Last year, Todd and Sarah Sisson launched their first ebook; Living Landscapes: A Guide To Stunning Landscape Photography. In the oversaturated world of photography resources, theirs brought something new and fresh that stood out above the rest. I personally really enjoyed it, and it was very well received by the landscape photography community.
Since then, the New Zealand-based landscape photographers have been in hiding, working on their newest offering to the photography community, Loving Landscapes: A Guide To Landscape Photography Workflow and Post-Production. As with their first, this book has been published by Digital Photography School (dPS), one of the top photography blogs and publishers of fantastic photography resources. As the name implies, this ebook builds on the knowledge and skills gained from Living Landscapes by exploring the world of post-production workflow.
If there was one area in Living Landscapes that I felt was too brief and needed expanding upon, it was the digital darkroom. Not surprisingly, Todd and Sarah have exceeded expectations with this monster. It’s packed with 200+ pages of New Zealand landscape photography gorgeousness and post-production genius. No matter your choice of workflow weapon, this will be an invaluable resource. Let’s get into it.
The book is divided into 12 chapters:
- Image capture
- Computers and backups
- RAW workflow for landscape photography
- File management in Lightroom
- Â Organizing your images in Lightroom
- Outputting your images from Lightroom
- Single-exposure post-processing
- Single-exposure post-processing walkthrough
- Other Lightroom tools and features
- Single-exposure techniques
- Photoshop for landscape photographers
- Multi-exposure workflow
The first couple of chapters are pretty self-explanatory. They really just cover a lot of the techniques and tools required to get the best image possible in-camera and store files safely. They briefly outline everything from correct exposure, sharpness, dynamic range, and histograms to the use of tools like tripods and filters. Any photographer not confident in the area of capturing landscape images would be wise to purchase Todd and Sarah’s first ebook Living Landscapes. No digital photographer can ignore the need for a solid backup system. There are countless stories of photographers losing everything due to hard drive failure. Chapter two outlines Todd and Sarah’s very robust backup system, which you would do well to beat.
Chapters 3-6 get into some more meaty workflow goodies with a discussion of why Todd and Sarah use a RAW workflow (and why you should), and then an introduction to using Adobe Lightroom (LR). Although there are many alternatives, some better than others, there is a good reason why Lightroom is the industry standard. Loving Landscapes refers to LR extensively, but of course if you already use something else you will still be able to use the principles taught in this book. I have been using LR for my workflow for a few years, and I wholeheartedly agree with Todd and Sarah that nothing else even comes close. Chapters 4-6 will introduce you to the process of setting up a solid cataloging and file-naming system, and importing, managing, and outputting from LR. Getting started on the right foot with your image library will save you a world of pain later on, and the process is relatively easy to work through even if you already have a decent collection of images.
Moving into the image post-processing, chapters 7-10 look at techniques to edit single-exposures in Lightroom. These chapters progress very naturally from an overview of the develop module to a real image processing walkthrough, and a look at more advanced LR tools and features. The process is very helpfully aided by the provision of one of the RAW files that Todd and Sarah have included in the Loving Landscapes package.
This section really displays the power of LR. I’m constantly amazed by what LR can do with a single-exposure image, and it just keeps getting better. Todd and Sarah do well in these chapters to give you a really solid knowledge-base and the skills to be able to use Lightroom’s develop module in a very precise and effective way. Although there is a discussion on presets, this will give you what you need to express your creative vision very intentionally, rather than relying on someone else’s.
Although they acknowledge that there are some LR tools that they just don’t use, no stone is left unturned in their discussion of the develop module. The only section I didn’t feel fitted well here was chapter ten, which explores some of the more creative forms of landscape photography like impressionism, zooming, camera spin, and long-exposure photography. Not that these aren’t valid forms of creative expression, they just seemed like they would’ve fitted much better into Living Landscapes, as they are photographic techniques, rather than post-processing techniques.
In chapter 11, things step up a notch with an introduction to editing images using Adobe Photoshop (PS). As previously mentioned, what can be done in LR now is quite incredible, but it has its limitations. This chapter does a great job of illustrating the tools that are available to the landscape photographer in PS. Photoshop can be daunting to the novice. It’s still daunting to me now! I find the best way to think of PS is as a huge box of tools that can do many different jobs, but most people will only ever use a few of those tools in very specific ways. A designer, videographer, and illustrator will all use PS very differently to the way a photographer will. Even within the photography field, different specialties will use PS differently. A fashion photographer won’t use it that same way as a landscape photographer.
That being said, it’s worth mentioning that this ebook is really only an introduction to PS. The major strengths of PS over LR are in the areas of making selections and cleaning up images; healing, cloning, etc. Sarah takes you through a few examples of the tools they use, how they use them, and do a comparison of their results in PS vs LR. They really are convincing. LR mostly does a great job, but the few times it falls short, there is always a way with the right tools and knowledge in PS. The PS novice can quickly and effectively learn to use these tools to improve their images with practice, and once you realise it’s not that scary after all, you’ll be like Alice in the PS rabbit-hole!
Last, but certainly not least, is a look at multi-exposure workflow. For reasons I will let Todd and Sarah explain, sometimes we need more than one exposure to create the image we envision. Whether it’s to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image, a stitched panorama, or a composite image, there will come a time when you want (or need) to combine multiple exposures. I mentioned in my review of Living Landscapes that I wished this had been discussed, and now I can see why it was omitted. It’s not a subject you can quickly breeze over. Todd shares his techniques for manual blending of images using selections, and luminosity masks, and Sarah introduces you to blending exposures by tonemapping using Photomatix Pro software. Again, they’ve provided RAW image files so you can follow along with them as you work through the book. There are as many techniques to do this as you can point a stick at, so bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.
On the whole, I am very impressed with Loving Landscapes. It’s a very good resource for landscape photographers who are relatively new to the workflow and post-production side of the craft, and there is so much great content that even those who have been at it for awhile will undoubtedly learn something new. Todd and Sarah write in a very straightforward and easy-to-understand way, throwing plenty of their personality and great kiwi humour in to keep things light-hearted. Their work and reputation speak for themselves, and we are very lucky to have them share their wealth of knowledge. There are few photographers of their calibre that are willing to share their post-processing techniques so freely. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. No matter where your landscape photography is at, I’m convinced that your work will benefit from Loving Landscapes.
It’s available for $19, or you can grab both of these Landscape Photography ebooks as a package deal and save. Hit the banner below to learn more and grab the ebook: