Transform Landscape "Snapshots" Into Dramatic Images with "Atmosphere" (VIDEO)

The most common goal when editing our landscape photos is to imbue images with vibrant colors and accurate exposures that enhance all the details of a scene. But what do you do when photos you capture look more like a snapshots—either because the light isn't interesting or there's nothing particularly captivating about the scene?

One simple technique for transforming "meh" into "wow" is adding some dramatic atmosphere that really grabs attention. In this tutorial you'll learn how create natural-looking mist by using Masks and Curves while desaturating colors in Lightroom. The moody, misty effect demonstrated in this video is super easy to achieve, and drama is the name of the game.

Instructor Mark McGee is an accomplished portrait photographer who occasionally shoots landscapes when an opportunity arises, and "snapshots" are never his goal. He's working on a color image in this lesson, but much of what you'll learn can also make a big difference when editing b&w photographs that are lacking in impact.

The image at hand is dominated by the complimentary colors of red and green. McGee takes advantage of this by desaturating these tones individually, rather than by applying the adjustment to the entire image at once. He explains why this approach provides far more control to achieve look he's after.

With color stripped out of the image the vivid red phone booth becomes far less prominent, and contrast is reduced. This enables McGee to accentuate other areas within the frame before reintroducing muted colors to the shot. The next step is combining Contrast with color separation.

McGee significantly pumps up the blacks while bringing down shadows, before restoring details in the bright sky. Then he adds a Graduated filter to darken the foreground. Along the way he explains the specific settings that are required.

The monochrome image has a lot more going for it that the original color shot lacked, and now it's time to bring back specific colors and focus to his main subject. McGee cuts yellow tones and Luminance to prepare the image for his misty atmospheric effect that comes later.

McGee uses the Objects option to create a mask for the red phone booth in the front left portion of the shot. Then he bumps up Clarity on that focal point of the scene. The last step before adding atmosphere to the image is a final bit of straightforward color grading.

The "fun part" of the edit now begins; namely adding realistic-looking mist. McGee walks you through the step-by-step process for completing the dramatic transformation.

We encourage you to watch a related tutorial we posted earlier from another adept photographer who explains when and how to use Contrast, Clarity, and Texture tools to improve landscape photographs.