Denise Silva’s Guide to Editing Landscape Photos in Lightroom

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BASED IN: Virginia, USA
KNOWN FOR: Eye-catching travel photography from exotic locations
SHOOTS WITH: FUJIFILM X-T2 Camera, FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens, XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens, XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens


If you are thinking about getting out of your comfort zone and traveling overseas for your next shoot, one glance at Denise Silva’s incredible portfolio will be enough to convince you to pack your bags. And to make the journey even easier, she conducts tours to help other photographers make the most of the incredible landscapes and wildlife around them. In this Technique blog post, Denise explains how she goes about editing landscape photos in Adobe Lightroom.

Denise Silva

In this blog, I will share my approach to processing a landscape image in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. After a shoot, I use Lightroom Classic CC to download my images from the SD card. I let Lightroom move the original files, as well as create a backup of those originals.

Lightroom does a great job of file management, from custom folder structures, to rating and color-coding for easy identification. To see the true the power of Lightroom when it comes to post-processing your images, you must first open the Develop module. You can do this by clicking on where it says Develop at the top-right of the interface. If you cannot see the word Develop at the top-right of the interface, click or hover over the downward-pointing arrow at the center-top of the interface. That will open the Module Picker.

The potential of FUJIFILM RAW files for enhancement is extraordinary, as there is so much data captured. This image was taken at Jökulsárlón (a.k.a., Glacier Lagoon) in Iceland in August 2017.  It was shot with a FUJIFILM X-T2, and FUJINON XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS lens set to 55mm. The shutter speed was 1/55 sec, the aperture was F11, and the ISO was set to 400.

When I select an image for processing, I take a few minutes to recall what the scene looked like at the moment I took the shot. What were the conditions? How did it feel? These questions help me define my objectives as I process the image.

In the unedited shot, you can see that it was overcast, but in reality there was some nice light and colors in the clouds, too. To recreate this, I definitely want to enhance the sky. Also, when you see them with the naked eye, the icebergs in the Glacier Lagoon seem to glow from within. It was important to me to recreate this effect, particularly in the center foreground.

Before Processing, Deal with Any Dust Spots

To check for and fix any dust spots, click on the Spot Removal tool (Q). The icon for this tool is a circle with an arrow pointing to the right, just below the histogram.

To help identify the spots, I check the Visualize Spots box (just below the image). This turns the image into a black and white mask, and helps to identify artifacts that would otherwise be difficult to spot.

Note you can remove spots by left-clicking on them. Generally Lightroom does a good job of selecting a cloning source. However, if it doesn’t find a good match, you can left-click and drag the cloning circle to a better source point.

Processing the Image

For this image, I decided to start by making a global enhancement to the color of the image. A little trial-and-error revealed that the Camera Calibration panel provided the smoothest color transitions when saturating the reds and the blues. I increased the Red Primary Saturation and the Blue Primary Saturation to 88.

Although the sky is improved, more can be done. The best tool for the job is the Graduated Filter tool (M). To use this tool, click the rectangle shaped icon, just below the histogram. A panel will appear below the tool’s icon displaying all of the adjustments available for the Graduated Filter tool.

To create a Graduated Filter, determine a starting point for the mask, then left-click and drag down towards the foreground. It may take a few attempts before the filter covers the desired image area. You can press Ctrl+Z (that is Command+Z on a Mac) to undo it if you want to try again.

For this image, I chose to increase the Temperature and Tint of the sky (11 and 19, respectively). I also increased the Saturation of this same area to 23. I increased the noise reduction by setting Noise to 16.

Here, the red mask shows the areas of the image that were affected by the Graduated Filter adjustments. Note that the red doesn’t appear on the iceberg.

This is because LR Classic CC includes a Brush feature, which allows you to erase adjustments made with the Graduated Filter. This is an incredibly powerful feature and it allowed me to pull the Graduated Filter down as far as I needed without adversely impacting my foreground.

Next, let’s look at the water in the foreground. The sheen on the water should reflect the beautiful light we have enhanced in the sky. To do this, I again look to the Graduated Filter. But this time, I started from the bottom of the image and pulled upward to the bottom of the icebergs.

To create the effect I had in mind I set Temp to 9, Tint to 11, Highlights to 16, and Saturation to 17.

Each area of the foreground needs some adjusting. My objective is to emphasize some of the icebergs more than others. This will help to keep the viewer’s eye focused on my subject. For the following adjustments, I used multiple instances of the Adjustment Brush (K). The Adjustment Brush is the icon located below the Histogram on the far right side.

In the screenshot below, you will see the areas I selected for adjustment. The positions of the sliders are visible in the panel on the right: I set the Exposure to 0.50, the Highlights to 34, the Shadows to -21, the Whites to 11, the Clarity to 22, and the Dehaze to 26.

My next set of adjustments was applied to the iceberg floating just in front and to the left of our main subject. For this iceberg, I choose to increase the temperature to bring out some yellows to help the iceberg stand apart of the rest. I set my brush Temperature to 20, Exposure to 0.84, Shadows to -11, Clarity to 22, Dehaze to 8, and Saturation to 7.

Next to be enhanced were the icebergs behind our main subject. In order to bring my primary subjects further forward in the image, I slightly darkened and blurred those icebergs. I set the Tint to 11, the Exposure to -0.12, Highlights to 28, the Shadows to -32, the Clarity to 34, the Saturation to 27, the Sharpness to -14, and the Noise to 13.

I also slightly enhanced the icebergs to the left and right of the primary subjects.  I set the Tint to 11, the Exposure to 0.17, the Contrast to 22, the Highlights to 22, and the Shadows to -27.

Now it is time to selectively sharpen the image. Click on the Details panel to expand it. In this panel, you will find both Sharpening and Noise Reduction. To selectively sharpen, you just need to hold the Alt key (that’s the Option key on a Mac) and drag the Masking slider to the right.

When you do this, the areas to be sharpened will appear white. With the slider set to the left-hand side, the image will all be white, indicating that everything will be sharpened. As you drag to the right, the white areas will gradually reduce until eventually only the outlines of the most prominent subjects are being sharpened.

For this image, I pulled the slider to the right until only the outside edges of each iceberg had a white outline, meaning I sharpened only the edges of the individual icebergs.

With all of the selective adjustments complete, I scrolled back up to the Basic panel to make some final, global enhancements. First, I added selective contrast by increasing the Highlights  to 19, and the Whites to 42, by decreasing Blacks to -23. I then increased the global Contrast to 17.

Even with all of my selective and global adjustments completed, I still felt the main subjects of the image — the icebergs — needed to be brightened.

To selectively lighten this area I could have used either the Graduated Filter or the Adjustment Brush. I decided to use the Graduated Filter because it has a nice, smooth fall-off which helps to make the adjustment look natural.

I started from the bottom of the image and pulled up. Because I did not want to lighten the water, I used the Brush set to Erase and deleted the adjustment from the foreground water.

Here is a comparison of the original RAW file and the final result!

Image processing is deeply personal. We each have our own vision and every image has a unique story to tell. I hope this demonstration has given you some ideas and tips on how to share your vision and draw out an image’s potential.

Denise Silva is a FUJIFILM-compensated professional photographer.

To see more of Denise’s work, visit her website.

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