Case Study: How to Revive Overcast Landscape Photographs

Today I want to share with you the typical scenario from the life of a traveling photographer.

Cypress Grove Trail in Point Lobos

I love California in general and Point Lobos State Reserve is one of my favorite locations on the West Coast.

Every time I plan my California trip I dedicate at least a day to visit and photograph Point Lobos.

The reserve opens at 9 am in the morning so sunrise colors are out of the question, and you always hope for good light at sunset.

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The day visited Point Lobos in January I was out of luck. It was an overcast and gloomy day with no sun, shadows, or contrast.

It was the winter of the worst drought in California history and it made the colors distinct across entire California. In the Point Lobos forest area, the colors became completely unrealistic with the predominantly red and orange colors covering the trees.

After waiting for a couple of hours for the weather to improve, I realized that the only option I had was to take a bunch of photographs hoping to bring them back to life later during the editing.

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If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I do most of my photo editing in Lightroom and only occasionally use Photoshop. In today’s case, the process of editing Point Lobos’ photo is completely reversed. I only used Lightroom briefly and the heavy lifting was done in Photoshop.

Total editing time: 70min
Lightroom: 10min
Photoshop: 60min

Step 1 – Lightroom

Like I mentioned before, the Lightroom processing was minimal. All I had to do is to use the Rapid Editing for Landscapes using the following settings:

Lightroom Editing Formula: Point Lobos (13, 21, 38)

As you can see, the result is not groundbreaking but I managed to correct exposure, recover shadows and boost colors.

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Total time: 10min

Step 2 – Cleaning in Photoshop

The cleaning was the most time-consuming part of the editing. I used the Stamp Tool to remove the fence and to cover the distracting elements. (branches, rocks debris).

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Total time: 30min

Step 4 – Improving Composition

At this point, it was time to take care of the composition.

The main issue that drove me crazy was two openings or holes in the upper area of the photo. I knew from the beginning that I would have to fix it or composition would not be balanced.

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I used elements of the tree branches from the different areas of the same image to cover the holes.

I used the Transparency Masks and the Brash Tool to blend the elements together.

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The last step to improve the composition was a radical one.

When we examine a photograph for the first time we often start from the left and continue to the right. I thought that the main tree which is leaning to the left prevents the process of flawless scanning. I decided to flip the photo horizontally to ease the scanning.

Total time: 20min

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Step 4 – Final Touches in Photoshop

The final step was quick and easy. I added vignetting and made the middle of the image a bit brighter.

Total time: 10min 

Before & After Transformation


I prefer to use Lightroom for every possible aspect of photo editing because it simplifies the entire workflow and makes the editing much faster. But, in some cases, Photoshop is the only option when you need to perform complex selective editing. This is where Photoshop shines.

by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

4 thoughts on “Case Study: How to Revive Overcast Landscape Photographs”

  1. Photoshop is somewhat like a magic wand for photography. However, it is certainly a hard, complicated and time consuming technique which demands its users’ patience. I wish to take a class in a near future when I can manage my time. Have a nice day, Viktor.

  2. Hi Viktor – very good end result. Have you any views on using Lightroom vs ON1 for making basic adjustments to RAW files. I have used both packages and so far decided against buying Lightroom as I cant see Lightroom producing better quality Raw files. For lens corrections I use Canon’s Raw file software (free with a canon camera), followed by On1 photo 10 and occasionally use Topaz suite for special effects.

    Happy Xmas

    • Mar,

      I have 120.000 images in my Lightroom catalog and even before I start editing images I spend quite a bit of time organizing them. ON1 + Canon RAW can not replace this aspect of my workflow. I used ON1 in combination with Lightroom, I quite like the latest version, it is fast.


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