The Best Tool For Improving Composition In Your Landscape Photos

How many times have you returned from what you felt was a productive landscape photography trip only to find that some of the compositions of your favorite images aren’t exactly what you expected. This happens to me rather frequently, but fortunately for us we have access to one of the best tools for improving composition in our landscape photos, the Crop Tool! In this 15 minute video, we discuss not only the crop tool, but perhaps the greatest aspect related to the Crop tool within Lightroom and that’s the Crop Overlay’s. 

For years I only used the crop tool as a means of cleaning up the edges of my images by removing overlooked distractions. But, when the crop tool is used most effectively, it’s as if you’ve accessed a time machine that enables you to go back and recompose your composition to something that’s more pleasing. In order to access the crop overlays within Lightroom, open the crop tool and simply press the shortcut key O to cycle through the various crop overlays. There’s a total of 7 available, but I typically only use 5 of them.

Rule of Thirds

This is perhaps one of the more common compositional techniques used today. The rule of thirds overlay divides your image into equal thirds. It’s great for ensuring that you don’t place your subject in the dead center of the frame and also assists you when it comes to the placement of the horizon. The basic premise here is to place areas of visual interest on the intersecting points of the grid.

Crop Overlay: Rule of Thirds

Diagonal

This crop overlay is fantastic for images that have diagonal qualities associated with it. This technique will apply multiple 45 degree lines from the corners and is helpful for aligning diagonal subjects within your photograph.  

Crop Overlay: Diagonal

Triangle

This approach really helped me with one of my favorite images of 2019 (below). This crop overlay resembles a series of triangles flipped in multiple directions. If you press Shift + O, you can flip the entire grid in the opposite orientation. The purpose here is to place points of interest within each of the seperate triangles.  

Crop Overlay: Triangle

Golden Ratio

This overlay is considered to be a more advanced version of the rule of thirds, but with additional emphasis placed on the corners. The overall premise however remains the same, place areas of interest on or near the intersecting points. 

Crop Overlay: Golden Ratio

Golden Spiral

This is perhaps the most interesting one of them all, the golden spiral. This is another overlay that you can flip by pressing Shift + O. This works well for images that have sweeping aspects to the composition with the end result being the main point of emphasis placed towards the area of converging lines. 

Crop Overlay: Golden Spiral

The two remaining crop overlays are ‘Aspect Ratios’ and another simply called ‘Grid’. It’s also important to note that these overlays are only meant to be applied as guidelines or suggestions and shouldn’t be taken too literal, but once you begin using them I’m sure you’ll find that they’re a great way to gain some additional compositional creativity.  

Tips to Sharpen Your Photos in Lightroom

Perhaps one of the most sought after qualities amongst outdoor and landscape photographers is overall image sharpness. Understanding how to properly sharpen your landscape photos during post processing has become a rather complex and highly detailed procedure over the years due to the advancements in editing software. The interesting thing about sharpening though, is that the entire process is merely an illusion as there isn’t any way to actually “sharpen” a photograph.

Understanding how to properly sharpen your nature photos during post processing has become a rather complex and highly detailed procedure over the years due to the advancements in editing software. The interesting thing about sharpening though, is that the entire process is merely an illusion as there isn’t any way to actually “sharpen” a photograph.

The wizardry known as sharpening in Lightroom (or any other software) is the result of selectively applying small amounts of contrast to the edges of your image. This modest amount of edge contrast is what creates the illusion that an image is actually sharper than it was straight out of camera. Sounds easy enough, but the tricky part is understanding the best way to sharpen multiple types of detail and textures within your image. Not all details are the same and they shouldn’t be enhanced as if they are.

Sharpening Workflow

When it comes to sharpening in Lightroom for nature photography, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Within a single nature photo you can have various types of detail and textures that require enhancing. These include small to fine-sized detail, medium and large-sized detail, or maybe all three. Each level of detail should be enhanced or sharpened independently using specific tools and methods of application.

For example, in the image above, a strong edge sharpening is required only in the rock and not in the rest of the image. Similarly the ocean surrounding the rock along with the sky can benefit from enhancing texture.

There’s multiple tools available within Lightroom to enhance details and textures. Each method creates a similar yet different result depending on the level of detail you're looking to enhance. Below are a few of my favorite tools that I use to sharpen my landscape photos. 

Detail Panel

This tool is perhaps the most popular technique when it comes to sharpening in Lightroom. This approach is comprised of four sliders: Amount, Radius, Detail, and Masking. It is a fantastic option to sharpen the small to fine-sized details contained within your image.

Sharpening in Lightroom

Here is an example from my new Sharpening in Lightroom Tutorial that shows you just how effective the Details panel in Lightroom can be.

The first image above (Image #1) is an abstract nature photo before I applied sharpening. I sharpened Image #2 using the details panels and other tools in Lightroom.

Texture Slider

This slider is perfect for sharpening and enhancing small to medium-sized details. I’ve found the best way to see the impact of this tool is to zoom in quite a bit and scrub the slider from -100 to +100. This is an easy way to visualize the level of detail that’s being impacted. Read more>

How To Bracket For Perfectly Exposed Landscape Photos

Perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of landscape photography is determining how to properly expose your scene under less than ideal lighting conditions. These types of situations are a common occurrence with outdoor photography as it’s often a struggle trying to properly expose an image consisting of a bright sky and a dark foreground in a single image. 

This is where exposure bracketing comes in handy. In this article we’ll discuss How, Why & When you should bracket your shots for perfectly exposed landscape photos. 

What is Exposure Bracketing?

Exposure Bracketing is the process of taking multiple versions of the same image with each image representing a different level of exposure. For example, I typically shoot a three shot bracketed series, one image for my main exposure where I expose the scene the best I can, the second image which is two stops below my main exposure and the third which is two stops above my main exposure. This can also be done using various other combinations as well, such as a five or nine image series with one, two, or even three stops of light between each image.  

The results in Lightroom of a three image exposure bracketed series from Yosemite Valley.

The results in Lightroom of a three image exposure bracketed series from Yosemite Valley.

Once your exposure bracketed series is complete, you then blend the images together using your post processing software of choice. An easy way to do this is with the HDR feature within Lightroom or you can blend your images together using Photoshop. 

Modern-day cameras have the ability to capture a large tonal range within a single image, but it’s still common to encounter lighting conditions that far surpass the ability of your camera. Any camera can bracket exposures, some have automatic bracketing modes and others require this to be done manually, but both options are simple to apply.

Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

This feature allows you to set the number of images in your bracketed series along with the number of stops of exposure between each one. You can even take it a step further by setting the AEB function on your camera to Continuous Shooting and have your entire series captured with a single press of the shutter.  

Setting Auto Exposure Bracketing on my Sony a7rii for 3 images with 2 stops of exposure between each.

Setting Auto Exposure Bracketing on my Sony a7rii for 3 images with 2 stops of exposure between each.

Manual Exposure Bracketing

If your camera doesn’t have an AEB feature you can always manually exposure bracket. The process here is simple as well - after each image you’ll want to adjust your shutter speed to create your overexposed and underexposed images. You don’t want to use aperture as a means to influence your exposure levels as you want consistency when it comes to depth of field in order to seamlessly blend your images.

When Should You Bracket Your Images?

I go by something called the ‘One-Stop’ rule to help me determine when to bracket my exposure. Your camera’s light meter is a great way to quickly check this. Adjust your settings to where the light meter is indicating a “proper” exposure, then if you have to adjust your exposure level, plus or minus, more than one stop to properly expose for the sky or foreground than you might want to bracket your exposures. If a proper exposure of your foreground or sky is within a single stop of your main or base exposure then your camera’s dynamic range can more than likely pick up the difference.  

This would be a lighting situation that would benefit from exposure bracketing.

This would be a lighting situation that would benefit from exposure bracketing.

Hopefully next time you find yourself in a challenging lighting situation this information will help you bracket your shots to create a perfectly exposed landscape image. 

9 Single Key Lightroom Shortcuts I Use Everyday

In all honesty, I only use single key shortcuts as opposed to multi key for the simple reason that I can’t remember much beyond a single keystroke. I thought about printing every shortcut and hanging it on my office wall for reference, but that would defeat the purpose of using shortcuts in the first place as I’d have to spend additional time scanning the printout to locate what I’m looking for.

In this 12 minute video, I discuss the 9 single key Lightroom shortcuts I use everyday. These are not in any specific order, I use the first shortcut just as much as I use the last. I even have a bonus “setting” at the end and if you’re a little obsessed with organization then you’re going to love this one! 

1. Shortcut Key (/) & (Y) Before & After

This is one of my favorite ways to see how far I’ve taken an edit by comparing the starting point to what the image looks like now.  

Tunnel View - Yosemite National Park

2. Shortcut Key (O) Crop Grid Overlay

This is a great shortcut to aid in cropping your image in order to perfect the composition. Pressing O repeatedly will cycle through all the available options. 

Santa Barbara, California

3. Shortcut Key (J) Clipping Indicator

The easiest and fastest way to determine if you have areas of your image that are either over or underexposed (red identifies overexposed and blue identifies underexposed areas) 

Bridalveil Falls Yosemite

4. Shortcut Key (V) Convert to Black & White

I don’t often process images in Black & White, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to quickly check to see if it’s a viable option.  

Yosemite Valley Black&White

5. Shortcut Key (O) Show Mask Overlay

The importance of this one speaks for itself! Being able to quickly see what area of your photograph is impacted by a local adjustment is critical.  

Yosemite Falls

6. Shortcut Key (N) Survey Mode

If you take multiple versions of the same image with minor changes in settings and composition then this ones for you. This shortcut will help you easily decide which photo is the keeper.  

Bridalveil Falls Yosemite National Park

7. Shortcut Key (D) & (G) Develop and Library Grid

This might be the single most traveled path for all Lightroom users - the Library Grid to the Develop Module and these single key shortcuts will help you quick ly navigate between them both. 

8. Shortcut Key (L) & (F) Lights Out and Full Screen

This is great for eliminating distractions from your screen to see how an image you’re editing is coming together.

Intimate Half Dome Yosemite National Park

9. Shortcut Key (X) Crop Flip Aspect Ratio

Sometimes I like to crop an image taken in a landscape orientation into a portrait orientation and this shortcut is a great way to quickly do just that.  

El Capitan Yosemite National Park

And, for the bonus tip - right click the header of any section within the Develop Module and select “Solo Mode”. In my opinion this is one of Lightroom’s best kept secrets to keeping your panels organized without having to close each panel manually after using it. 

Intimate Bridalveil Falls Yosemite

Hopefully you didn’t know all of the shortcuts mentioned and were able to pick up a couple new ones that you can apply to your editing workflow moving forward. 

What Camera Modes should I use for Nature Photography?

When you’re first starting out in landscape photography, understanding the many adjustments and settings associated with your camera is paramount. At the same time, this initial learning curve can be rather intimidating. Of all the camera features to understand, arguably the most important to grasp are the different camera modes that are available. The four primary camera modes are Automatic, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. 

Fully Automatic mode is more than likely where you’ll feel most comfortable when you’re first starting out, but you’ll want to transition out of this mode as quickly as possible. The longer you spend shooting in full automatic mode, the more difficult it will be to progress to other shooting options. Once you decide to make the leap and venture outside of Automatic mode, where do you go from there? First, you’ll want to understand how each mode operates and become comfortable with when to use mode.

Photography Exposure Triangle

Before we dive into the individual shooting modes, lets first recap the inner workings of the Exposure Triangle. The three sides of the exposure triangle represent Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. These are the three components that determine the overall exposure of an image.

Photography Exposure Triangle Diagram

Photography Exposure Triangle Diagram

Aperture: Aperture measures the opening of the lens (f-stop) that ultimately determines the amount of light that is allowed to pass through the lens to your camera’s sensor. The higher the f-number (f-stop), the smaller the opening and the lower the f-number the larger the opening.

Markings on Front element F/5.6 16-35mm Camera Lens

Markings on Front element F/5.6 16-35mm Camera Lens

Shutter Speed: Shutter speed measures the amount of time the shutter remains open allowing light to pass through to your camera’s sensor. A slower shutter speed results in more light passing through and a faster shutter speed results in less light.

ISO: ISO allows you to brighten or darken an image and determines how “sensitive” your camera is to the available light in your scene. The higher the ISO, the brighter your image and the lower the ISO, the darker your image.

Fully Automatic Shooting Mode

As the name suggests, this mode is fully automatic. The camera adjusts all settings that it deems necessary to create a properly exposed image. This is a good place to start for a beginner photographer, but you don’t want to spend a great deal of time in this mode. Your goal should be to upgrade from Automatic mode as soon as possible into one of the creative shooting modes such as Aperture, Priority, or Shutter Priority.

Typical shooting modes and how to set your camera to Full Automatic camera mode

Typical shooting modes and how to set your camera to Full Automatic camera mode

Aperture Priority Shooting Mode

Aperture Priority is probably the most popular camera mode for photographers. This mode is easy to understand and very functional yet still allows for a great deal of creative flexibility. In this mode, you’ll set the aperture (f-number) along with the desired ISO level and the camera determines the correct shutter speed given the amount of light in the scene. This mode is great for just about every genre of photography including nature photography. In this mode, you’re basically telling the camera that the aperture is the most important setting for what you’re photographing and you want to control that – that’s where the name Aperture Priority comes from.

Setting a wide aperture using aperture priority camera mode allows you to gather as much light as possible with short shutter speed – Delicate Arch, Moab UT

Setting a wide aperture using aperture priority camera mode allows you to gather as much light as possible with short shutter speed – Delicate Arch, Moab UT

Shutter Priority Shooting Mode

In this shooting mode, you’ll select the shutter speed and ISO and the camera will determine the best aperture to use in order to create a properly exposed image. I rarely use this camera mode for nature photography, but it can be useful when photographing fast moving subjects for sport or wildlife photography. When photographing birds for example, having a fast shutter speed is critical in order to freeze the action of the birds in flight. Read More>

9 Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

We all have them, some more than others, but one thing we all have in common is a desire to eliminate them..what I’m referring to are bad habits. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but in this video, I discuss the 9 worst habits that have negatively impacted my landscape photography over the years.  

#9 Quick Edits

When I get back from a shoot I always download the images and back them up, but unfortunately I don’t stop there. My excitement usually gets the best of me and before I know it I’ve reviewed all the images, 5 starred my favorites and even placed a quick edit on many. I’m trying to get better at letting images rest for a day or so and then take a look with a “fresh” set of eyes.  

Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#8 Single Lens Shooting

I often end up shooting the same composition over and over with subtle variations in camera settings. The problem is that I end up sticking with one lens as I don’t want to alter my composition. When this happens I feel as if I’m not maximizing my time at a given location and generally end up with a Lightroom folder that looks like this: 

9 Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#7 Not Chimping Enough

I frequently hear how you should not chimp, but I think it depends on what you’re photographing. The idea behind the “just say no to chimping” movement is really predicated on photographing things that are unfolding quickly - sports, wildlife, weddings, but generally speaking landscape photography is a bit slower. I say chimp more often and take advantage of the extra time you have. I can’t tell you how many issues I’ve uncovered by zooming into my images while on location.  

9 Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#6 Avoiding “Bad” Weather

When I see rain and thunderstorms in the forecast, my immediate thought is to reschedule my shoot, but these conditions can produce rather dramatic images. Sure it’s a pain shooting in the rain, but your extra effort is usually rewarded with unique images.  

Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#5 Lazy Lens Changing

This has to do with changing lenses while your camera is mounted to a tripod in order to avoid altering your composition. I do this all the time and end up leaving my sensor completely exposed to the elements as I reach down to grab another lens.

Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#4 Sleeping In

A rather common issue within the world of landscape photography. The sun rises early especially during the summer months and somedays it’s just easier to hit the snooze button.

#3 Pixel Peeping

This is a tough one for me as I do this on every photo I edit - half the time I’m not even sure what I’m looking for. I consistently find myself zooming so far into an image that I can actually see individual pixels. I realize people don’t look at photos like that whether they’re online or printed, so why am I doing it? 

Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

#2 Fix it in Post

The habit that’s been nagging me the longest - this has to do with identifying distracting elements within your composition and rather than adjust your composition, you think, “I’ll just fix it in post”.

#1 Sensory Overload

The feeling of rushing around trying to quickly setup your composition when you arrive at a location. Sometimes I need to rush, but more often than not I have time before the “good light” arrives, but I constantly have to calm myself down, breath and take my time identifying the best composition. I usually operate better this way. 

Worst Habits In Landscape Photography

Those are my 9 worst habits in landscape photography - hopefully you’re not familiar with any of them as you’ll be in a much better position than me. 

What are your worst photography habits?

3 Camera Settings To Master For Landscape Photography

When you purchase a new camera how much time do you spend reading the manual? Same here, I find most camera manuals rather difficult to follow along and I for one very rarely use them. What’s interesting is that camera manuals only describe the technical “how-to” side of things like how to turn on your camera or how to attach a lens, but it doesn’t tell you how to truly become comfortable with your camera. In this 18 minute video, I review three camera settings every photographer should master for landscape photography and three simple tests you can perform at home that’ll help you do just that. 

1. Shutter Speed Test

How to adjust your shutter speed is something the manual will explain, but understanding what you can expect from certain shutter speeds is something that takes practice. There’s two simple tests I performed that really helped me to better understand this. All that’s needed is a camera, tripod, sprinkler & water. Just setup your tripod and camera a few feet away from your sprinkler, put your camera in shutter priority mode and begin taking exposures using different shutter speeds. First find out what shutter speed is required to freeze the motion in the water - for me it was a shutter speed of 1/500 second (below, left). Then start to slow your shutter speed down and take notice on the impact it has on the water. The image on the right was taken with a shutter speed of 1/10 second. Another helpful test is to see how slow of a shutter speed you can hand hold and still walk away with a tack sharp image. This is super helpful information to understand when you’re in a quickly developing situation and you don’t have time to setup your tripod. 

3 Camera Settings To Master For Landscape Photography 02

2. ISO Performance Test

Your camera manual will tell you how to adjust your ISO, but it won’t tell you how high of an ISO level you can apply that will still result in a “useable” image. For this test I placed an old camera on a fence post in my backyard and began taking exposures while increasing the ISO each time. The ultimate goal being to determine the highest ISO level that results in an acceptable image for your taste. I also took it a step further to see what the max ISO of 102,400 looked like on my Sony a7rii (below right) - I would never use this, but I found it interesting just to see what it would look like.  

3 Camera Settings To Master For Landscape Photography 03

3. Depth Of Field Test

Understanding the depth of field you can expect from a certain aperture is critical when it comes to understanding the relationship between your camera and lens and is most certainly something the manual isn’t going to tell you. This test makes it easy to understand how close your foreground element can be and what aperture is required to get everything in focus from foreground, mid-ground, to background. I found that when I focus on infinity, or in this situation the tree line in the distance, I can use f/11 and can get everything in focus from the background all the way up to about 5 feet from my lens. This is typically my go to aperture for my 16-35 mm lens, so understanding how close I can place my foreground interest is super helpful when composing shots while on-location. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 11.25.25 AM.png
3 Camera Settings To Master For Landscape Photography 05

We spend a small fortune on our photography gear and understanding exactly what you can expect from certain settings under certain situations is invaluable information to be comfortable with and will surely aid in your overall enjoyment of photography and at the end of the day that’s the most important thing. 

Wide Angle Lenses - 5 Challenges To Overcome

When it comes to landscape and outdoor photography a wide angle lens is by far the most popular tool. Wide angle lenses are great for capturing grand sweeping vistas, getting up close and exaggerating foreground elements, and just an all around great tool for exploring your creative side. But, it’s not all roses, there are certainly a few things you want to be aware of when it comes to shooting and post processing your wide angle images.

Wide Angle Lenses - 5 Challenges To Overcome

Using Too Many Filters

Vignetting caused by the use of multiple filters is a common issue with wide angle photography. This type of vignetting can occur by either using a polarizer or multiple filters. There’s a rather simple resolution for this in Lightroom when the vignette is caused by lens distortion, but when the vignette is caused by filters, well that’s a destructive workflow that cannot easily be resolved. You want to pay close attention to your corners when using multiple filters, if you see a subtle vignette creeping into your frame, try zooming in until the vignette disappears. If you're using a polarizer and see unnatural darkening in a portion of your sky, you'll want to reduce the amount of polarization you're applying and/or zoom in until the vignette is resolved.

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is something that occurs with all lenses, but wide angle lenses seem to be a bit more susceptible to this. The dreaded purple and green fringing is most commonly found in the corners of images that are brightly backlit.

Wide Angle Lenses - 5 Challenges To Overcome 02

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to remove chromatic aberration using Lightroom. There’s two ways to accomplish this, an 'Auto' feature that will automatically locate and remove any chromatic aberration and a 'Manual' option that you can use if the auto method doesn't produce your desired results.

Balancing Light & Color

One of the many benefits of using a wide angle lens is its ability to capture a large scene, but this can also be the cause of multiple issues as well. When photographing a large area the odds are high that you'll capture imbalances from both a light and color perspective.  Imbalances in light usually results in an area of brighter exposure versus an area of darker exposure. Read the full blog here.

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID

Making mistakes when starting something new is a common part of the learning process, and the sooner you can identify and fix them, the faster you’ll progress within your new endeavor. When I first started in landscape photography I certainly made my fair share of errors, but I didn’t realize it at the time, so I ended up repeating them over and over again. In this 20 minute video, I discuss the five biggest landscape photography mistakes I made when I was starting out, in hopes that you can relate to at least one of these and correct it much faster than I did.

  1. Flat & Confusing Compositions

The majority of the photos I took in the beginning consisted of dull and confusing compositions. This image below is a prime example of a photo that lacks a main subject. Is it the rocks in the foreground, the island in the mid-ground, or the palm frond hanging down from the top? This lack of a clear subject can leave the viewer confused as to what they’re supposed to be looking at.  

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID

This image is the complete opposite of that. The main subject of this image is obvious - the boardwalk leading up to the lighthouse. I prefer simple images that have a clearly defined purpose and this image fits the bill for me. 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 02

The second part of this has to do with depth. I recall being proud of the image below when I first captured it, but when I look back on it now I realize how flat this actually is. There isn’t a strong foreground element and the background drops off beyond the tree resulting in a flat photograph.  

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 03

Now this image here includes a much greater sense of depth as there are multiple foreground mid ground and background elements to draw the viewer in thus creating a three dimensional feel. 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 04

2. Ignoring Your Light Meter

Paying attention to the light meter along with my histogram not only helped me to ensure that I wasn’t overexposing parts of my image, but more importantly helped me to better understand the exposure triangle and how aperture, shutter speed and iso work in harmony. 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 05

3. Shooting During Harsh Light

When you’re a beginner it can be difficult to fully understand the impact harsh mid day light has on your photo. Below is a great example of this - this image was taken roughly 20 minutes after sunset. 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 06

This image of the same scene was taken 90 minutes before sunset - completely different result. 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 07

4. Focusing Too Much On Gear

I used to spend more time researching “better cameras” than I did practicing and learning the fundamentals of the camera I did have. During my first year of landscape photography I went from a $400 Nikon 3200 to a $3,500 Sony a7rii in a matter of a few months. In hindsight, I wish I would have kept my Nikon and saved the thousands of dollars and spent that money on traveling to new locations so I could practice my newfound photography skills. I would have walked away with not only better photos from my travels, but more importantly experiences I’d never forget.  

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 08

5. Always Shooting At Eye Level

This was the easiest mistake to overcome once I realized I was doing it. When I first arrive at a location now, I make sure to leave my camera in my bag and spend as much time as possible walking around getting familiar with the location before settling on a composition. Once I determine the composition, I work towards finding the best angle to capture the image I’m envisioning. No longer do I arrive on location and immediately pull out the camera and extend the tripod to eye level and begin shooting 

5 BEGINNER LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY MISTAKES TO AVOID 09

Fixing mistakes is much easier once you know you’re making them, but the hard part is when the mistakes go unnoticed. This can cause you to continue making the same errors over and over for an extended period of time, subsequently slowing down your progression in your newly acquired venture.

3 Reasons to Create Your Own Lightroom Presets

When I first began dabbling in the world of landscape photography, I was enticed by the instant gratification of purchasing Lightroom presets. I was originally drawn in by the fact that I could instantly download these presets and I could instantly import them into Lightroom and instantly “improve” my own photos. I spent the majority of my first year of photography fussing around trying to make other peoples presets look good on my photos and eventually through in the proverbial towel. It wasn’t until last year that my mindset surrounding presets began to change. In this 13 minute video, I discuss three reasons why I think everyone should create their own Lightroom presets. 

1. Better Workflow Efficiencies

I found that when I began my editing process I would repeatedly start by applying the same “robotic” edits to my images - Enable Lens Profile Correction > Boost the Vibrance > Reduce the Saturation > bring down the Highlights > bring up the Shadows and so on. I thought to myself why not create a preset that would allow me to apply all of these initial edits without having to select each individual adjustment. 

With that said, I created a series of “quick start” presets that have proven to be an incredible time saver for my Lightroom editing workflow - I just apply them at the start and then make the fine adjustments after that. If you have your own set of mundane steps you habitually apply to your photos, then a quick start preset might be beneficial to your overall editing workflow.   

3 Reasons to Create Your Own Lightroom Presets 01

2. Find Your Own Creative Style

In the past when I would purchase presets I felt that I was suffocating my own creativity as I was leaning on someone else’s creative style as a way to “improve” my own photos. I ultimately ended up constructing my own creative presets where each individual preset contained a singular edit like a split tone combination, or a specific tone curve that I liked as opposed to an entire edit contained within a single preset. I consistently struggled when applying purchased presets to my photos as they always contained an entire edit of an image and the odds that an entire edit is going to look good on any photo is slim to none. 

Once I built my own creative presets, I would apply an edit to a specific image and then apply a split tone or tone curve preset or both on top of my original edit - this approach is when I began having success with presets.  

3 Reasons to Create Your Own Lightroom Presets 02

3. Practice Practice Practice 

I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true - practice makes perfect. When I was using purchased presets I never took the time to dig into the specific edits that we’re used to create said presets, I would just apply them, spend about 20 minutes trying to make them look good and then export them - that was my workflow. But, it wasn’t until I started making my own presets that I began to understand the specific edits that I liked and what worked well and what didn’t work well on my own images. 

3 Reasons to Create Your Own Lightroom Presets 03

Putting the block on purchased presets is one of the best choices I made not only from a creative aspect, but also from a post processing stance - plus saving a few bucks along the way is always a good thing as well.