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I love golden hour photos.
And I guess so do you since you are here. But how to make sure that when you take a photo of a beautiful landscape at sunrise or sunset, your final image looks great on your computer screen?
I have several years of experience editing landscape photos in Lightroom, and today I want to share this post to give you some quick Lightroom tips for editing golden hour photos.
Please note, I’m going to talk about Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.
Also, before we start. This is just an example to show you how with just a few minor adjustments in Lightroom we can achieve so much.
By no means, this is a complete guide to editing in Lightroom.
Let’s now jump into it.
What is the Golden Hour?
First of all, for those of you new to this photography term.
The golden hour is the time of the day right after sunrise and right before sunset.
It’s called the golden hour because of the magical redder light that forms beautiful contrasts and make it probably the best time of the day to shoot photos.
Our Image of Choice
I’ve chosen this photo I took in Cinque Terre last summer when I visited this beautiful part of Italy.
I was going through my hard drive the other day and I realized that I never edited this sunset shot I took in Riomaggiore.
At first, as you can tell, it may seem that this image is unusable but it has potential in my opinion.
I’m going to show you how to quickly fix it in Lightroom an otherwise unusable image, let’s see what we can do.
Adobe Lightroom Basic Adjustments for Golden Hour Photos
Firstly, it’s important to know that cameras are not able to reproduce the entire dynamic range of colors present in nature. Far less than our eyes are able to. That’s why some parts of the image are correctly exposed and some others are not.
And that’s also why a beautiful sunset or sunrise won’t look as magical when you look at your photos on your computer.
It is fundamental to shoot in RAW.
By shooting in RAW instead of JPEG you will be able to recover in Lightroom a huge amount of color lost in the shadows and highlights of your photo. JPEG files are compressed in camera and a lot of color and light information are lost.
The first two settings I’m going to tweak in the basic adjustment menu are the temperature and the tones.
Fixing the White Balance
The white balance seems a bit off and the original photo has a temperature value of 5,850k. I brought it up to 7,200k to add a warmer and golden feeling to the scene.
For this photo, I left the exposure as it is.
Instead, in the Tone menu, to recover details in the sky I lowered the highlights. I recovered dark areas of the image by increasing the shadows.
I’ve also tweaked the whites and blacks as you see in the image below to balance the ends of the dynamic range spectrum and recover even more details in the sky and color in the darker areas.
In the presence menu, add some vibrance and saturation to make colors pop a bit more.
Don’t overdo this step or your end result will look unnatural.
Here’s what we have so far. Already a different story, but it’s not all.
Working on highlights and shadows, and on the whites and blacks already did a good job adding a bit of contrast in the scene.
To add a bit more contrast I slightly moved the Tone Curve in the RGB channel to obtain the shape in the image below. I rarely change the contrast in the basic panel since the tone curve gives a much more precise control over it.
Select HSL in the Color menu.
Here we are going to change Hue Saturation and Luminance (HSL) to obtain the desired effect. Make sure that HSL is selected.
I start by working on the Hues to correct the colors and balance the red/orange colors. We can also take those blues towards the aqua tonality.
And these are my settings including the saturation and luminance.
More Tone Curve
After fixing the colors I realized the image was a bit too dark so with the Tone Curve I’ve increased the brightness of the mid-tones and tweaked a bit the contrast by sliding down the curve point in the darks area.
Here’s what we have now.
Split toning is often underutilized. In fact, it doesn’t really work well with all images.
In our case though, it helps to add a bit more golden color in the highlights and balance the shadows to keep a bit of blue details in areas such as the water in the foreground and the low clouds in the background.
To sum it up
This is the final image. Not bad!
In a few minutes and with a few tweaks, we can achieve impressive results in Lightroom.
I hope that you get something from this short tutorial today that you possibly didn’t already know. And if you want to add something to it please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you are looking for a complete guide to Lightroom, I highly recommend you to take a look at this course if you want a complete step-to-step guide to editing in Lightroom and learn all the secrets of this fantastic pro photo editing tool.
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Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.