Landscape Photography with Post Processing in Mind

It would be very hard to duplicate this light in Photoshop.

I suppose it’s possible, but I would rather have the real color pallet to paint with light. You never know what nature may throw at you during these magic moments of light.

We recently completed a photography workshop in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Each morning we got up at “O’Dark 30” to capture the sunrise. Every morning was unique and different and amazing in its own way.

On our second morning in the Grand Tetons, we headed out to the Mormon Row Barns to experience the sun rising and the light hitting the barns. This is an iconic location for the Tetons, and there were several other photographers there doing the same thing.

When I am getting ready to shoot in an environment like this, I always look at the scene and think about how I would post process this image. Very often, I will take notes, and really think about how this image will look once I bring it in to Lightroom and Photoshop.

We were lucky enough to have a moment when the sky lit up and then it turned a beautiful pink color. I knew that this was what we were looking for and would be the “glue” to make this a great image.

Why was I so confidant that this was going to be a picture I’d want to keep in my portfolio? First of all, the iconic location of the Grand Tetons, and there was some interesting color in the sky and some smoke to add atmospheric conditions. These were all elements that I knew could create something really nice. But most importantly, I kept a close eye on my histogram to make sure there was information left in the shadows and that the picture was not over exposed. This is one of the most important tools you can use in landscape photography.

If you keep an eye on your histogram when shooting, it will save you some time and aggravation later when post processing. Make sure the graph of the histogram is not “spiking” on either wall. The left wall represents the shadows, the right wall represents the highlights. If there is a spike all the way over on the left or right walls, your image is either under exposed or over exposed. Keep your graph away from the walls and towards the middle of the histogram by using your exposure compensation button to either add or subtract light until the graph looks balanced. It may not look right on the back of your camera, but you will be happy you kept this in mind when it comes to post processing.

On the last day of our Grand Tetons and Yellowstone photography workshop, we rose early once again to catch to morning sunrise. My plan was to catch the first light as it hit Yellowstone Canyon, and then wait to capture the full morning light. When we first arrived at around 6:30am, there was a beautiful warm glow in the canyon. I knew this wasn’t the sun as it was too early for a September sunrise. What greeted us was the moon shining down into Yellowstone Canyon. What a beautiful unexpected surprise!

I shot this image, once again, keeping a close eye on my histogram. I knew that if I had a balanced histogram, I would be able to open up the shadows and enhance the sky in Lightroom. Here’s my before and after pictures with a screen shot of the histogram.

As you can see, this image did not require a lot of post processing. Mainly what I did, was increase the exposure in the canyon being careful to preserve the yellow color of the canyon walls. I also wanted to retain the beautiful pink sky and enhance the white of the water fall. Because this image was a balanced exposure, it was easy to make these enhancements. It would have been very hard without the aid of the histogram.

If you would like to learn more about our online, in person, and Skype Lightroom classes, go to this page, or contact us directly. We would be happy to help get you up to speed shooting and editing your images.

Jansen Photo Expeditions, photography inspiration, exploration and adventure!

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Holly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly's Free E-Book on "Landscape Photography and the Light" and find out about her newest workshops at


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Jansen Photo Expeditions
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