Enhance your landscape photos with DxO FilmPack 4
In collaboration with Christophe Gressin
In this tutorial, we will teach you how to use DxO FilmPack 4’s tools to enhance your landscape photos. After discussing some basic principles of landscape photography, we will explain how you can modify your daytime and nighttime photos to obtain excellent color and black & white renderings.
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
• DxO FilmPack 4 (Expert Edition required for certain settings).
• Photos in JPEG or TIFF format.
• You can download our demo images HERE.
1- Landscape photography
Here is some basic advice that we recommend you follow to obtain successful landscape photos:
• Choose the very beginning or very end of the day to shoot in warmer and more oblique light that brings out the shadows.
• Scout out the scene in advance so as to determine where best to place yourself in relation to the scene and to the position of the sun.
• Set your camera to the lowest possible ISO in order to avoid digital noise.
• Close your diaphragm (to f/11 or f/16) and focus on a point sufficiently far away so as to increase the depth of field and to ensure that the entirety of the landscape will be in focus.
• Depending on the light conditions, slightly underexpose the shot (by 0.5 to 1 IL) to obtain more dynamic colors.
• Use a tripod and a remote control so as not to have to worry about the exposure time, whether during the day or at night.
In terms of composition, follow the rule of thirds: Avoid placing the horizon in the middle of the photo and put the important parts of the scene into the strongest parts of the image — i.e., at the intersections of the thirds dividing lines. You can also advantageously manage the contrasting lights and colors to bring out the important parts of your images. (In our example, the increased dynamics enhance the natural curves in the scene and thus guide the way that viewers “read” the image.) Further, be sure to compose your image by taking into account the different planes in the scene (foreground, midground, and background) to avoid creating a too-flat, single-plane landscape.
2- Daytime landscape photos
Open your photo with DxO FilmPack 4. In the right-hand Controls pane, first choose Color and then the Settings tab.
To maximize the available space for displaying your photo, close the presets panel (keyboard shortcut F).
2.1 – Set the contrast
The Basic settings palette acts globally on the photo with respect to contrast, color saturation, and exposure.
Contrast is the difference in brightness between the lightest and the darkest hues. In case you have a “flat” image, increase the contrast to give it a bit more character. Conversely, you can soften a overly-contrasted image by decreasing the slider value.
In our example, we will apply an intensity of +30.
2.2 – Adjust the exposure
The Exposure setting lets you brighten or darken a photo.
With a landscape photo, it is often advantageous to reduce the exposure to obtain more dynamic colors.
We will set the Exposure value here to –0.5.
2.3 – Adjust the micro-contrast
Micro-contrast works on the pixel level to help you bring out or tamp down the fine details in the image and thus reinforce or soften the impression of sharpness in a rendering.
We are looking to increase the impression of sharpness in this landscape photo, so we will set this slider value to +80.
Here is the image that you will obtain after adjusting these settings:
3- Nighttime landscapes
Shooting nighttime landscape photos is similar to shooting daytime landscapes — the exposure time is normally longer, but the general principles are the same.
3.1 – Adjust the contrast and the exposure
We are going to increase the contrast and exposure so as to make the photo brighter. In the Basic settings palette, set the Contrast slider to +40 and the Exposure slider to +1.0.
3.2 – Adjust the colors
We will also correct the color of the sky to make it more blue by using the Vibrancy slider in the Advanced settings palette.
Vibrancy is similar to Saturation with respect to color intensity, but in a more progressive way: the first colors affected are the cooler ones, thus allowing greater finesse in processing.
Set the Vibrancy here to +40.
A slight violet dominant persists in the sky. We will improve the rendering a bit more by using the Hue-Saturation-Lightnesspalette , which lets you adjust all of the colors globally, but also by each color channel.
When you select a particular color channel, only the parts of the photo containing the corresponding color will be changed by your settings.
In our example, we will select the Blues channel and adjust the Hue. A slight correction will suffice here, so set the slider to –5.
3.3 – Eliminate the digital noise
When we look at the photo zoomed in at 100%, we can see a certain amount of digital noise due to ISO sensitivity. We will correct this by using the Noise removal palette.
Luminance noise has a structure which resembles that of silver halide grain, whereas chrominance noise is characterized by clumps of pixels (generally green and magenta). It’s this second type of noise that is particularly noticeable in our image, so let’s correct it by setting the Chrominance slider to 120.
So that you can really see the effects of a particular setting, save your current work as a snapshot (keyboard shortcut T) before you make further adjustments, and then switch over to Split preview display mode (the icon in the toolbar above the image).
To correct the residual luminance noise, set the corresponding slider to 50.
You can follow our tutorial about noise removal by clicking on this link.
3.4 – Reframe your photo as a panoramic shot
Click on the button in the toolbar (keyboard shortcut C) to activate the crop tool. Reduce the height of the image without altering the width by moving the top and bottom edges of the frame toward the center . The dimensions (in pixels) will appear while you are resizing the frame, allowing you to control the proportions.
If necessary, use the grid to help you adjust the frame.
After you are satisfied with the frame, click on the button.
4- Black & white landscape photos
Certain landscape photos lend themselves well to black & white conversion.
4.1 – Convert your photo into black & white
Open your image, and then in the right-hand pane, move the control selector to Black & White.
4.2 – Adjust the contrast and the exposure
We will boost the contrast a bit in our newly-converted black & white photo in order to extend the tonal range and to heighten the contrast in the more uniform parts, such as in the sky, by setting the Contrast slider to +30.
We will brighten the dark zones by setting the Exposure slider to +0.7.
4.3 – Adjust the tones
We first adjusted the basic settings to correctly render the darker areas, but at the expense of the highlights. We will now fix the latter by using the Channel mixer palette. This tool will let us independently adjust the gray level for each color channel in the original photo.
In our example, we will adjust the warm tones of the sky by setting the Reds and Magentas channels to –60.
4.4 – Adjust the micro-contrast
We will soften the rendering to reinforce the wispy ppearance of the water by setting the Micro-contrast slider value to –70.
4.5 – Adjust effects
With black & white, as with color, you can add some creative effects. In our photo, for example, we will add a little discreet vignetting in the Creative vignetting palette, setting the Intensity to –30 and the Midpoint to 25. We will leave the other sliders at their default values.
Here is the processed image:
Photos credits: Jens Schlenker, Mike & Tammy Rice