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Making your landscape photographs shine is quick and easy with Luminar 4 photo-editing software – and less time editing means more time for photography!

The number one thing to remember when creating images in the field is to make sure you capture all the necessary information in the scene. This is why it’s so important to check your histogram so you’re not blowing the highlights out and losing vital information. It’s very difficult to replace something that’s not there in the file. Here is my RAW file with no adjustments. I exposed to the right of the histogram making sure I didn’t clip any highlights.

The beauty of Luminar 4 is that it makes it very easy to bring the best out of your images, so let’s get started. In the edit module located in the top right of the screen, you can use Essentials to make adjustments to exposure, highlights, shadows, etc. just like you would in any other software editing program or to save a lot of time, just select one of the Looks at the bottom of the screen. Now I know there are photographers out there that don’t like using presets saying that ‘real’ photographers don’t use presets. I believe photography is about spending more time in the field creating images and less time behind the computer processing them, so using presets will help to cut that processing time down. That’s not to say that you should just click on a preset and consider it finished. The preset will get you 80% there, then it’s up to you to make the necessary minor adjustments to finalise the image. You can, of course, also create your own preset and save them in the user Luminar Looks.

I made this image in Yosemite National Park at the classic Tunnel View over the valley at sunset. It had been raining all day, and then as the weather system moved away, the skies began to clear. The moisture in the valley created this beautiful mist creeping through the trees and around Bridalveil Fall. The last light illuminated El Capitan with a golden glow that contrasts with the cool tones of the valley.

Here is a step-by-step procedure.

  • Landscape Looks using Warm Sunset bring the slider back down from the default 100 to +70.
  • Highlights -95
  • New Adjustment Layer-Dodge& Burn El Capitan and clouds.
  • AI Sky Enhancer set to +40
  • AI Accent set to +41
  • Selective Colour Saturation on blue sky set to -32
  • AI Structure-Using brush tool over clouds +26

I started by using the Warm Sunset look that I felt suited this image the best. Every preset defaults to 100, but that doesn’t mean that is necessarily the best setting for it. I brought the slider back to +70 for a more realistic look. After bringing the highlights down to -95, I created a New Adjustment Layer by selecting the layers icon in the upper right of the editing module. Select New Adjustment Layer and then select Pro from the icons down the right side. Within Pro I selected Dodge & Burn. When you click on ‘start painting’, you will see lighten, darken, erase, size and strength at the top of the window. I set the strength to 30% and used the darken brush to go over the face of El Capitan and the clouds. If you go over any part that you don’t want to lighten or darken, you can use the erase brush to remove it.

Probably one of the most amazing features of Luminar 4 is the AI or Artificial Intelligence found in the Essentials module under the sun icon on the right side of the window. No need to create a luminosity mask as it only affects a particular area of the image such as when I went into AI Enhance and set the slider of AI Sky Enhancer to 40, it only affects the sky. Next I set the AI Accent to 41. AI Accent is a powerful smart image enhancement tool that analyses your image and corrects it using over a dozen controls at once. What a time saver!

With any presets, the effect may result in areas of the image that may not be to your liking. Luminar gives you complete control over making selective adjustments such as I didn’t like the overly saturated blue sky. I know it’s hard to believe, but it was too much even for me. Select Color from the menu and go into Advanced Settings. Choose the colour you wish to adjust, which in this case I selected blue. I moved the saturation slider to -32, which just affected just the blue tones of the scene. It also took some of the blue tone from the mist, which was good, but if you didn’t want it to, you could go into edit mask and easily create a mask to omit any part that you don’t want changed.

I wanted to bring out some of the texture of the clouds at the end of the valley, so I went into AI Structure, then edit and selected the brush and brushed over just the area of the clouds that I wanted. Then increasing the amount slider to 26 to bring out more texture in the clouds.

After you have created a layer or multiple layers, if you wish to make a global adjustment to the image, go to Layers, click the + symbol and select Create New Stamped Layer. Now you can make global adjustments such as smart contrast or what ever else you feel needs adjusting. When you are all finished, click Apply.

All software packages have features they excel at and I tend to use several to get the best from each one. I always finish an image off by applying a bit of Pro Contrast in Nik, which gives an extra punch to the image. It’s as though you have a fine mesh vale over your eyes, then using Pro Contrast, lifts that vale to reveal crispness in the image.  I’ve tried replicating the same look in Luminar, but I can’t find anything that comes close to Pro Contrast especially easily adjusting with just two sliders.

There are so many other great features in Luminar 4 which, I’ll be covering in future blogs. If you haven’t yet tried Luminar 4, use my discount code ‘Tom’ to save a bit of cash and let me know what you think of it and if there is any technique you would like me to cover in future blogs please let me know.

You can watch a video on our YouTube channel Landscape Photography iQ, on how I processed this image in Luminar 4.



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