7 Final Steps in a Fine Art Landscape Photography Workflow

7 Final Steps in the Fine Art Landscape Photography Workflow

So you've made most of the major adjustments to your photo, but you want to insure the images you produce are the best quality possible.  You are creating something and you want to hold it to the highest standards of quality. 

Here are some things I do when finishing up an image. 

1. Is the Horizon Level? Straighten the horizon! 

One of the trickiest things to get right is making sure your final photo has a level horizon.  Even if it's only off by a few degrees, it can ruin an image to the scrutinizing eye. 

A few reasons why your horizon might not be level:

  • You're shooting fast and aren't paying attention 
  • You're equipment isn't allowing for precise leveling
  • You're being careless

An extreme example, but you get the point!

Best practice is to use the electronic level in your camera or leveling tools on your equipment. There a few straightening options in photoshop and Lightroom that are very straightforward. Here's the one in Photoshop:

 

Simply drag along the horizon to straighten:

You can also grab the top corner of an image and get more precision, by simply rotating the image and looking at the grid:

Don't make a habit of doing it this way. It's always best to get it right in camera. Still, it's a great thing to check. 

 

2. Sharpening 

I save sharpening for last. Make sure the image is sharp. But you can selectively sharpen an image by masking out areas you don't want to be sharp (like sky and water).

I won't go into great detail here, because there's lots of advanced ways to go about this. 

Here's the basic concept. Mask out areas you don't want to be sharp:

3. Get up close and personal with your image

It's easy to miss things when you're looking at the "big picture", pun intended. Take the hand tool, zoom in really close to your image, and take a hard look. 

Get in really close, and move in a pattern through your image (I move left to right, top down). Check for

  • Dust spots from your sensor.
  • Processing artifacts
  • Lack of sharpness
  • Distracting elements
  • Anything that shouldn't be there

 

4. Dodging and Burning

When you're making the final touches on an image, it's often a good touch to "burn" areas you want to be darker, and "dodge" areas you want to be lighter. You can take the viewers eye to areas of the image you want them to focus on. 

Photoshop has built-in tools to do this. Lightroom has adjustment brushes that you can set to "dodge" and "burn". There's lots of ways to dodge and burn. I use an advanced method and Photoshop action which would require a blog post of it's own. 

 

5. Check the Histogram

Technically you should be keeping an eye on the histogram throughout your entire processing.  If you weren't diligent during the workflow, make sure you look at it as a final step in your workflow.

  • Are blacks clipped? If so, was it on purpose?
  • Are highlights blown? 
  • Is it underexposed?

 

6. Save the file back to Lightroom

Doing this instead of saving the JPEG directly from Photoshop is ideal. This is an important step, for a few reasons:

  1. Lightroom is keeping track of the file and your adjustments
  2. There is at least a little bit of delay while the file is saving, so it gives you a bit of separation from the image. Maybe you missed something that you didn't realize you missed. 
  3. You are seeing the file in a new medium (Lightroom instead of Photoshop).  Press "L" to turn down/off the lights to look at your image against a dark background

You can "Dim The Lights" which is ideal so you can see the adjustments sliders. 

Or you can turn of the lights all together by processing "L" again:

Lightroom Final steps:

Your image should be 99% done at this point. I like to take this final opportunity to make slight tonal adjustments within Lightroom:

 

7. Step away from the image

This one is the hardest.  If you're like me, you're excited to share your work. But it's best practice to step away from the image for a couple days to a couple weeks. When you come back to it with fresh eyes, you may overlook something you missed before. 

You're done!

I hope you've found this tutorial useful. 

If you'd like to learn some of my more advanced methods, consider booking a Photoshop tutorial with me:

 

 


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