14 photo editing tips and tricks every landscape photographer must know

14 photo editing tricks and tips every landscape photographer must know

Essential photo editing tricks for landscapes: 12 Light painting

Essential photo editing tricks for landscapes: 12 Light painting

Image by Steve Sharp

Pro photographer Steve Sharp says

Light painting is a technique I use quite a bit in my landscapes. For a typical light-painted landscape I’ll shoot various exposures, usually a three- to five-minute exposure for the ambient sky shot and then a series of shorter light-painted exposures for the land.

I shoot Raw files and convert these via Lightroom, and my first step is to reduce noise in the long exposure of the sky.

I make sure to view the file at 100%, and dial in enough to effectively remove the noise without blurring any star trails. I’ll also adjust the White Balance, Contrast, Curves and sometimes Vibrance if need be.

My light-painted exposures will have a different Raw conversion. I’m only concerned about the land in these frames so there’s no noise reduction needed because I want to keep the detail.

I’ll choose a white balance that best suits the tool I light-painted with, which is usually a torch. I dial in a good amount of Sharpening and detail so it looks nice and crisp. Again, I’ll tweak Contrast, Curves and Vibrance.

Once all the Raw files have the parameters applied, I batch convert them to TIFF files and open them all in Photoshop.

I use the long exposure sky shot as my master file and then paste all the other light-painted shots onto this file. I then set the layer Blend Mode to Lighten, which allows only the lighter pixels to be visible.

See more of Steve’s work

PAGE 01 Master HDR
PAGE 02 Blend raw exposures
PAGE 03 Combine several photos into panoramas
PAGE 04 Reveal more detail with Layer Masks
PAGE 05 Control the tonal range
PAGE 06 How to make light rays
PAGE 07 Use Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush
PAGE 08 Use Selective Adjustments
PAGE 09 How to use focus stacking
PAGE 10 Make a ‘Dotscape’
PAGE 11 Make a surreal scene
PAGE 12 Light painting
PAGE 13 The key to editing in black and white
PAGE 14 Raw tonal control


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  • Patrick O’Connor

    Okay, I give up. Where do I find “rays_sky.jpg”, mentioned in “Page 06 How to make light rays”?

  • Ash_Innovator

    Same question. These instructions are not clear at all. Is there a specific sky i’m supposed to use? The sky in my photo I’m trying to add light beams too is the sky i selected. I don’t know what to do here.