How To Improve Your Landscapes In Photoshop

See how a quick adjustment in Photoshop can breath life into a dark landscape shot.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Always start by duplicating your layer so you have the original shot to return to if something goes wrong.

Landscape

Brightness/Contrast Adjustments

This landscape shot is a little dark but by applying a Brightness/Contrast Adjustments Layer to it, the scene will soon be lighter in no-time. Click on the black & white circle found at the bottom of the layers palette and select 'Brightness/Contrast'. This will open a new window where you can adjust the brightness and contrast of the image. Drag the slider(s) to the right to increase them and to left to lower the effect. When you're happy, close the window.

Overexposed sky

Now, even though we wanted to brighten the foreground, making the water and grass stand out a little more,  unfortunately, the adjustment layer has changed the whole image and we have lost some of the detail in the sky and mountains behind. However, as we've applied the changes through an adjustment layer, this is easily rectified.


PaintbrushPaintbrush Tool

Make sure the Brightness/Contrast Layer is selected, find the Paintbrush tool and make sure the foreground is set to black. Now paint over the areas, which in out case is the sky and some of the background, where you want to bring back the detail that was lost. Do remember you can change the size of your brush when you get near the edges of the adjustment you don't want to change and you can also reduce the opacity of the brush to reduce the amount of the original image you paint back in. If you make a mistake, you can switch the brush to white and paint back over the image or find the history tab and go back a few steps.

After sky adjustment

Dodge and burn toolsDodge And Burn

The grass is looking greener and the cloud detail has returned but we can 'paint' even more detail into the shot with the Dodge and Burn tools. The Dodge tool can be used to lighten areas while the Burn tool will enhance dark clouds and shadows, 'burning' the image so it appears darker. You use them as you do the Paintbrush tool, changing the size of the brush and its opacity as needed. Less is more is the key with these tools as apply too much at once and the effect can be a little too strong. Start slowly, adding more brush strokes if needed. In our image we used the Burn tool to darken parts of the clouds and the Dodge tool to further brighten areas of the grass in the foreground.

Finished image:

Landscape after dodge and burning
 

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