It all begins with the photo. The better your photo is, the better result you will get. Garbage in, garbage out. Try to get an exposure with your camera that has details in the shadow areas and the highlights. i.e. you want to take a photo that has a darker sky so you can see details in the sky, not just a big blob of white-ness. You can download the exact RAW image that I am using in this tutorial to follow along right here! Let’s get started and learn how to retouch a landscape photo with Photoshop CC!
Shoot in the RAW format
I shot this photo of one of the bridges in Philadelphia while working on a project called “Philly is Ugly”. I like to shoot all my photos in the RAW format. If your camera can shoot images as RAW files, I highly, highly recommend you shoot like that. You get much, much better quality and you can do much more color and contrast edits without the image falling apart.
JPEGs still work with this tutorial
If you shot your photo in RAW format great! If not, you can still follow along too! We’re going to open our image in Photoshop. If you have a JPEG open it up! If you have a RAW image it will open in Camera RAW editor first, just bypass this by hitting “Open Image”. We’ll be back to this dialog in a moment.
Convert to a Smart Object
Go ahead and right click the “Background” layer and choose “Convert to Smart Object”.
The Camera RAW Filter
Now that we have a smart object we can go Filter>Camera Raw Filter and this will open that camera RAW editor again. I am going to cool the image down by setting the Temperature to “-10” and the Tint to “+20”, also boost the Vibrance to “+40”.
Curves for days
Select the curves tab and then choose the “Point” tab and select “Red” from the channel drop down menu. Then click on the line near the bottom left corner of the box in the top right of the histogram area and drag up just a little bit. This adds a dose of the color red to the brighter areas of the image.
The Green Channel
Next choose “Green” from the channel drop down menu and click on the line and drag down like I did in the screenshot to add some magenta and deep pink colors to the darker areas of the photo.
The Blue Channel
Lastly, choose “Blue” from the channel drop down menu and pull up slightly on the line in the lower quarter of it and pull down slightly on the upper quarter of it to add blues to the shadow area of the image and add yellow to the brighter parts of the photo. TIP: If you’re editing a different photo, these color editing tools can be AMAZINGLY powerful. Just remember that pulling up or down can add or subtract color depending on which channel you select and where you pull on the line.
Go over to the Lens Correction tab and select the “Manual” tab. Set Distortion to “+25”, Rotate to “+0.5”, and Scale to “108”.
Powerful Preview Tools
Compare our progress with where we started by hitting the Before/After button. I want to make a couple more changes before heading back into Photoshop.
Some Last Moment Changes
I set Highlights and White to -40 each and Shadows and Blacks to +20 each. This helps bring back some detail in the sky and boost detail in the darker areas of the photo. Hit “OK” to bring the photo back into Photoshop CC.
Finding and Marking Blemishes
I marked a few areas on the photo where there were some spots on my camera’s sensor. Zoom in very close to see the spots. We’re going to get rid of them now. I’m going to start with the one closest to the buildings near the middle edge of the photo.
Non-Destructive Blemish Removal
Create a new layer by going Layer>New>Layer and name it “Blemishes”.
The Healing Brush Tool
Grab the Healing Brush Tool and look to the toolbar at the top of the screen and set the Sample drop down menu to “Current and Below”. This will allow us to sample from the layer below while painting only on this top layer so we never mess up our original image. If things get really bad, we can always just delete this whole layer and save our image below. If you need help with the healing brush tool, I have a full tutorial on it right over here! (Opens in new tab)
Getting Rid of Blemishes
Hold down the Alt/Opt key and sample similar colors to what we’re trying to cover up and click to sample it. Let go of the Alt/Opt key and simply paint over that blemish. Boom!
Getting Rid of Sensor Spots
Now I’m going up the three blemishes all together in the sky. I’ll use the same technique to get rid of them.
Finish Clearing Blemishes
Do the same for all the blemishes you can find and you will have a clean image to continue working with.
The Gradient Map Adjustment Layer
Next step will be to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Go Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map. You probably have a simple gradient happening. If not, just click on the gradient stripe and chose the black and white gradient to get what I have in my screenshot. We’re going to change it in just a second!
Color and Tone
Select the gradient stripe to open the gradient editor and double click the handle on the bottom left to open the color picker. Enter “4c2f47” into the hex color code area and hit “OK”. Choose the bottom handle over on the right side and enter “f8f3cd” into the hex color code area there. Hit “OK” when you’ve got your gradient looking like my screenshot. TIP: The gradient map will probably be different depending on the image you’re using. I wanted warmer tones which is why I chose a maroon and yellow color.
Making Magic in the Moon Light
To make the magic, look to your layers panel and set the blend mode to “Soft Light”.
Sharpening with High Pass
We can add a little sharpening if we want at the very end by merging all of our layers to one big new layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + E. Then go Filter>Other>High Pass and set the radius to “2.0” and hit “OK”.
Final Blend Mode. Boom.
Set that high pass layer to the “Soft Light” blend mode to add the sharpening. That’s it!
I make videos about being creative with photography, design, and filmmaking. I'm a commercial photographer, a logo designer, a camera nerd, an artist, a wannabe thinker, and I like to read books. I arrived on planet earth in the year 1989.