Fall Photography: Using Lightroom to Create Surreal Autumn Landscapes

It’s that time of year, where the leaves change color and begin to fall – I guess that’s why the season Autumn is colloquially known as Fall. Here I attempt to create surreal landscape photos using Lightroom to process RAW files taken on my Canon EOS 60D. This process really only involves 3 steps.

Step One: Take some shots

All of these shots were taken handheld and for the most part in Aperture priority mode (f/11-f/22). I was initially disappointed in the in camera JPEG processing using landscape mode with saturation manually set all the way up. What looked good on the camera’s LCD did not look very good on the PC monitor – while the colors were vibrant, the images lacked clarity.

Step Two: Process RAW files with Lightroom

Since I was disappointed with the in-camera processing, I decided to process the RAW files in Lightroom. This process is extremely easy, involving a simple drag and drop of the files you wish to process in Lightroom. Click the Develop tab once the images are imported.

Lightroom removes the in-camera settings so don’t be surprised if your images look flat. Here is where Lightroom beats the automatic in-camera processing -you have complete control of the image processing settings. This includes:

  • White balance – if your images contain a lot of colors you may want to leave this setting alone or use it sparingly. If you use the Auto feature here you may be at risk of inaccurate color representation.
  • Tone (Exposure) – Using Auto here is a quick way to improve your image; Lightroom generally does a good job ‘seeing’ the image under this setting. You can also play with the Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks values to improve the dynamic range in your image.
  • Presence (Clarity, Vibrance, and Saturation) – you will probably want to boost these values, how much depends on your personal taste, mood, or what you want your image to convey. If you want a surreal, HDR style, try increasing all 3 values all the way (+100) and pull back as needed to make the image look acceptable.
  • Other Settings – If you want to fine tune (Split Toning, Tone Curve) and make other technical improvements (Noise Reduction, Sharpening, Lens Correction), have fun, experiment, and let me know how it turns out.
Step Three: Save your changes
I’d recommend exporting your images to JPEG and share them at this point. You probably have some pretty cool photos that you want to show off. This Fall phenomenon only happens once a year after all.
My Results:
Take a look at my photos using the techniques I mentioned in this post.
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