Top Tips for Colour Grading Arctic Landscape Photos in Lightroom
Getting Your Images Print Ready
An in depth tutorial on colour grading, sharpening and denoising Arctic Landscape Images in Lightroom.
Lightroom is a super powerful tool that I use in 100% of my landscape photography images. Lightroom’s basic functions are amazing but sometimes other specialized softwares work way better. This does not mean that we need to forgo Lightroom, but rather just install the plugins that can help our image output results in order to be print ready.
A lot of students that join me on photography tours bring their expensive gear to the rather expensive photography tour with no clear vision of how to get a return on their investment. As much as photography is a great hobby, it can be a super expensive one. This is why I’ve created a print store set up challenge for my students, clients and guests to learn the workflow from importing and organizing photos, to editing, to managing noise and sharpness in order for our prints to look world class when printed for them or for their own fan base / clientele or network. It’s super important that if you come home with images, stories to tell that you have an outlet to sell your images if there is a demand.
This is a portion of the workflow where I will showcase some colour grading in Lightroom from a Greenland Photo Tour expedition in West Greenland and then I’ll show you the plugins and how I go about using them.
This is the starting image taken with my Canon 16-35mm USM II while on a West Greenland photo tour expedition. As you can see in this shot, my composition is not very strong, nor is the in camera crop. The iceberg is right in the middle of the horizon and I’m not giving enough space to either the foreground or the sky. In this image, my goal is to actually crop it properly where I place the more interesting area in the ⅔ and the remaining ⅓ is the less interesting part. For this image, the water texture is incredible. It’s calm enough for a reflection, yet it showcases some smooth wave movement. Therefore that is where I’ll re-crop the image to showcase this texture. In addition to straightening the horizon.
Already the image looks significantly more interesting.
I”ll start by doing some basic global edits prior to getting into the colour grading. What I like to do here, is to manage the contrast and the details in the shadows and highlights.
Next I’ll go into the tone curve and add a slight contrast curve to the scene.
Now my goal is to add depth to the image. How do you ask? Well essentially what is closest to us should have the greatest contrast and saturation and as your eye moves further back into a scene the image should have reduced contrast by increasing the haze.
I’ll put in a graduated filter with added contrasting elements. I want to bring the viewers eye from the front of the scene to the iceberg.
Colour grading time. I’m going to drastically change the hues, saturation and luminosity values of the colours. My goal here is to add contrast through colours. I want to utilize the warm background to make my water and iceberg really pop. In my photographs, I love to use colour theory to add contrast to a scene to make the subject stand out organically.
As you can see, I’m not trying to over expose this scene. I want it to be representative of what I saw in the field. I’ll use luminosity values to increase the brightness of my iceberg by increasing the blue values in the slider area.
For split toning, I’ll add in cool shadows for the water and my iceberg and then for the highlights I’ll add in warm tones which further enhances the colour contrast to the scene.
Now for some easy photoshop. Don’t panic, I’ll walk you throw how we can sharpen the image correctly.
Right click the image and Edit In > Edit in Adobe Photoshop 2021
Now click on the background layer and press command J or duplicate background layer.
With that top layer selected go to Filter down to Topaz Labs (I’ll put a 15% off code at the bottom with the link) and to Topaz Sharpen AI.
The reason why we need to use the plugin in Photoshop rather than Lightroom is because we do not want to sharpen the entire image, we want to mask out the area where we just want to be sharp.
When you are in Topaz Labs Sharpen AI, you can use auto for everything and then click update to see the results. Once you have the results you can override them and adjust as necessary. In this case, it oversharpened the scene so I manually reduced the sharpen output.
Then I click Apply and let it load. Once that loads, I create a black layer mask to hide all of the sharpening that I just created. Black masks hide everything while white reveals what’s underneath. So in this case we do not want to sharpen the entire image so we must hide that sharpening effect with a black mask and then go use a white paint brush with the black layer mask selected and outline the iceberg, or the subject that we want sharp. Typically you should just focus on what is in your focal plane to determine what should be sharpened and what shouldn’t be.
As you can see in the tiny layer mask below, I have use the white paint brush with that layer mask selected and painted out the iceberg which reveals the Topaz Labs sharpening underneath.
Here are the before and after results of this particular Lightroom colour grading workflow and also the resulting sharpened image using Photoshop layers and Topaz Labs.
What I would do next is export my image and upscale it to my pre-determined largest output size. Most professional printers print at 300 dpi or 200 dpi depending on your desired largest print size.
But first let’s export from Lightroom for printing. These specifications are from my 10 Day Print Selling Machine challenge and you can join the program here: wildlife.ultimatephotocourse.com/order-form-new and these specifications are from the award winning print shop I recommend.
Now based on this image’s pixel dimensions we can only print this image at a smaller size.
4698px x 3132 px. In order to print at 60” x 40” at 300 dpi, we must have pixel dimensions of 18,000px x 12,000px. To do this we can upscale using Topaz Labs Gigapixel and this process is as follows. You see on the image below that the original pixel dimensions and the multiplication factor of 4x as that provides us with the pixel dimension we need to print in the large format. This process is to avoid pixelation as the Gigapixel program adds pixels to our image to create the highest quality printing output.
Similarly to Topaz Labs Sharpen AI, I would use Auto and then tweak the settings based on the updated output preview.
If I were to print my original image at 60”x40” then I would have the output on the left and with my Gigapixel upscaling the new results are on the right.
Once you’re happy with the results, click Save Image and choose the exact same settings as we chose in the Lightroom Export. You can also save this TIF as a JPEG now without compromising any colours or details just to save file size.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this Lightroom, Photoshop, Topaz Labs workflow for sharpening and upscaling for printing preparation.
Here is the coupon and code for Topaz Labs discount: CHASE15 and also the link to get the deal: https://topazlabs.com/ref/790/?campaign=SecretAtlas
Also I hope to see you in the 10 Day Live Print Selling Challenge to help your photography hobby become a little bit more affordable.
All the best and see you on an Arctic Photography Expedition soon!