How to Create DRAMATIC Light in Travel & Nature Photos Using Lightroom (VIDEO)

by John Stapel

Every so often we photograph a beautiful outdoor scene even though the light isn’t quite right. That’s because it’s not particularly difficult to add depth and drama to an otherwise great shot with a bit of help from Lightroom.

The nine-minute tutorial below from the Phlog Photography YouTube channel explains a simple and effective method for making flat images look far more compelling, while retaining a natural look. And you’ll be able to employ this technique for everything from outdoor portraits to landscape, nature and wildlife images.

The goal for this episode is to create a more dramatic look, with rich contrast and warmer, golden light. All the heavy lifting is done in Lightroom, with a quick trip to Photoshop for a bit of dodging and cleanup.

The first step is switching Lightroom’s camera profile to Adobe Landscape which immediately provides a boost in saturation. Next on the agenda are several global adjustments to the overall scene. These include modifying white balance to achieve warmer tones and fix a slight purple cast in the original shot.

For added drama the exposure is darkened, while carefully adding contrast to avoid losing too much light. Highlights and whites get a subtle boost to balance out the tones. Sharpness in enhanced with a bit of clarity and texture, while vibrance is reduced.

Now it’s time for selective adjustments to different portions of the image, using two linear gradients over the sky to reduce brightness and bring out more detail. This leads to a slightly yellow cast at the top of the image, which is quickly fixed by slightly dropping white balance.

All that’s left is a bit of color grading to reduce the purple hue and optimize blue tones in the sky. There’s also a bit of split toning to get the colors perfect. Photoshop’s spot healing brush is then employed to remove a few distracting spots, and you’re left with a much improved image.

You can find more editing advice on the Phlog Photography YouTube channel, so head over there and take a look. 

And for great tips on shooting better landscape photos, take a look at the tutorial we posted recently, explaining how to shoot stunning light trail photos at night.