Design & UX
By Gabrielle Gosha

Retouch Your Landscape Photos in 10 Minutes

By Gabrielle Gosha

Landscape photography is a common element found in layouts, landing pages, and a variety of other marketing materials. If your landscape photos are only destined for your personal photo album, it may be best to leave them in their authentic state. But, if they’re going to be part of a sales or public relations effort, you need to make sure that your landscape imagery is dazzling.

You may think your photos look spectacular already, but when you integrate them into designs with bold colors and carefully-crafted layouts, you might find that they appear dull and bland in their new context. Luckily, basic image retouching techniques can correct most of the color issues that sometimes affect our imagery. You can push the boundaries of realism and make dull colors come to life, whether you work in digital or film formats.

In today’s tutorial, I am going to show you a super-quick method for enhancing the colors of your photography—particularly your landscape photos—in less than ten minutes.


Tutorial Resources


Step 1: Open

First and foremost, open the image that you want to correct.

Step 2: Duplicate

So that you preserve the original image, duplicate the image onto a new layer.

Step 3: Auto-Corrections

To give your background a color boost, go to “Image” > “Auto Tone and Image” > “Auto Contrast.” Your image shall now appear less dull than it did before.

Step 4: Water

Use the lasso tool to select the water. Try to avoid selecting the boats in the distance.

Fill in your selection with color #4ac1ff.

Change the layer mode to “Soft Light,” drop the opacity to 70%, and merge with your duplicated landscape layer.

Step 5: HDR Toning

Go to “Images” > “Adjustments” > “HDR Toning” to access the menu. (Or, take a timeout and learn more about High Dynamic Range.)

Click “OK.”

Step 6: HDR Toning Settings

Follow the settings below and press “OK” when finished.

Your image should now look like this.

Step 7: Copy and Undo

Select your new HDR image, copy it, and then press undo until you have your two layers again.

Paste the copied HDR image onto your canvas, change the layer mode to “Soft Light” and merge it down.

Step 8: Curves

Press CTRL + “M” on your keyboard to access the “Curves” menu, and change the settings for the red and green channels as shown below.

After you press “OK,” your image should look like this.

Step 9: Erase

Erase the water and sky from the layer with the newly-modified curves, change the layer mode to “Color,” and drop the opacity to 50%


Finish your image by painting the sky with color #ffcc43. Paint a small path through the water where the cliffs part, as well as the edges of the cliffs to give the appearance that the sun is shining. Change the layer mode to “Color” and drop the opacity to 16%.


Correcting an image’s overall color can be done in a matter of minutes thanks to Photoshop and a few common color correction techniques. Of course, this simple method won’t be able to fix every detail, especially if your image is overexposed, underexposed, or just plain blurry. For those types of imperfect photos, more time and effort will be needed to correct their problems.

Naturally, there are various other color correction methods that could be employed; it really just depends on the photo in question and the time you have to improve it. Try messing around with your image’s levels, as well as adding gradients and tonal changes.

Do you have frequent needs to improve imagery for your designs? Do you have any time-efficient techniques of your own for turning photos from dull to dazzling?

  • Nice effect when comparing the original and the enhanced photos, thank you! Yet it would also be great to learn the “why”, not only the “how” of this process — how you chose the color for the water, the sky, the curve adjustments etc.
    Still, this is useful as is, thank you very much!

    • Thanks Anton glad you found it useful! The next time I do something similar to this I’ll give some insight into the “why”, to be honest I hadn’t even thought about doing that, so many thanks for the suggestion.

  • craiger

    I think it would also help to level the horizon created by the water line. Looks tilted to the left. Otherwise, nice tutorial!

    • Ah you’re right Craiger it does look slightly tilted, good eye and thank you!

  • Márcio Guerra

    Sorry. Don’t like it. There are lots, and I mean LOTS of properly done correction workflows, that will take you minutes, and you don’t have to add nothing to the picture. I hilghy recommend Dan Margulis Picture Postcard Workflow in case you want to know more. Do a YouTube search on that name or Google for “Man from Mars move”… You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll learn that pictures already have the color you need to make them great.

    Anyway, if you look for an unnatural look and feel, go ahead, this a way to do it!

    Cheers, and I hope you don’t take my words on a personal side!

    Márcio Guerra

  • Hiren Mehta

    Awesome effect. Thanks a lot! Will use this tricks…

  • This is great, thanks for the tutorial!!

  • This is a fantastic tutorial, thanks.

    I’d also love to see how to adjust the sky and brightness of the rocky mountain area just above and to the right of the boats.

    It’s always great to see the changes that others use. We commonly manipulate these for web site work for our clients.

    • Hi Jane thanks, glad you liked the tutorial.

      For the sky and brightness of the mountain you could try several different methods to correct issues such as this. One possible method would be using layer masks. Also for such a blown out sky I would personally recommend replacing it to better suit the image.

      Perhaps I will write up a tutorial addressing such issues.

  • Corbin

    Great tutorial as I picked up a few tricks here.

    One thing I can also recommend to use is the Levels Adjustment layer before you even start working on a photo. I’ve found by adjusting the blacks to black and the whites to white, it gives you a better starting point to make further corrections.

    Keep posting.

    • Thanks for the recommendation Corbin, I will definitely keep this in mind the next time I’m working on a photo! For some reason I can always remember to do this when working on portraits but never for landscapes.

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