed the color profile to “Camera Vivid”:

Vivid Color Profile

Wow, what a difference! Everything looks so much more colorful and truly vivid!

4) Make that sky bluer!

Although changing camera profile to vivid already added some blue to the sky, in some cases it is still not enough to make it look truly blue. Let’s add some blue to the sky by saturating the blue color:

Blue Saturation

You have to keep in mind that if you have other blue objects in your scene, you might saturate them too, so be careful. Let’s take a look at how our image now looks:

Bluer Sky

Nice – more blue in the sky against some yellow sand are mixing well together in one picture!

5) Play with Tone and Presence

The final touch is to play with Tone and Presence settings under “Basic” tab. Changing the color profile to “Vivid” can sometimes blacken the darker parts of the image. Adding some fill light (around 10-15) can help to bring out some details from those areas. You can also try reducing “Blacks” to brighten up the shadow areas. I typically leave “Brightness” and “Constrast” the same, but in some cases I might increase the contrast to 35-40. “Clarity” is a cool setting that I typically leave at around 50 and I try to not go higher than 10 in “Saturation”. But each picture is different and you will have to adjust the settings on each picture individually and see what looks the best. Here is what I ended up with for this particular image:

Final Adjustments

Let’s see how the final image looks now:

Final Image

Final Image

Let’s compare that to the original image:

Original Image

Original Image

The difference is night and day… If you feel like the image is over-saturated, simply decrease the saturation level under “Basic” to a lower number and you should be good to go :)

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. March 8, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Hi Nasim, Thanks for the excellent tutorial. I’ve bookmarked the page and I’ll let my blog readers know about it. Best regards, Mark

    • March 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

      Mark, you are most welcome and thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment! Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck in your photography/blogging work! :)

      • 34
        ) Hussain Nalwala
        December 15, 2010 at 12:05 am

        Hi… It was very simple and very easy to understand. Thanks very much. I have always shot in JPG earlier but now I will use RAW format and then try out all this…… In case I encounter any difficulties I will come back to you for help…. Thanks again

        • 35
          ) Hissain Nalwala
          December 15, 2010 at 11:35 pm

          Yes Nasim bro I did it….. I took a few pictures in RAW and was able to process them in lightroom and found the results to be much much better…. Since I am using a Canon the Camera calibration is at “Standard”. Thanks once again bra. I will henceforth shot only in RAW.

          • December 16, 2010 at 2:56 am

            Very nice Hissain! I’m glad it worked out for you!

  2. 3
    ) Prem
    March 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Nasim, you’ve done it again. Simple, straight to the point. Thank you!
    BTW, the snow is melting and the birds are returning. Shouldn’t be long!

    Prem

    • March 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      Prem, you are most welcome! :)

      Yeah, I’m looking forward for a good birding season this year!

  3. 4
    ) Pauline Kim
    March 9, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I have Lightroom 2.6 and Photoshop CS4 Extended.
    In ightroom. I don’t see ‘vivid’ but ‘standard’ only.
    Where in CS4 is the camera calibration located?
    Your totorial is very easy to follow. Thank you!

    • March 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm

      Pauline, if you cannot see “vivid”, you are most likely shooting with a Canon camera. In that case, just use “standard” and simply increase contrast and saturation a little bit, to get a similar effect.

      In CS4, when you open a RAW file, you will see a Camera Raw window open. Click the camera icon (Camera Calibration) and you can select the camera profile by choosing the profile under “Name”.

      Hope this helps! :)

  4. 7
    ) Astley Henry
    March 17, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Wonderful tutorial.

    • March 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      Astley, thank you! I’m glad that you found it useful. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  5. March 17, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I´ll try it! Sounds great!

    • March 17, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      Ralf, please let me know if you have any questions.

      Auf Wiedersehen!

  6. March 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Your tutorial is very clear and useful. Thanks a lot.

    • March 17, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Christophe, thank you and you are most welcome! May I ask how you found this article?

  7. March 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Excellent article, Nasim. I found it through Facebook where Adobe Photoshop Lightroom was linking to it.

    • March 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm

      Marianne, thank you for your feedback! :) Please let me know if you have any questions.

  8. 15
    ) Vesa Marjanen
    March 17, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Thanks Nasim, Really good instructions, worked really nice for me, now there is some life in the pictures,

    • March 18, 2010 at 11:24 am

      Vesa, you are most welcome! Thanks for stopping by and please let me know if you have any questions.

  9. 16
    ) Gaylord
    March 18, 2010 at 4:28 am

    You rock! Top work champion.

    • March 18, 2010 at 11:25 am

      Gaylord, thank you! I’m glad you found the article useful :)

  10. 17
    ) Sandi Joy
    March 18, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Very helpful!Wish you can make this into a page I can print off!!
    So I can always go over it again when I have lightroom or CS4 open!
    Thanks!!

    • March 18, 2010 at 11:26 am

      Sandi, you are most welcome! :) I wouldn’t do the above steps on all pictures, but it gives you an idea of a simple digital workflow and color profiles.

      Please let me know if you have any questions and good luck with your photography!

  11. 21
    ) Dennis
    March 19, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I’m currently using Aperture 3 on Mac for organizing my photos. Do you have any idea if is sufficient for post-processing image?

    Cheers

    • March 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      Dennis, I have heard that Aperture 3 has some stability issues on both Mac and PC platforms, i.e. it crashes every once in a while. I personally like Lightroom better, but it is truly a personal choice. I like the fact that Lightroom integrates with all Adobe products very easily and has full support for DNG format. On the other hand, Aperture is actually faster than Lightroom and is a little more intuitive.

      Either way, both are equally good for post-processing images.

      • 23
        ) Dennis
        March 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

        Nasim, you’re quite right on Aperture 3. This software will shut down by itself once in a while. I experience 3 times in 5 hours. Now I just hope they better off fixed this bug!

  12. 24
    ) Marsha Thomas
    March 24, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Nice tutorial. Now I finally get the HSL panel and how to affect just one color. Thanks.

    • March 24, 2010 at 10:56 pm

      Marsha, you are most welcome! Let me know if you have any questions.

  13. 27
    ) sarah
    April 8, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Thank you so much for the tutorial! I know just enough with Photoshop to be dangerous. I often find myself inspired by artists like Peter Lik and am sadly disappointed by my own shots hopefully these tricks will help me. Check out Peter’s blog if you’re looking for inspiration: http://blog.peterlik.com/

    • April 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      Sarah, you are most welcome! Thanks for stopping by and dropping comment. Yes, Peter Lik is awesome, I really love his landscape work.

  14. 29
    ) fitfran
    April 18, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Nasim, I ran across your website and threads while Google searching for “d300 vs d90″. I have spent the last 2 hours reading, studying and learning from you and others who have posted comments about much more than that! From lenses to filters to post processing as well as enjoying your and your wive’s images. I just wanted to give you credit and compliment you on your photography, website and also on your patient and kind instruction, which is clear, concise and very informative. Thank-you! I am bookmarking your page for future reference!

    • April 18, 2010 at 8:45 am

      Fitfran, thank you so much for your feedback and kind words, we really appreciate it! Please let us know if you have any questions.

      Good luck with your photography!

  15. 30
    ) Tair_gt
    April 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Thnx, very useful as usually. It’s a pity that there is no vivid profile for Canons. Anyway, I wanted to ask what kind of lenses do you use for your landscape pictures? Should they always be lower than 20 mm ?

    • April 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

      Tair, you are most welcome! :)

      Yes, I agree – Adobe should develop a vivid profile for Canons as well.
      In terms of lenses, I use a variety of lenses, including: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. No, the focal length does not always need to be lower than 20mm. In fact, if you are shooting panoramas, you should shoot with a lens that is not too wide or the images won’t stitch together perfectly.

  16. 32
    ) Dimitrios
    June 28, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I am using ACDsee pro software for my photos prcessing. Has anyone been using this program before? Any opinions?

    • June 30, 2010 at 12:01 am

      Dimitrios, I use ACDSee for viewing JPEG images and sometimes even RAW when I need to quickly identify bad images and delete them.

  17. 37
    ) Patrice
    August 21, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Nasim, Thank you for the excellent tutorial. I seem to have so much trouble with Lightroom and it can get frustrating at times, I overcome one thing then something else happens that I don’t know why.

    • August 24, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      You are most welcome Patrice! Keep playing with Lightroom – once you learn how things work, it will get much easier to use.

  18. 39
    ) Callum
    August 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    More of a general processing query rather than limited to landscape post-processing, but have you ever used “all on one” solutions such as Athentech’s Perfectly Clear? And if so, what do you think of them?

    I have just tried it and found some photos came up much better than my currently limited Lightroom skills, but some were not so good…

    By the way, thanks for taking the time to create and maintain such a great website – there is so much information on here, it’s making my head hurt ;-)

  19. 40
    ) Savio Fernandes
    September 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Wonderful Tutorials Nasim! Thanks for sharing your Knowledge. Always liked photography and finally purchased Nikon D5000 but still didn’t master it well.

  20. 41
    ) Gaby
    September 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Hi Nasim, I’m trying to follow the same steps you took for enhancing a landscape picture, but I can’t see anywhere the white balance options shown here. I´m also using Lightroom 3. There are only 3 options given: as shot, auto & custom… and that’s it, I try to click on custom to see if it’s there, but there are no more menus. Do I have to change a setting somewhere else to see all the other white balance options?
    Thanks!

    • 42
      ) Paul
      November 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm

      You don’t see it because the image isn’t a RAW image. Not all options are available if not using RAW, the full white balance being one of them.

  21. 43
    ) Oscar
    February 17, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Hi Nasim.

    Thank you for your time and generosity sharing so much and useful information.

    As part of my workflow I open the raw pictures with Capture NX 2 (CNX2) and immediately, with the default settings, almost always I get a picture with a definition, sharpness, depth and accuracy of color and reduction of noise that I can not get with Lightroom. By the way, the default settings in CNX2 are those you in the camera at the moment you take the picture (like white balance, D-Lighting, Auto distortion control, etc.)

    In order to shorter my workflow avoiding the use of CNX2 I have tried different settings in LR to get the pictures to the level CNX2 leave them but that is just not possible to me. Please be aware that CNX2 is a very different product with respect to the original Capture NX (is not an upgrade), meaning that if you had a bad experience with CNX you have to give a try to CNX2.

    I think Nikon have some not known insights on their raw format which are taken as advantage in CNX2 (made to Nikon by Nik Software).

    Considering all what I said, I wonder why I hear so little about the use of this product among the nikonians in general and also the readers of your posts. Nasim, Have you had some experience with CNX2 ?

  22. 44
    ) john
    February 23, 2012 at 8:22 am

    this is awesome…wow

  23. 45
    ) Prasun
    February 25, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Salute you for this splendid tutorial. You make it so easy. Thanks a lot.

  24. 46
    ) Jeff
    March 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Seriously this is the best site ever! I love all these articles and tutorials! Thanks alot. Jeff

  25. 47
    ) Miah Banayos
    April 27, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Hi sir Nasim,
    I love reading you articles it is very clear and informative. I just want to ask your opinion if it is ok or advisable to use Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro during post process. I use it on my shots i just dont know if it is ok or its like faking the shot. I only do color adjustment, u just love their presets and played with it. Thanks!

  26. 48
    ) Massi Takeda
    May 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    Very useful tutorial and thank you. My L/R 4 shows only Adobe Standard under the camera calibration. I can not get camera vivid or standard. In my case my camera is Sony NEX-7.

  27. 49
    ) Sudarshan_SMD
    May 24, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Great article. This tutorial can’t be more simpler.

    “If you are getting frustrated with Lightroom, because the image you load from your camera looks different than the image you saw on your camera’s LCD, then you should definitely check out the “Camera Calibration” menu option in the Develop module of Lightroom. ”
    Sire, thank you for that.
    That ‘Camera Calibration’ will help me a lot.

  28. May 30, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Many thanks for this post. I’m a landscape photographer from Australia. I will be back to your site often. Cheers, Steve

  29. 51
    ) Mike
    June 26, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Really interesting article Nasim, I have both Lightroom and Capture NX2, would you stick to NX2 and their RAW files or switch to lightroom? I some times use both and seem to get confused as to which is the better.

  30. 52
    ) Vinod
    August 29, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Hello!
    Great writing easy to understand articles, thanks!
    Having said that i want to know your thoughts on one thing, as a designer one can easily retouch and make any boring photographs look better than what it is. Post processing is good and is needed to a limited extent. Maybe some alignment and exposure correction, brightness contrast….and nothing beyond that. If we are not able to get photos almost to what is desired within in the camera and end up doing more of post processing then the person should be called a graphic artist more than a photographer!
    Just my thoughts!

  31. 53
    ) Yaw
    December 13, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Wow. God bless you for sharing your knowledge. This is one of the best photography sites and it uses simple language and easily understandable. I have bookmarked this page and will visit daily

  32. 54
    ) DavidL
    December 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I don’t know if you are still monitoring this thred but if you are maybe you or someone could answer a question for me.

    I’ve been an aperture user for a few years now but there are some features in LR that I like so I’m trailing LR4.

    When I want to adjust the white balance I only get three options. 1 as shot. 2 auto. 3 manual. Has this changed since previous versions?
    And second, in camera calibration I don’t get a choice of standard or vivid, only 1 option?

    Thanking someone in advance (hopefully)

    DL

  33. 55
    ) Maria Anhea
    March 22, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Wow. Thank you so much for this tutorial. It was very easy to understand and follow. Especially for someone like me who’s always having hard time following tutorials. :p
    Also, i discovered some settings/adjustments in lightroom that i have no idea of. Thanks again, Sir! :)

  34. 56
    ) Raghuram
    August 11, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Nasim, I don’t get to check your site often as I would like to, it is blocked at work (all hobby/blog/social networking sites are blocked). When ever I do, I learn something new from PL and most importantly, I ‘connect’ with your site like no other. The reviews are informative, authoritative and also fun to read without the overhead of heaviness other review websites drown you with. There is a a very casual & fun feel to your site. The pics are spectacular and inspiring and challenge my curiosity. I actually bought the 35mm F1.8 Nikkor after reading your comparison article and I am totally enjoying shooting with this gem of a lens on my D40. So, a big THANK YOU for the great work and the countless hours you guys are putting in! Cheers and good luck taking the site forward.

  35. 57
    ) Afiq Ab Rahman
    August 15, 2013 at 2:18 am

    How about the HDR/DRi tutorial?

  36. 58
    ) fountil
    September 27, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I really like the way you start and conclude your thoughts. Thank you so much for this information. keep posting such good stuff

  37. October 4, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Hi.

    SUBJECT: in-camera Scene Capture Type vs. Profile in Lightroom’s Camera Calibration panel.

    As I think you all know, shooting in Neutral or Standard modes usually results in having more Dynamic Range detail stored in the raw values, mainly in the dark areas of the image.

    Having said this, I have the following challenges: :)

    1 – If we set the camera’s Scene Capture Type to -say- Standard, this means that the raw values stored will be different from -say- Vivid?

    2 – If we shoot in “Standard” mode, SHOULD we set the Profile to “Standard” in Lightroom’s Camera Calibration panel and start editing from that?

    3 – If there is no relation between the Scene Capture Type of the camera and Lightroom’s Profile in Camera Calibration panel, AND since we can change White Balance in several ways (via Basic panel and/or via HSL panel), why should we care about the Profile in Camera Calibration panel in the first place? And, if we SHOULD care about this (because of the different Dynamic Range values stored), so shouldn’t we edit on the same profile for the same reason?

    4 – Unless we shoot with a X-Rite’s color calibration passport (and do all the other adjustments accordingly), I don’t see any advantage to even look at or change anything in the Camera Calibration panel in Lightroom.

    Honestly, for what I’ve been reading for the past weeks, my conclusion is IF YOU DON’T SHOOT WITH A COLOR CALIBRATION TARGET it’s easier to ignore the Profile in the Camera Calibration panel and change the WB in the Basic/HSL panels accordingly BUT always (!) shoot in Neutral mode to get more Dynamic Range.

    Or am I missing something here?

    Carlos

  38. 60
    ) Carlos Dias
    October 19, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Concerning the set on the camera, Lightroom doesn’t show this setting on the EXIF on Library module » Metadata panel » EXIF dropdown menu.

    So you won’t be able to know which scene capture type mode you used on the camera UNLESS you have Bridge, on Camera Data (Exif) panel or any other program that shows it.

    Carlos

  39. 61
    ) Carlos Dias
    October 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

    On my previous post, I start with “Concerning the set on the camera”, but I meant “Concerning the Scene Capture Type set on the camera”.

    Sorry about that.
    Carlos

  40. 62
    ) weight
    September 8, 2014 at 2:02 am

    good!

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