3 Tips for Editing Landscape Photos with the Nik Collection
In this tutorial, we are looking at three techniques you can use when editing landscape photos with the Nick collection. These three tips can make a significant difference to your photo editing and improve your results. For the tutorial, we will be using Nik Viveza and Nik Color Efex Pro from the Nik Collection 3, but you can any version of the Nik Collection.
If you don’t have the Nik Collection, you can download a 30-day free trial version from the DxO website.
Whilst this tutorial shares three techniques, you shouldn’t try to use all three techniques with every image you edit. Often a single technique is that it takes to make a substantial improvement. Try to use all three techniques could be just too much and don’t make the effects too strong. It’s often a case of less is more when editing landscape photos.
Exposure Balancing a Landscape Photo
Our first technique is something I call exposure balancing and we will be using Nik Viveza.
Often when photographing landscapes, the lighting is uneven and can cause deep shadows. Possibly the most common example is where the sky appears much brighter than the ground. Landscape photographers usually fix this by using Neutral Density Graduated filters. These filters are dark on one half and clear on the other. By placing the dark area over the brightest part of the scene it balances the exposure across the frame.
Although using filters for landscape photography is a good practice, you will still often find areas of uneven exposure. When this happens, some areas of the image appear too dark in comparison to others and become distracting. By balancing the exposure for these areas with the rest of the image you can create a much more appealing photograph.
Let’s look at an example using this image of the steps at Whitby.
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Here we have two problems that make the exposure of the image appear unbalanced:
- The foreground steps are too light and need to be darker.
- The pier in the distance is in shadow and needs to be lighter.
We can achieve both adjustments using Nik Viveza.
Open the Photo in Nik Viveza
After opening your landscape photo in Nik Viveza you’ll see the adjustment controls on the right-hand side of the screen.
By default, the adjustments you make using these controls will affect the entire image. We say they are global adjustment. Instead we need to make a localised adjustment that affect only part of the image. We can do this by adding a control point to the image to select the area we want to adjust.
Add a Control Point Selection
Click the “Add Control Point” icon and then position your cursor over the image. When you’re over the area you want to select, click with your mouse to add the Control Point. You will see the new control point added and it will also appear in the control point list on the right of the Nik Viveza interface.
To see the area selected by the Control Point, click the control point mask view. This is the small tick box to the right of the Control Point name in the Control Point List. The mask is helpful because it displays the selected area in white. When you apply adjustments with the Control Point, you only affect these areas.
When you’re happy with the selection, you can untick the view mask option.
Now you can make your adjustments using the sliders on the Control Point.
Adjusting the Control Point
In this example we want to darken the bright areas of the steps to bring them into balance with the rest of the image. We can do this by moving the brightness slider (Br) to the left until which darkens that area.
It’s quite possible that when you reduce the brightness of an area, any colour can become more intense. If you think an area is becoming too saturated, move the saturation (Sa) slider to the left to reduce the saturation.
Now repeat the process by adding a Control Point to select the dark shadows of the pier.
Now you can use the brightness slider (Br) to the light these but it may affect other areas near to the pier. Alternatively, you could use the shadow adjustments (Sh) slider. By moving the slider to the right, you will lighten only the shadow tones only.
Watch the Contrast
Adjustments like this can make images appear to lack contrast. If this happens, you may need to adjust the global contrast of the image. To make a global adjustment, click on the image (away from the Control Point) to ensure you don’t have a Control Point selected. Now you can use the sliders on the right of the interface to make global adjustments.
Here’s a before and after view of the image side-by-side in the Viveza. The original image is on the left whilst the adjusted image is on the right.
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These adjustments are subtle, but they can make a substantial difference to the perceived quality of a landscape photo.
Selective Colour Cleaning for Landscape Photos
When editing landscape photos, a significant challenge is to achieve a good white balance. The lighting conditions in landscape photography change all the time. Often you can find that even if you achieve a good overall white balance some areas of the image will have poor colours. When this happens, you can use the selective colour cleaning technique.
Here’s an example of a photo where the camera’s white balance has removed some of the oranges in the image.
To address this, we can use the Pro Contrast filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.
Open the Image in Nik Color Efex Pro
after opening the image in Nik Color Efex Pro you will find the filter library on the left of the interface. You can select a filter from the library by clicking it. The filter then appears on the right of the interface where you can apply adjustments.
In the following screenshot, you can see the Pro Contrast filter, but it’s not applying any adjustments.
If you look at the controls in the Pro Contrast filter you will see a slider called Correct Colour Cast. Moving the slider over to the right can help remove any colour cast in the image. It won’t however return missing colours.
Whilst this landscape photo doesn’t appear to have a colour cast, this slider can still work and create a natural colour balance for the landscape, but it may not work in every area . That’s when you can use the Positive and Negative Control Points that you find at the bottom of each filters.
Using Control Points in Color Efex Pro
When you add a Negative Control Point to an image, it removes the filter’s effect from that area. If you add a Positive Control Point it applies the filter’s adjustment to the selection. It’s also possible to add either of these Control Points and then adjust its opacity.
After adding the Positive and Negative Control Points, here’s what the mask looks like for the image. You can view this by clicking the mask view option in the Control Point list, just as we did in Viveza above.
Here we are applying the colour correction to the white areas of the mask. The darker the area, then the less correction’s applied. This allows you to apply spot colour correction across the image and achieve a natural result.
Here’s a split image preview of the photo following colour cleaning.
The original image is on the left side whilst the edited image is on the right side. The difference between the two is very subtle and may be difficult to see without turning the effect on and off in Nik Color Efex Pro. Despite this, it makes enough difference for a viewer to notice. It also prepares the image for any spot colour enhancement you want to make.
Spot Colour Enhancement in Landscape Photos
Often when editing landscape photos, you will need to enhance some of the colours. Whilst you could achieve this by applying colour and saturation to the entire image, this seldom works well. It’s often much better to apply spot adjustments to colours.
We will continue with the image from the previous example which you can see below.
Here, the clouds on the right side are a little too bright and need exposure balancing. Additionally, all the clouds are lacking the intense orange colour that I experienced at the time. I can now add this back to the clouds in Viveza using a control point.
Adding a Control Point in Viveza
Start by selecting the clouds on the right side of the frame using a new Control Point in Viveza. Then move the brightness (Br) slider left to darken the area . This intensifies the colour slightly as we saw in the Exposure Balancing section above. But in this instance, it also makes the clouds appear dull. If this happens you can often correct it by increasing the Contrast (Co) slider.
Once the exposure is correctly balance you can enhance the colour by moving the Warmth slider (Wa) to the right. After that it may be necessary to increase the saturation slightly. You can see an example of the adjustment below.
Duplicate the Control Point
Now you can duplicate the Control Point using the Duplicate button in the Control Point List. Alternatively, hold down the Options key (Mac) on your keyboard or if you are using a PC it’s the Alt key. Then when you click and drag the Control Point it creates a duplicate.
Position the duplicate Control Points on other clouds that you want to enhance. You may find you need to tweak the Brightness, Contrast and Saturation sliders in these other areas.
Here’s the finished image after adjustment the Viveza Control Points.
Now watch the three tips in practice in the video below before practicing editing your own landscape photos.
Nik Collection – Editing Landscape Photos Video
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Summary of Editing Landscape Photos with the Nik Collection
In this tutorial, I’ve explained three techniques you can use when editing landscape photos. You can use each technique in isolation or together with other techniques but do take care not to apply too many adjustments.
It’s especially important to spend a few moments before making any adjustments to consider each image to understand what changes it will benefit from. The three techniques we’ve looked at are:
- Exposure Balancing in the Viveza, to avoid having distracting light and dark areas in an image.
- Selective Colour Cleaning in Nik Color Efex Pro. This ensures you have natural colours across the entire image.
- Spot Colour Enhancement in Nik Viveza to help return or intensify colours in selected areas of your image.
In all three of these techniques we’ve made extensive use of Nik Control Points. To gain the most benefit from the Nik Collection it’s important to master the different types of Control Point. You may find my Nik Control Point tutorial can help you with this.
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