Photographing a Waterfall
Illustration by

Photographing a Waterfall

with Justin Reznick

Video: Finalizing the waterfall image in Photoshop

Just a quick recap. And I like something right around the high 20s.

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Watch the Online Video Course Photographing a Waterfall
32m 36s Beginner Jul 18, 2014

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Waterfalls combine many of the challenges associated with nature photography: remote locations, fast-moving objects, and tricky lighting scenarios. In this course, landscape photographer Justin Reznick takes you through field and stream and shows how to capture the dynamic texture of water, whether it's a silky smooth brook or the cotton-candy clouds at the end of a waterfall. He'll cover the clothes to wear and the equipment you should pack for a watery shoot, as well as important composition and exposure factors to consider before you shoot. Justin also shows how to enhance your images with Lightroom, Photoshop, and some of the plugins in the Nik Collection.

Justin Reznick

Finalizing the waterfall image in Photoshop

Just a quick recap. We started it Lightroom. Selected our images. Did a few adjustments. Brought them into Photoshop. And did our composite. We went from two down to one image. Did an options auto-adjustment. And now we're moving, to Color Efex Pro 4. Color Efex Pro 4, by Nik Software, is all about filters. These are all the filters that we have to choose from. I'm going to help narrow it down by coming to Landscape filters. We are mostly interested in filters that apply to what we just photographed.

I'm going to start with Brilliance and Warmth. Brilliance and Warmth is all about color. Using the saturation slider, moving it to the right, you're going to start to build that color. Now, because we photographed in Raw, you're going to have very muted color, we have to build that color back in. How much we build is up to you. I like to reach a point where I say, that is too much, I do not like it. And then I start to come back to the left until I feel comfortable. And I like something right around the high 20s.

Now, warmth is white balance on the cool and the warm side. And I like to play with this a little bit as well. Looking at that image, the water's nice and white, the landscape's nice and warm, it's actually great defaulted at zero. I am going to come over here and add a filter. We're going to move on to the next, which is Tonal Contrast. Tonal Contrast is all about clarity in the midtones. These default numbers are too high. They make your image look over processed.

I'm going to come to the default numbers for me, which is 10, 15, 10, and 10. We have nice checkmark. I can do a before and after. Before and after. And now you're going to see the image is really going to pop. Building those contrasts in the midtones is key to making your image pop. This, right here, is the highlights bar and this will actually protect the highlights. As you build contrast you're going to start to get some blown highlights. If I take this bar and slide it to the right watch what happens.

I've now protected those highlights. Again, nonprotected. And protected. So I'm going to bring it about 75%. And I'm going to help protect those highlights, before and after. I'm going to go ahead and add another filter. Pro Contrast is next. Pro Contrast builds overall con, contrast in a scene, and I like to use dynamic contrast. I default at 20 and I move it from there. Let's look at a before and after and see what's happening.

It's really brightening up some of the dark areas and I like that. I'm going to again protect the highlights, make sure that none of the highlights become blown. Let's hit the Compare button, so this is before our adjustments and after. I've added saturation, the color's looking really nice, I've got contrast in the midtones and overall contrast in the scene. Now, it's very important at this point to save the recipe, I'm going to name this water. Now the next time I bring an image into Color Efex Pro 4, I can apply this recipe and these adjustments will happen automatically.

And then I can fine tune those adjustments to my liking. This is an incredibly time saving way to process your images. From here I'm going to hit OK. And that image is going to be brought back into Photoshop. Once in Photoshop, we can again, we can always use the Eye to see before and after. And now you're looking at my final image. This was the vision that I had in the field, the silky smooth water with texture. An incredible, vibrant, lush forest and moss that we find here in this scene.

What I'm going to do now is flatten the image, and from here I'll go ahead and save it as a TIFF and this will become my master file. Processing for me is about being efficient and it's about getting to where I want to go in the least amount of steps. So, this is my workflow. I hope that you've learned from these steps that I've shared with you and I hope that some of these tools can help you to achieve your vision.

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