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Learn Landscape Photography

With the digital revolution, the role of the camera has changed and requires a new change in approach. The final image used to be the product of the camera; now it is the product of post-processing software like Photoshop. Instead of using the camera to create the final image in a single frame, we now use the camera to capture the best possible material for Photoshop. This opens up new creative, artistic and quality opportunities.

Capture The Assets For Photoshop.

Photography Tutorial Learn Landscape Photography. Photograph of Lofoten Islands, Norway. David Osborn Photography
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The Critical Tripod

Align Exposures

Aligning multiple exposures in Photoshop is central to my whole landscape photography technique. Every frame must align pixel perfect in Photoshop, a tripod is critical. The most common use for a tripod is to keep the camera still during long exposures. The ability to align multiple exposures opens a whole new world of possibility because straight away, you remove the traditional requirement to get the photograph in a single frame. The reliance on everything being perfect in every area of the image, which it never is. With a tripod we can shoot exposures when the light is perfect in various areas of the image, then combine them together to create our final image in Photoshop.

More Contemplative

The use of a tripod also has other benefits apart from the technical. A tripod slows you down mentally and physically. The tripod transforms you from rushing around not very sure what you shot, to being in a calm state. This allows you to be more thoughtful about the image and what you are doing. Making good landscape photography is primarily about thinking and waiting, not about speed and shooting. The tripod transforms you from snapping many images to creating one image. One image created with thought and purpose is worth a thousand without. The tripod forces you to question your decisions, that means you can make better decisions resulting in better quality images.

Composition Perfection

We do not want to waste our image data by cropping the image in Photoshop. We want to use the image full frame as shot. Only by using a tripod can we get our composition perfectly balanced. The tripod allows us to scan the image in critical detail. Searching the image border for cut objects. Keep them in or keep them out, don’t cut them in half. The tripod allows us to study the spatial relationship of how objects align with each other in the landscape. We can physically move our tripod and camera for a better, cleaner more harmonious alignment. Without a tripod we do not have the ability to look so critically at the outline of every object because the image changes every time we look.

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Tutorial Learn Landscape Photography. Photo of Tuscany, Italy. David Osborn Photography
Val d’Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

The Camera Response Curve

Tonal Changes

The camera records the tones you see, but changes them dramatically. You never capture the same tonal relationships your eye sees. Understanding how the camera changes the tones is essential for two reasons. You can use the changes that help the photograph, to your benefit and find a solution that counteracts the effects that degrade the photograph. Without knowing the changes, the camera makes, you are not in control of the outcome. Changes are seen in three areas; contrast, highlights and shadow areas. Overall or global contrast is dramatically increased. This can help us provided we are aware of it, like on flat lit days, subtle skies and clouds suddenly look rich and beautiful, dramatic.


First rule about highlights. If the camera ‘blinkies’ show no highlight detail, there really is none and highlights can never be rescued later. There is no secret raw reserve hiding somewhere. Highlight detail dictates the first part of the camera exposure process, with total disregard to what happens to the tones in the rest of the image. Second rule is that from pure white to about mid grey, contrast is greatly added, the camera curve is steeper and straight. We double the tonal separation in relation to what our eye sees. This is the benefit we can use to our advantage. Textures are richer, grey skies become beautiful subtle tones with cloud form you did not notice. You record more subtle tones in camera.


Shadows are where you pay the price big time, the camera curve does everything possible to work against you having good tonal separation in the dark tones, shadows. Simply, you could not design a better tonal curve to destroy the shadows. The camera curve turns from a steep line in the mid-tones to a flat horizontal line in the darkest tones. There is minute tonal separation, all the tones blocked together as a single dark mass. THIS is where the biggest mistake happens, we are taught to brighten the shadows in the software later. To a degree you can, but you will NEVER have rich tones, because you never recorded rich tones. Software will never give you, what you never recorded.

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Photography Tutorial, Learn Landscape Photography. Photo of Sorano, Italy. David Osborn Photography
Sorano, Tuscany, Italy

The Histogram is God

Fantastic Shadow Tone

We separate the camera exposure into two problems. Highlights we covered, the shadows we treat the camera histogram as our God. The bracketed exposures then being combined in Photoshop, giving us an image with beautiful shadow and highlight detail together. The very first priority, is recording the information with maximum quality. RULE. Breaking tones apart in Photoshop, degrades image quality, compressing tones does not degrade quality. Brightening shadows in software, breaks tones apart because we are making a limited tonal range cover more than they were designed to do, BUT, if we capture the full tonal range we do not need to brighten them in Photoshop, retaining quality.

Histogram Falls Over First

As we expose the shadows brighter, we move them up the camera curve away from the flat compressed part, towards the straight part that gives more tonal separation. REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. As the tones gain more separation, this allows more room for additional tones to be recorded, the subtle tones. Tones that will never exist in the raw file unless you record them in the camera. The brighter you expose the shadows, the more tone you record. This gives you beautiful, rich shadow detail you will never achieve through software. Watch the histogram as you brighten the image. The bottom left corner is pinned to the graph, but the curve falls over becoming less angular and smoother.

Then Pulls Away Like Chewing Gum

The more we brighten the exposure for the shadows, the more the histogram curve falls over towards the right, but still pinned on the left at the black point. Imagine the shape of the curve, equated to taking off in an aircraft. Steep curve, brutal take off. Smooth curve, enjoyable take off. Same with tone; smooth curve means smooth tone and importantly, a mass of rich, subtle shadow tone. The question is, how bright do we make them? Watch the histogram, there will be a point where the histogram curve stretches towards the right, then can stretch no more; the curve pulls away at the black point on the left. Like pulling chewing gum off a wall, you achieve no more tone by making it any brighter.

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Photography Tutorial. Learn Landscape Photography. Photo of Lofoten Islands, Norway. David Osborn Photography
Lofoten Islands, Norway

The Perfect Lighting

Side and Back Lighting

The best light for good landscape photography is side lighting, with the sun light a little behind or in front of our main subject depending on the picture. Our final image is an optical illusion containing light, form, depth and mood. Side lighting creates object form and spatial depth, two critical qualities. If the sun is behind us, the photograph is flat, dead and lifeless. Nothing can rescue it in Photoshop. If we shoot directly into the sun, the contrast is incredibly harsh, but can make great pictures. Often, we want our brightest highlight to be on our main hero, so our attention goes straight to it. The best overall light for the landscape is therefore dictated by what the best light is for our main hero.

Light the Main Hero

Now we have the ability to record and reproduce images with full tonal range, from the brightest highlight to the darkest shadow with rich tonality, we do not need to be scared about what we photograph. Our only decision is what makes a good landscape photograph. Looking back to the old master painters like Rembrandt and Rubens, the overall dark picture with the hero subject in full light, has been a formula for hundreds of years. We can use the same formula in our landscape photography. Waiting for a roving beam of sunlight to hit our main hero subject, then keeping the overall image dark. The overall darkness enhances the sense of light and brightness, making the image luminous.

Grey Days; Look Harder

Diffused light is our best friend in landscape photography. No sunlight produces a lifeless quality. Too harsh, we lose the subtle tones. Diffused light creates rich, subtle tones we can exploit. The reason why the late afternoon and early morning are traditional times to photograph. However, by understanding how the camera will change the tones we perceive and the Photoshop process, we actually only need a very minimal level of highlights and shadows created, to give us enough material to make an image full of light, life and drama. Very commonly, scenes are rejected as being too flat, when in fact they contain incredibly rich tones that can be exploited to make great landscape photography.

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Photography Tutorial. Learn Landscape Photography. Photo of Konstanz, Germany. David Osborn Photography
Konstanz, Germany

Just Photograph Assets

Base Image

The final landscape photograph now being the product of Photoshop, not the camera, means the digital camera is now a mere recording tool. Gathering up all the separate picture components or assets required for Photoshop; like buying the ingredients to prepare a meal later. There are three types of Photoshop assets we need to capture for our final landscape image. The first is the base image. This is our best attempt to get the landscape photograph shot in a single frame, in-camera. This base image will become the final landscape photograph in Photoshop once it has the next two additional assets added. Technical assets for print quality and artistic assets for creativity.

Technical Assets

Technical assets are principally bracketed exposure images for retaining highlight details lost in the base image, or to improve the shadow details lost in the base image. We need to study the scene through the camera, together with the camera histogram, searching for all the subject areas we know will have tonal problems later if we relied only on the base image to create our final photograph. Knowing how the camera changes the tones, we counteract the darkening action of the camera curve on the shadows in these areas, by shooting brighter exposures. This puts back the lost tonal richness we know the camera is losing by making these areas excessively dark and lifeless.

Artistic Assets

As the light and mood changes, I look for additional artistic assets. These are certain areas of the photograph where something unique is happening with the light and is only happening in one area not previously captured; but would improve the final photograph if they were added. If the light falls on the surrounding hills or the secondary heroes for example, I would photograph it. This gives me maximum creative choice later in the Photoshop post processing stage. At the same time, I need to make sure that the artistic assets also have good rich tonal values and detail, so additional technical exposures may be taken for these artistic assets if required.

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Tutorial. Learn Landscape Photography. Photo of Castle, Germany. David Osborn Photography
Sigmaringen Castle, Germany

Mentally Build the Picture

The Picture You Want

Good landscape photography is a mind game, and a waiting game. We begin the process by being inspired by the scene, then visualize what it could become after Photoshop. We like the idea, but that’s all it is, an idea. We need to turn what we see ‘it could become’ into reality. Throughout the whole process of photographing the assets, we need to keep clear in mind what we are aiming to achieve; our visualized image. Often, we need to adapt our plan according to the situation and the opportunities we are given. Few times do things go to plan, but by having a clear visualized idea for the picture and constantly updating it, it is amazing how close we can get if we are prepared to be patient and wait.

Assets Done. Assets to Get

When we leave the location, we can only make our final landscape photograph with the assets that we have taken, except for skies because they are not location specific. During the process of photographing the assets, we need to keep two mental lists. The assets we have and the assets we need. The benefit is two-fold. First, we do not leave the scene until we have all the assets we require for the final Photoshop editing. Secondly, we transfer our time and effort away from what we already have shot, to what we need to shoot. The more effort and attention we put into a detail, the more chance we will have to achieve it. It also keeps a clarity about what remains to be done.

When Do You Leave?

Generally, when you are cold, wet, bored, depressed, having a tantrum and talking to the sheep because you’re so lonely. Especially if you hear the sheep answer you back! When God looks down and sees a landscape photographer, he rubs his hands, has a big grin and says ” I am going to have fun today”. He is going to play with you! Just after you leave, the sun comes out like a Rembrandt painting and stops just as you finish running back to try and capture it! When do you leave? Who knows! Well, when you have worked through your asset shopping list and decide you have enough to create your photograph in Photoshop and there is nothing more to be gained by waiting.

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The Photography Workshops

Workshop for Black and White photography in Spain. Photograph of Valencia architecture. David Osborn Photography.

Black & White Photography

Black and White workshop in Valencia, Spain shooting modern architecture.

Norway image for standard photography workshops. David Osborn Photography.

Landscape Photography Workshops

Standard workshop here in UK, your home overseas or travel with you to a third location.

Photograph of Buckingham Palace for Photoshop course London. David Osborn Photography.

Photoshop London

Adobe Photoshop training in London. Booked on a per day basis or extended course.

Photograph of Pisa, Italy for Italy photography workshop. David Osborn Photography.

Italy Workshop

Short break, group photography workshop in Pisa, Italy lasting three days creating this image.

Get in Touch …

Feel free to email David Osborn in person.

Additional Tutorial Reading

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Logo for PhotoshopWorkshops. Website of David Osborn Photography.

Landscape Photography Workshops with Photoshop | David Osborn

One-week landscape photography workshops brought to your home overseas or here in Great Britain. Three subjects combined into one workshop: Visualization, Photography and Photoshop. You learn the complete workflow to create the photographs shown here and leave the workshop with all the techniques used, fully documented and Photoshop files to create the images yourself. One to one tuition worldwide, all booked on demand with no preset dates, being held all year-round. You choose the location of your choice and your convenient date. Simply send me an email and we plan your photography workshop.

Contact David Osborn Photography
69 Grange Gardens, Southgate,
London N14 6QN, England, UK

T: UK +44 (0) 771 204 5126
E: David@PhotoshopWorkshops.Com

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