Amazing Landscapes using Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop

Amazing Landscapes using Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop
So we will begin with the two basic tools in ACR, Recovery and Fill Light. Those two are the initial steps in order to bring the sky and ground closer exposure wise. Bringing both Recovery and Fill Light values to 100 shows in the histogram that exposure of sky and ground comes towards the middle, blending both in the same exposure range. But 100 is for both an extreme value, and result is like a bad washed out pseudo HDR. Also, using Recovery and Fill light in extreme combination creates some grey outlines around the details in the image, which is bad. So we are going to take little steps, in order to bring those two a bit closer.
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Step 4 - Initial Adobe Camera Raw Adjustments

An initial recovery of 40 and fill light of 20 is ok. We need cute little steps in order to enhance this picture, as a few big ones will only prove destructive in our result. Photoshop is only great when working in little steps and that is a basic rule for all forms of use!
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Step 5 - Adobe Camera Raw Graduated Filters

It's time for the first cool trick! I have been mumbling about the difference in exposures between the sky and ground. So it's the point to start. The tool to use is a graduated exposure filter in ACR. This way we will imitate all the proper landscape photographers that use polarizing and graduated exposure filters when taking pictures and not all us unfortunate enough not to have one. So select graduated filter, set it to -1.00 exposure and draw the line from top to bottom.
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Step 6 - Adobe Camera Raw Graduated Filters

The same way we may also select a new Graduated Filter, set it to +0.30 exposure and draw the line upwards, but not all the way to the top, not to affect the clouds. Also I am using a far lower value, only +0.30 as I checked it that it was enough to bring the detail needed in those plants and eliminate the darkness. Remember at this point that we are only imitating the human eye, that in live view eliminates those exposure differences and sees those details, while cameras yet don't. In our histogram we see that those two little histogram mountains mated and are no longer far away from each other.
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Step 7 - Review

Let's review the work done. We evened out the exposure difference between the sky and ground using Recovery and Fill light initially, and then applied two graduated exposure filters, bringing an even exposure in our image. Now we can work on the dynamics of the image in a more unified way, histogram wise. As a bonus we also got a bit more vivid colors in the image, as they came to their proper exposure and they are not muffled any more by our need to capture all dynamics of the image in one picture (and not 3 or 5, like in HDR). We see more detail in the clouds, more detail in the ground. We still have the pale area as in the observation number 3 made in step 2. But this tutorial will take care of it later on. But what counts is that all dynamics of the picture are there, far more editable friendly for later on. Our image still lacks a strong contrast, vivid colors and a few coloring techniques that can make it look good, but we concluded the first preliminary steps in order to have a good material to work on it later on.

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10 comments on “Amazing Landscapes using Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop”

  1. I am having the same problem as Josh in step 20. Can this be achieved without shortcuts? Perhaps they have changed with new versions (I am using CS6 on Windows)

    1. The selection must be active when you press the backspace, otherwise the fill button appear. (I've cc 2014 and work great)

    2. ........also you must work on a new\copy layer, and not with the background layer.

  2. On step 20, when I hit the backspace button, I get the fill menu. It does not darken the greyscale. What exactly should the backspace button do in this instance. Is this function somewhere else in PS that backspace is just a shortcut to?

  3. I'v gotten lost on the masking process, i followed your steps meticulously, but achieved a big fail. I need a more dumbed-down instruction for the masking, something is missing here.`

  4. Up until step 21 I was going great, I'm using Photoshop CS5 and every time I try to "select Channel Alpha 2 to create a levels 2" i get "Warning: No pixels are more than 50% selected. The selection edges will not be visible."

    1. I was having this problem too, but I FINALLY figured it out. The key is in Step 20: "With the selection still loaded, select Channel Alpha 2 and press
      Backspace once. Select Channel Alpha 3 and press Backspace twice then
      select Channel Alpha 4 and press Backspace 3 times. When you are done,
      your created Alpha channels should look like this, every next one a
      little bit lighter that the previous one."

      Once I read that and noticed my Alpha channels were getting DARKER with each deletion, I double-checked my foreground and background color. You'll want black as foreground and white as background. Hope this helps!

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