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In Photoshop CS5: Landscape Photography, Ben Long outlines a full, shooting-to-output workflow geared specifically toward the needs of landscape photographers, with a special emphasis on composition, exposure enhancement, and retouching. This course also covers converting to black and white, using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging techniques to capture an image that’s closer to what your eye sees, and preparing images for large-format printing. Learn to bring back the impact of the original scene with some simple post-processing in Photoshop. Exercise files are included with the course.
Sometimes your images will have flaws that are no fault of your own. While you might have carefully crafted the right exposure for a scene, your lens itself might betray you due to aberrations and problems in its optics. Unfortunately, most of these types of problems only show up in the exact situations that landscape photographers tend to work. The good news is that Camera RAW and Photoshop both have excellent tools for correcting lens troubles. Vignetting is a darkening in the corners of your image, and it's usually only a problem when shooting at wide angles, again something landscape photographers tend to do.
You can see that in this image, obviously, the first problem with this image is it's sideways. So in Camera RAW, hit the Rotate tool up here, which rotates you clockwise. And now just look up here in the corner can see the darkening here. Now there is also darkening down here, but that part of the image is dark so it's hidden. If you're shooting against any kind of busy background, vignetting is often hidden, but because landscapes usually include bright skies, vignetting can show up quite a bit. There are times when you want to add vignettes to bring more attention to the center of your image, but in this case we'd like to get rid of it.
Fortunately, Camera RAW provides a very easy way to do that. If you go over here to the Lens Correction tab in Camera RAW, you'll see tools for two different things: Chromatic Aberrations and Lens Vignetting. First, there's an Amount slider, which dials in the amount of correction that you want. So I have dark corners that I would like to brighten. So I'm going to drag the slider to brighter end, watch the image - particularly the upper corners - and you'll see that there goes my vignetting. If that seems magical, just keep going, and you'll see what it's doing, because now I'm getting an edge burn. It got too bright.
So you can see what's going on is Photoshop is just brightening the corners, and that's serving to counteract the vignette. And that's pretty good. The Midpoint slider controls how big the corner brightening is. And the easiest way to see it is to - let's do an exaggerated vignette. Rather than lightening the corners, I'm going to darken the corners by dragging the Amount slider down here. And now, as I move the Midpoint slider, you can get a better idea of what it's doing. So it to the left makes a larger radius on the corner darkening; to the right makes a smaller radius.
Set that back to the middle and put my vignette back to correct. And I've taken out my vignetting problem. You can see also that it's opened up a little bit in these corners down here, which is kind of nice. We can play more with them later when we get to editing this image. I'm going to hit the Done button to keep my vignette correction. At a given focal length, vignetting may be better or worse, depending on the aperture that you use. For example, here's the same scene shot at two different apertures. This is at F11.
And now the same image, roughly the same framing shot at F4 looks like this. Obviously, there is a change in depth of field. Here again is F11, F4. My background went softer. But watch the corners up here, F11, F4. So in this particular lens, there is a definite increase in vignetting at wider apertures. It's easy to test your lens for vignetting. Just point it in a brightly lit wall or at the sky, zoom out to the widest focal length, and try shooting at the widest aperture.
And then stop it down to around 8 or 11. By learning which lenses have problems with vignetting, you can work around the problem in the field, or as you've seen here, you can correct vignetting in Camera RAW. This is a case where in this image I actually like the vignetting because the sky is empty. There are no clouds. Without the vignetting, it's a little bleak out there. I don't know. I can call that in either way actually, but very often vignetting will serve to bring more focus to the center of your image. Let's look at another problem. Open up the image that we were cropping earlier, Crop1.
We know that this image has a few different problems, and we're going to get to them later, but right now I want to zoom in on shiprock over here. I'm going to zoom in a long way, and that's at 100%. Look here along this edge. There is a little bit of red halo, and if you look real close, you can see a little bit of green halo over here. Let's zoom in a little bit closer. And now it's becoming much more apparent. This is chromatic aberration. Chromatic aberration occurs when your lens is not capable of focusing different wavelengths in light, all three primary colors, to the exact same spot.
In other words the red channel's just slipped out of registration a little bit here. And it's leaving this little red fringe. First thing to notice about identifying any type of problem when you're zoomed into 300% on a 20 megapixel image, there is a very good chance that this is not going to show up in print, but this is also something that's very easy to correct, so there's no reason not to, because if I was to blow this image up real large it might actually turn up. So let's go back to the Lens Correction tab and you see Chromatic Aberration: Fix Red/Cyan Fringe or Fix Blue/Yellow Fringe.
Well, I'm having a Magenta/Green Fringe. I'm going to say that's pretty closed to Red/Cyan. And I'm going to take this slider and drag it to the left. So watch this edge here as I do that, and you'll see the red halo there just disappear. And now it's started to turn green. And this is what happens if you drag too far; you reverse the problem. So I'm going to go until about right there. Now what Camera RAW is doing is it's geometrically shifting the position of one color channel to put it back into registration.
So that looks much better. My problem is gone. I'm going to quickly zip over here to the other side of the image. I'm holding down the Spacebar to get the Pan tool, and then I'm just clicking and dragging, because I want to make sure that I didn't introduce the problem somewhere else, and it's all looking pretty clean here. So I think we are in pretty good shape. I'm going to hit Done to keep that. We tackle spot removal and lens correction and vignetting correction early in our image editing workflow because if we can't fix all of these problems then there is a good chance that we're going to abandon the image.
For example, there is no point in performing a bunch of fancy exposure adjustments only to find out later that there's sensor dust that's so bad that the image can't be used. Sometimes spots and vignettes will only appear after you've made some exposure alterations, so you might need to return to all of these tools later in your workflow if problems become apparent.
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