How to create dramatic landscapes
Dani Dixon shows you how can use Photoshop to combine your photos to produce a masterpiece with the ‘wow’ factor
If the weather ruins a photo shoot, just use an old stock image or one taken on a sunnier day.
Download the zipped Adobe Photoshop file for this tutorial
A dramatic landscape is an image which has great visual impact. It should draw the viewer in and be enjoyable to look at.
However, capturing an image of this calibre is tricky. Some Photoshop retouching is always required to make an okay image great, but try your hand at pushing the retouching a stage further and brilliant results can be created. Our starting image is a great photo, but the colours need strengthening.
A new sky, adding colour and atmosphere, will also transform this average photo into something amazing. Swapping out a sky can alter a photo completely – you can add stormy clouds, or a relaxing sunset.
Capturing a mood within a photo is a great way to add impact and improve its overall feel. If the weather ruins a photo shoot, just use an old stock image or one taken on a sunnier day to create the image you desire.
Both starting images are on this month’s free disc; you can follow this tutorial as shown, and then once the technique is mastered, start to combine your own images.
Piece elements of many different photos together to create several masterpieces. In this tutorial we don’t just show you how to erase and replace elements of a photo but how to use masks effectively to hide and blend, a technique which you can use in many Photoshop projects.
Quick colour correction to individual layers and the overall image is covered, along with some great finishing techniques you may have previously overlooked.
So let’s begin by opening up the start photo and replacement sky in Photoshop. Duplicate the start photo by dragging it over the Create New Layer icon at the base of the Layers palette.
1. Isolate the sky
We need to select the sky area, which we will be replacing. Here the Pen tool was used, but try the Magnetic Lasso tool if that suits you best. If using the Pen tool, create a Path and then in the Paths palette go to the top-right arrow and select Save Path.
2. And the sky is gone
Cmd/Ctrl click onto the Saved Paths thumbnail to create an active selection. Go to the Layers palette and on the duplicated layer add a Mask, which is found at the base of the Layers palette. If your sky has disappeared, press Cmd/Ctrl+I to invert the mask.
3. Fill your blank canvas
Drag the new sky into the canvas and press Cmd/Ctrl+T to transform your image size. Hold Shift when dragging a corner pointer outwards to increase the image size proportionately. In the Layers palette, ensure this new sky sits below your duplicated layer.
4. Match layers up
For the new sky to sit well in the image, go to Edit>Transform>Flip Horizontal. Crop your canvas down now if needed, don’t overstretch the new sky. Go to Filter>Blur>Box Blur and set a blur of two pixels, so this new layer isn’t too harsh.
5. Build up the layer order
Duplicate the new sky layer and move it to the top of the stack. Select Edit>Transform>Flip Vertical, select the Marquee selection tool and draw over the flipped sky area. Add a mask and the sky will be left behind. Move this layer up the canvas.
6. Make it realistic
Set this flipped Layers blend mode to Soft Light, found at the top of the Layers palette. Click onto the layer mask, select the Gradient tool Foreground/ Background set to Black/White in the side toolbar. Draw a line halfway up the canvas, bottom left towards top right.
7. Add some extra depth With the reflection merging into the original sea, add a new layer at the top of the stack. Select a dark blue colour and a large soft brush set to Multiply and 20% Opacity in the top toolbar. Paint some colour onto the base and top of the image.
8. Tidy up
With a small soft-edged brush at 70% Opacity, Foreground/Background set to Black/White, paint away sharp edges visible on the flipped sky layers mask. Leave the reflection on the sand and sea only. Blend all the layers together in this way using the masks to tidy up.
9. Smudge the sea
Select the Smudge tool, 30% Strength. Drag bits of the reflected sky so it looks like it is moving with the sea. Image>Adjustment>Levels, boost the shadows and highlights by moving the sliders. In the menu, select Yellow and Magenta and boost these colours.
10. Add sunlight
Duplicate your original layer. On the top version, use Levels to boost the lights and darks quite dramatically. With a large soft brush, 100% Opacity, Black/White colours, paint away areas leaving behind a bright centre when the sun would naturally be stronger.
11. Burn away sunlight
Select the Burn tool and in the top bar set the tool to Highlights, 20% Exposure. On the darker original layer, paint over the bright building tops to dull them where the sun wouldn’t be hitting them. With the tones correct, add a new layer to the top of the stack.
12. Bolder and brighter
Select a bright orange colour and the Gradient tool. In the top toolbar select Foreground>Transparent, Reflected Gradient, Multiply and 50% Opacity. Draw a small vertical line in the centre of the canvas. Set the layer blend mode to Overlay.
13. Colour correction
Select a large soft Eraser tool, low opacity. Erase the edges to the new horizon so the colour is centralised. At the base of the Layer palette, select a Levels Adjustment layer. Choose Cyan from the drop-down menu and move the mid slider left, reducing Cyan levels.
14. Finishing off
The buildings still look a bit harsh on the new sky layer, so soften these up. Select the Blur tool from the side toolbar and on the original building layer just paint over the building tops. Next click onto the layers mask and select the Smudge tool. With a small brush, just drag out small areas of the trees to add a less harsh line.