Creating Landscape Portfolio Photograph

Today I want to share with you the process I use when I need to create a high-quality photo, a portfolio piece. The cornerstone of the process is the Lightroom Rapid Editing, the editing approach I develop over the years to streamline my travel photography workflow.

I took the featured photo during my two-week long driving trip through the Southwest. I started the trip in Phoenix and after driving 5000 km through Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California, I finished my journey in Los Angeles.

When I was back home and went through my culling routine I noticed this photo right away. I reflected everything I love about travel photography: long driving trips, remote destinations and unexpected discoveries.

The main issue with this photo is that it is too dark. When I was taking it, I purposely set my exposure for the brightest area of the scene – the sky – making sure I captured its details and, as a result, the rest of the image is underexposed.

The goal of Lightroom editing is to make it brighter, recover the shadows, bring back the colors and increase contrast.

To apply the preset to the selected image all you have to do is click the name of the preset in the PRESETS Panel.

Natural Preset

The Natural Preset is one of my favorites as it gives your landscapes a natural look with rich colors and well-defined skies.

I like the result that the preset produces, but the image is too dark for my taste, it is way too underexposed.

This is when the TOOLKIT comes into play.

The TOOLKIT is the collection of 40 Adjustment presets. Each adjustment does not create any specific look or style, but it helps us to fine tune the photo after applying one of the presets.

  1. To make the image brighter, all I have to do is to apply 02. EXPOSURE ++ adjustment and the photo looks much nicer.
  2. I also want to open up the shadows by making only the dark areas of the image brighter. This is a trial and error process. I start by applying the OPEN SHADOWS adjustments from #07 to #10. I can see that 08. Open Shadows ++ is a bit too dark and 10. Open Shadows ++++ is a bit too bright, which means that 09. Open Shadows +++ is the right adjustment for this particular image.
  3. Also, I want to increase the contrast in midtones. I apply 17 Clarity ++
  4. At this point, I am satisfied with the final result and all I have to do is to add vignetting. Once again, I use a process of a trial and error by applying adjustments 31 Vignetting +, 32 Vignetting ++, 33 Vignetting +++. The adjustment 32 Vignetting ++ produces the best result so I keep it.

Below is the final look:

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Natural preset
  • 02 Exposure ++
  • 09 Open Shadows +++
  • 17 Clarity ++
  • 32 Vignetting ++

Here is the Lightroom Editing Formula for this shot: Natural (2, 9, 17, 32).  It starts with the name of the preset and follows with the numbers inside the brackets, where each number represents a specific ADJUSTMENT preset from the TOOLKIT collection.

When I am happy with the final result, I use the Snapshot functionality of Lightroom and save my editing steps as a new Snapshot. For the name, I use Lightroom Editing Formula.

If you want to learn more about the Lightroom Editing Formula, please read Introduction to Lightroom Rapid Editing System article.

Now I am going to give you a few creative options for the same capture.

Preset: Point Lobos

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Point Lobos preset
  • 10 Open Shadows ++++
  • 17 Clarity ++
  • 21 Vibrance ++
  • 24 Saturation +
  • 40 Sky Blue Darker +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Point Lobos (10, 17, 21, 24, 40)

Preset: End of Summer

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • End of Summer preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 17 Clarity ++
  • 22 Vibrance +++

Lightroom Editing Formula: End of Summer (1, 17, 22)

Preset: Skyshine

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Skyshine preset
  • 9 Open Shadows +++
    16 Clarity +
  • 31 Vignetting +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Skyshine (9, 16, 31)

Preset: Drought

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Drought preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 8 Open Shadows +
    13 Contrast ++
  • 31 Vignetting +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Drought (1, 8, 13, 31)

Preset: Beyond the Reach

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Beyond the Reach preset
  • 02 Exposure ++
  • 09 Open Shadows +++
  • 17 Clarity ++
  • 32 Vignetting ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Beyond the Reach (2, 9, 17, 32)

Preset:  Analog Wave

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Analog Wave preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 09 Open Shadows +++
  • 21 Vibrance ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: Analog Wave (1, 9, 21)

Preset:  Clock Tower

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Clock Tower preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 09 Open Shadows +++
  • 32 Vignetting ++
  • 38 Sky Blue Darker +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Clock Tower (1, 9, 32, 38)

Preset: HDR Blend

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • HDR Blend preset
  • 01 Exposure +
  • 10 Open Shadows ++++
  • 25 Saturation ++

Lightroom Editing Formula: HDR Blend (1, 10, 25)

Preset: Sunrise

Here are the exact editing steps I used to achieve the final look:

  • Sunrise preset
  • 09 Open Shadows +
  • 13 Contrast ++
  • 16 Clarity +
  • 31 Vignetting +

Lightroom Editing Formula: Sunrise (9, 13, 16, 31)

When I am done with the editing, I have the Snapshot Panel of Lightroom filled with 12 editing versions for this particular photo.

As you can see, we managed to create 12 distinctive looks for the original capture. Now, all you have to do is to select the version you like the most. There are no right or wrong selections here because photography is a visual art where all choices are purely subjective.

Please note, in the real-life scenarios I normally do not create 12 editing version of the same image. It is total overkill. I did it with the purpose to better demonstrate the power of my new system. Normally, I create 2 or 3 versions before I am ready to make a selection.

Conclusion

As you can see the Lightroom Rapid Editing can help you to drastically speed up the process of photo editing and to improve your photography at an accelerated speed.

If you are interested in an adoption of Lightroom Rapid Editing System for Landscapes into your photography workflow, you can learn more about it here: 

Learn how I developed the Lightroom Rapid Editing workflow which helps me to process a high volume of photos in a short period of time.

For today’s demonstration, I used the presets from my most popular preset collection: Lightroom Rapid Editing for Landscapes

  • Very helpful tutorial. Excellent photography. Thanks for sharing your post.

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