Books/Resources/Courses for landscape processing?

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Timur, Feb 10, 2016.

  1. Timur

    Timur Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 10, 2015

    I want to try to get better at landscape photography, was wondering if anyone took any good courses/read good books on the processing side of it? Color grading, stuff like that. I got two good books for composition and general info (John Shaw's Guide to Digital Nature Photography and The Essence of Photography: Seeing and Creativity), both seem very interesting and I'm looking forward to reading them. It's just they don't cover the processing side of the craft much, and I'd like to learn that too eventually.

    Would appreciate any advice)
  2. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I don't know of anything specific to processing for landscape photography. My suggestions are:

    1- learn how to expose correctly, especially how to preserve highlights. You can't recover blown highlights in processing, if they're blown they're blown and they look bad so learn how to preserve them. Shadow recovery is possible and a lot better than you may think provided you shoot RAW so

    2- shoot RAW. It gives you the maximum dynamic range you can get, and it gives you more information to work with in processing.

    3- learn how to use whatever processing software you use. Any processing techniques applicable to landscape are applicable to other images as well. Just learn how to use your processing software. Especially learn how to do local adjustments as well as global adjustments (global adjustments affect the whole image, local adjustments are applied after global adjustments and use tools like brushes and graduated or radial filters, and are only applied to part of the image. Removing spots and unwanted objects like power lines is another form of local adjustment.) Learn everything you can about using your processing software because sooner or later it will come in handy.

    4- practice, practice, practice. The 2 things I do on a fairly regular basis are to have a go at every post-processing challenge that gets posted. I don't enter but I do download the file and see what I can do with it. I often try learning new techniques with images from the challenges because I didn't take the photo and have no ideas about how the scene actually looked to get in the way of my trying to do whatever I can with the image. I find that helpful. The second thing is to go back over my own photos and reprocess old files whenever I learn a new technique that could be useful with that sort of image. I once spent several months processing and reprocessing photos with clouds in order to learn how to process clouds better in order to get good colour gradation and contrast in them while still keeping them in balance with the rest of the image. With RAW files and a good RAW conversion program which does non-destructive processing, you've always got the original RAW file available so you can keep going back to your favourite shots and revisiting them as your processing skills improve. Take snapshots or make virtual copies every time you rework an image so you can review what you've done over time and see what works and what doesn't work.

    5- this sounds silly but learn to pay attention to how the scene looks to you when you aren't looking through the camera. Look at things like what shade of blue the sky is, the different ways clouds can look depending on time of day and type of cloud, the different greens that are present in foliage in your area, and so on. It's easy to get so caught up with how the scene looks through your viewfinder or on the LCD screen of the camera that you forget that the viewfinder and screen aren't particularly accurate in a lot of ways and what they're presenting you with is a JPEG with very standardised processing which is not true to the actual scene in many ways and which also isn't a reliable guide to what the eventual image will look like after processing. Processing can be a lot easier if you have a good idea of how the scene actually looked to your naked eyes so you have some sort of an idea of what you are aiming for as a result.

    When it comes to learning your processing software there are some good video training programs available on the web for the major applications as well as books. There are also online forums for a lot of the processing apps. Take a look around for what's available for your particular software. When it comes to books and videos I tend to prefer material which explains what the particular adjustment does and what different settings can achieve rather than material which show you "recipes" for producing a particular look. I also don't like using presets for the same reason. It's easy to get caught up in looking at what different presets can do to a given image and picking the one which grabs you the most rather than actually making the individual adjustments one by one and slowly getting the result that looks and feels right to you.
    • Like Like x 4
  3. Timur

    Timur Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 10, 2015
    Thanks for advice David.

    I've picked up photography quite recently (just under 2 years now), but before actually doing it myself I was already quite proficient with Photoshop/LR by nature of my job (Graphic designer), and I processed some photos for our studio as well for about 4 years (although in a different field - we did mostly F&B). So I do know how to use the histogram, I always shoot in raw, and I'm quite comfortable in adobe packages.

    The 4 and 5 points are great, I haven't thought of using other people's raws, that would save me some time (as I can't be in the wilderness 24/7 anyway).

    I wanted to learn about professional color grading, with curves, gradient masks, luminosity masks, hdr blending and stuff like that. I have multiple scattered materials on the topics, but maybe a good comprehensive crash course just on this specific area of processing can be of use to me, at least if I can find one.
  4. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    That proficiency in LR and PS will be valuable to you but I will repeat that learning how to expose is the foundation of everything. Don't clip highlights containing detail you want. The exposure you give the shot sets your starting point and can make everything that follows easier or harder. Getting the exposure right for the image you want to make will make everything else a lot easier.

    I use LR only and don't have access to PS. I don't do anything with colour grading or PS mask/layer techniques. I do use LR's local adjustments and I'm not into HDR so I really can't give much in advice on any of those things. There may well be some professional PS courses dealing with some of those techniques in your area.
  5. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    That's an excellent post. Agree 100%.
  6. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    I haven't read this book, but it gets good reviews.

    Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters

    This is table of contents for the final chapter:

    102 The Digital Darkroom: Editing, Processing, and Printing
    103 Chapter Introduction
    104 Editing
    107 Workflow
    107 Raw Workflow
    107 Photoshop Workflow
    108 Choosing a Workflow
    111 The Master File
    112 RGB Working Spaces
    112 8 Bits versus 16 Bits
    114 Processing Order
    116 Cropping
    118 Retouching
    120 Converting to Black and White
    123 Adjusting White Balance
    124 Black Points, White Points, and Contrast
    124 Initial Contrast
    125 Black Points and White Points
    126 Levels and Curves
    130 Adjusting Color
    132 Dodging and Burning
    138 Expanding the Contrast Range
    138 HDR versus Exposure Blending
    139 Local Contrast
    140 Manually Combining Exposures in Photoshop
    144 Expanding Depth of Field
    146 Printing
    146 Printer Options
    148 Paper Choice
    151 Preparing the File for Final Output
    152 Color Management and Printer Profiles
    154 Black and White Settings
    Not sure how much text that is. It has lots of pictures like most photography books.
  7. Timur

    Timur Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 10, 2015
    Yeah I've seen people recommending it too, the only reason I didn't buy it is because amazon doesn't have a kindle version. But seems I should order it anyway, thanks Gary.
  8. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I've actually got that book. There's not much text. You'll typically get 2 or 3 photos showing the result of applying a different setting of a particular slider to the same file and a bit of a description of what the slider does, really no more than you get in a lot of general books on LR and nowhere near as much as you get in a book like Martin Evening's "The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 Book".

    A better book than the Frye "Digital Landscape Photography" book is Jeff Schewe's "The Digital Negative". It is not specifically directed towards landscape photography but there are a couple of chapters in which he shows how he uses LR to process particular images and gives a step by step account of what he did and why. Some of those images are landscape photographs, some are portraits or other sorts of shot, but the techniques in those other sorts of shots can often be applied to landscape work too. Schewe has a second book as well, "The Digital Print" which is focussed on printing techniques and preparing images for printing and he does a similar thing with a number of different images in that book which also covers some things like soft proofing which aren't covered in "The Digital Negative". The Schewe books together cover the same topics as that chapter in the Fry book but they spend about 4 or 5 times the number of pages on the image processing part of things as Frye spends and there's a significantly greater proportion of space devoted to text than images plus Schewe talks about what he's doing in each image and why he's doing it.

    My 3 go to books for LR techniques (I don't use PS) are the Evening Lightroom book and the 2 Schewe books and I find them extremely useful but they aren't specifically concerned with landscape work, they're intended to be useful regardless of what sort of photography you do. I really don't know of a book which gets into any real depth on processing issues in relation to landscape specifically. The books I've seen or bought on landscape photography tend to spend more time on how to photograph certain types of scene so they cover things like exposure, lens choice, DOF control and the like, and then they include a chapter or section on processing with fairly basic information on processing. That's what the Frye book is in my view. What I feel is sadly missing is a book which starts by talking about previsualisation and how to best expose in order to get a particular sort of final result, e.g, a fairly natural result or a really dramatic result where elements such as clouds or shadow are accentuated to change the mood of the final image, and then walks you through the processing showing you how different choices affect the result. It's easy to find material on how to recover highlights or shadows or increase contrast and other techniques like that. What I haven't seen is anything about how to go out and photograph a landscape, deal with the aspects of the scene such as fog or mist or extreme contrast, and then how to process the file in order to accentuate or reduce those aspects and control the mood and feel of the final image. As far as I know, no such book or video tutorial on landscape photography exists. What we get always seems to be a more detailed account of the basics on how to go about the photographing the scene and a brief and fairly elementary account of basic processing techniques.
  9. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    Thanks David, that's what I was afraid of. I wonder if the LR books you mentioned plus "The Negative" by Ansel Adams for concepts would make a good course. btw Evening writes excellent Photoshop books too.
  10. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I've read Adams' "The Negative" and I own "The Print". The Adams books are good for understanding the zone system and I used to rely on them and zone system exposure techniques to a large degree back when I was shooting B&W film in the 60's and early '70s before I took a long break from photography.

    There's a big difference between film and digital, however, when it comes to exposure. The zone system was based around exposing the film for the shadows and adjusting contrast in development in order to get the appropriate amount of highlight detail. If you do that with digital you end up clipping highlights badly and making a mess of things. With digital you need to expose for the highlights in order to ensure that you keep the highlight detail you want, and then deal with the shadows in processing. Totally the opposite approach.

    There's a book by Chris Johnson called "the Practical Zone System for Film and Digital Photography" which gives a good account of the zone system for film along the same lines as Adams but has an extensive chapter on digital photography, the differences between digital and film, and how to work with zone system principles using digital photography. There's some very good stuff in it and I really thought it was a good book when I read it the first time. Going over the digital side of things a few times after that, I started to feel less positive. It's not that I started to think that he was getting anything wrong, it's that I started to get annoyed and frustrated at his writing style and the amount of repetition of the same material I found in that chapter. There's an old saying in training circles that "first you tell them what you're going to tell them, then you tell them, and then you tell them what you told them". I think that approach works really well in a classroom setting but I don't think it works so well in a book where the reader is likely to re-read the chapter several times anyway. You don't have to tell them 3 times in the chapter if the reader is going to read the chapter 3 times. Tell them 3 times in the chapter and they'll hate you by the time they get to finish reading it for the third time and that's what happened to me. Overall I think the Johnson book is better than the Adams books if you're going to use the zone system with digital but reading it several times in order to really get to understand some of his points becomes an annoying exercise. Johnson's coverage is limited to exposure only, he really does not touch on processing issues for digital.

    The other big difference between film and digital which obviously Adams never got the chance to cover and which Frye and Johnson don't is the difference in what you can do with local adjustments. With film you could dodge and burn in the print. Those were exposure adjustments which affected local and perhaps global contrast. You can do the equivalent in local adjustments with digital but you can also adjust highlights and shadows separately plus contrast, clarity, black and white points, white balance, saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction. There's a much greater range of local adjustments you can make and many of those work extremely well with landscape photography. Adams never wrote anything on digital techniques and Johnson doesn't cover digital processing. Evening and Schewe do cover these sorts of local adjustments but not specifically in relation to landscape so you have to learn how and when to use those things in landscape on your own.

    If I do get around to ever starting to use PS, the Evening book was always going to be the first book I bought on PS given how I feel about his LR books. It's good to hear that his PS stuff is excellent as well.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  11. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    Thanks. I do want to understand the zone system, and I need to learn LR because I only know how to work on jpegs in PS. It's good for local adjustments like you mentioned, but everyone says you have more latitude working on raw files in LR.
  12. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia

    I think the zone system gives you 2 bits of information that are useful with film. The first is about what the correct exposure will be given the "dynamic range" of the scene. The second is about how to develop the negative in order to capture as much of that range as possible. That first bit of information about the correct exposure also applies in digital, but you apply it to highlights rather than shadows. The second bit of info about development doesn't apply because there's no need to play around with developer choice and concentration and/or development time. It just comes down to how much shadow recovery you can do plus, with digital - there's always the choice of HDR. So a lot of what got taught in the zone system isn't necessary in digital because we don't use wet processing techniques which made dealing with some things very different in the film days.

    When it comes to LR and PS and "more latitude working on raw files in LR" the way I understand things is this. PS does not do RAW conversion, it is a pixel editor for editing image file formats though apparently it has gained a bit more flexibility in recent years with layers and smart objects. If you shoot JPEG your camera does the conversion from RAW to JPEG and you end up with an 8 bit file format where your RAW data was in a 12 or 14 bit file format. The loss of those bits means you lose a lot of information that can be useful in processing, and you have more flexibility converting from RAW to JPEG or some other image format in an application like LR than your camera's settings provide. In addition, what LR and other good RAW conversion applications do is they let you pass the image to PS in a 16 bit TIFF format which give PS a lot more data to work with than it has if you give it an 8 bit JPEG to work with. Basically you get better results in any image processing operation if you have more data for the application to work with, whether the application be PS or a RAW conversion program like LR and the less likely you are to end up with visible problems like banding showing up in the final image..

    So yes, you have a lot more latitude working on RAW files in LR than you have if you do the RAW conversion in the camera, and you can preserve a lot more data in the conversion from RAW to image file format in LR that you can then pass to PS for further editing than you can give it with an out of camera JPEG. In fact many photographers do all of their processing in their RAW conversion program and don't use PS at all. There are things that you can't do in a RAW conversion program that you can do in PS but you can probably get to 80 or 90% of what PS can do if you work with RAW files in LR or another RAW conversion program and get a much better result than you can get letting the camera do the RAW conversion.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  13. janelux

    janelux Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 20, 2015
    Clearwater, Florida
    Check out courses on You can watch them live for free and then purchase if you want it to keep. The instructors are excellent and they have a little bit of everything to do with photography, processing, etc.
  14. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    I think you just saved me from having to learn LR. I looked in the PS Camera Raw plug-in, and it can convert raw files to tif.
  15. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    The PS Camera RAW plug-in is Adobe Camera RAW. That's what LR uses for its processing engine. When it comes to the processing/RAW conversion part of things, LR and Adobe Camera RAW are almost identical in features. The biggest difference between them is their interface design which is very different. Apart from learning the interface there's essentially no difference between learning how to process in LR and learning how to process in Adobe Camera RAW.

    If you have a creative cloud subscription for Photoshop, you also have subscriptions for Adobe Camera RAW and Lightroom. Take a look at both, pick the interface that you prefer working in, and use that one. Same learning curve, same features and options, same ability to interact with PS. Really the only significant difference is the interface. If you have an older version of PS and don't have the creative cloud subscription or if you're using PS Elements then you would have to buy LR. In that case I'd suggest saving money and using Adobe Camera RAW until such time as you need to upgrade for some reason, such as wanting to get access to the full range of up to date features in the latest version of PS.
  16. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Jan 15, 2014
    Thanks. I used PS7-CS2 10-15 years ago for worth1000 type compositing. I upgraded to PS CC to get the profiles for my Oly. I'm thinking the main thing I can't do in PS is use LR presets that people post on these forums. For batches, it's not a big deal to drag PS adjustment layers from one image to the others.
  17. mcasan

    mcasan Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 26, 2014
  18. YantaYo

    YantaYo Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2012
  19. palombasso

    palombasso Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 31, 2014 has photoshop workflow vĂ­deos from raw using Adobe Camera Raw adjustments, lab mode curves and dodging and burning brushes.

    I really like his results, and although I haven't been using his PS workflow (I prefer to do it all in lightroom) the video was worthwhile

    Sent from my SM-G900M using Tapatalk