I've been wanting to write a blog post walking through my editing process for some time now. It's evolved quite a bit since my last posts that walked through some of my edits, which were from several years ago.
My recent trip back to Nova Scotia wasn't predominantly aimed at photography, but I did make an effort to pack a bit of gear. Usually, if I'm just casually travelling, I'll pack one Fuji X-T1 and one or two lenses at the most. For this trip, I packed the one body and the 18-55mm kit lens (which for a kit lens, is shockingly good), as well as my MeFOTO Roundtrip tripod and my Lee Seven filters. The camera and kit lens has become a typical "walk-around" setup for me, and the tripod and filters didn't add much extra heft at all.
I grew up in Nova Scotia and had family that lived near Peggy's Cove, it's always been a favourite area for me, and one I've wanted to shoot more of as I've gotten more serious about my photography and improved my landscape skills. Unfortunately, the area of the lighthouse is horribly touristy and is typically overrun most days. However, if you just go slightly away from the lighthouse, there are still tons of great areas to shoot that are much less crowded. I was travelling with my mother and my girlfriend and noticed the light and clouds in this spot. We didn't have a lot of time, so this had to be a quick setup. I knew I wanted to use an ND filter to smooth out the water; I tried with the 3-stop filter first but saw my exposure wouldn't be long enough, so I moved up to the Little Stopper 6-stop filter to get a 2-second exposure at f-11.
I'm currently using Lightroom for editing all of my raw images. The initial import was quite flat and dull, which is typical for raw photos. It's worth noting that I do apply some of the edits I'm about to describe as a preset during the import process. I never actually saw the image as it appears in this post, but I thought it was worth sharing the unedited original image just to show the full before and after I think this also highlights why it can be worth creating some good presets that get you into the ballpark and apply them on import. I could have easily looked right past this image if I'd seen it in its original form.
I've been following some of the advice from Serge Ramelli's landscape classes and now start with dragging highlights down to -100 and shadows up to +100. My preset also adds quite a bit of clarity and vibrancy into the image, which I dial back on the saturation a bit to keep things from getting a little too garish. I always manually set the white and black points to my liking for the particular image. I will play with the vibrancy, and clarity for individual images but this is a great starting point. The final thing I do for my landscape preset is that I set the camera profile to Velvia, this is a profile for Fuji cameras, and it does help get the classic look of Fuji Velvia film. The other obvious thing that needed adjusting was the white balance. I typically leave my camera on the cloudy preset since I can always adjust it in the raw image later and this is a decent starting point. Especially with long exposure shots though, I find the filter creates quite a noticeable blue colour cast, and you do have to adjust this. I wanted to highlight the warmth of the beginning sunset, so I went for a relatively warm starting point.
The other step I took was to adjust the sharpening. Again, I add my baseline sharpening settings in my preset, so mostly this is just tweaking things a bit. I use a relatively high sharpening value, but then control where it's applied by using adjusting the masking This allows me to add in extra sharpening where I want it while eliminating it from large open areas such as skies or water, where it would be distracting.
That was all I did on a global level. For a lot of images, that's all I do to the image. I picked this particular image because I did a much heavier edit than normal, so it made for a much more detailed demonstration of what I'll do to an image that merits a more in-depth edit.
I've decided to split this post up into two parts to keep the length down. Next time I'll discuss the local adjustments I performed in Lightroom, as well as covering the finishing touches I made in Photoshop. I hope this has been useful to some of my readers. Please leave a comment on this post if you'd like to see more posts like this in the future.