Our original photo shows much of the shoreline of Punta Umbria in southwestern Spain as the sun sets. The exposure is correct, as we can observe on the histogram which covers almost everything, except for the bright lights, since we exposed in such a way that the whites are not “burnt”.
The photo was taken with the DZOFilm Pictor 20 50mm and the amount of range we added in the frame is amazing, and on top of that, no distortions or flares or chromatic aberrations. But now that we look at it on the computer, we would like to reduce the frame of the image. The advantage of digital cameras is the amount of megapixels that allow the image to be cropped without losing information.
1st step: reduce and straighten the image
To retouch beach photos, we will use the Lr cropping tool, while applying the original ratio. We will also take the opportunity to straighten the photo a little.
For the crop, I’m going to eliminate the seashells from the foreground and place the horizon, according to the classic rules of composition, in the first lower third, which will give the spotlight to the sky and will improve the perspective with the clouds.
2nd step: removal of stains on the sensor
As you can see in the photo, spots appear on the sensor. This happens regularly when you often change your lens. But with the “Spot Removal” tool, they can be erased easily.
If in addition, when retouching photos of the beach, we check the option “View light shades”, we will then have an overview where the spots of the sensor will be precisely indicated. We will then have to check with the normal view so as not to erase a few seagulls, for example.
In the corners of the sensor, dust accumulates. This is the reason why we will have to zoom in at 100% on this area and watch it carefully to avoid unpleasant surprises.
3rd step: calibration settings
The first step that we usually follow can be very interesting for all landscape photos. It consists of a calibration adjustment. At the end of the Lr adjustment panel you will find a series of sliders that affect separate RGB channels. We know that all the pixels in our photos are composed of three values: red, green and blue. If we increase the saturation in this tab, all three color channels will be increased equally, which is not the case with the HSL adjustments, which only modify the selected tones.
We will understand better with an example. I’m going to max out the blue channel in the calibration tab, which will increase the blue values of all the pixels, saturating the whole image.
Now we eliminate this setting, go to the HSL tab and set the blue saturation to maximum. This will increase the saturation of all three channels but only the pixels with a blue cast.
Once the difference between the two settings is understood, we should use the first as a starting point, giving all the pixels in our beach photo a boost for the blue channel.
Our photo gains a very interesting general intensity, as a starting point. You don’t have to set this parameter to the maximum. Values between 50 and 60 will be more than enough.
Step 4: basic settings
As the photo has an interesting exposure, we will start with a setting, absent from older versions of Lr. Here we refer to the “Erase haze” setting. This effect is very useful for retouching beach photos because you can eliminate the haze that causes the image to lose definition. The problem is knowing when to stop. Here is a little trick that may help you: press the ALT key while making the adjustment. The image will then become all white and some pixels, if you do not leave the interval, will appear in black or on the channel which interests you. You will then have to stop before you start to see a few spots appear on the white image.
In this case, we stopped at 20. This setting then eliminates this sea haze and gives more sharpness to the image by adding contrast and saturation. With a good polarizing filter, this step would not have been necessary and the photo would have had that little extra. This is why we recommend using a good polarizing filter for this type of photo.
The next step to retouching beach photos is to dim the light a little at horizon level so that the sunset is highlighted. To do this, we will lower the cursor of the high lights until the sky darkens at the level of the part of the latter located near the ground.
A value around -60 corresponds well to this photo. For other shots, these values would vary more or less, but the important thing is to set the lighting that you prefer.
As we have darkened the figures of the horizon and the buildings on the right of the photo, we will now adjust the shadows towards the positive side so that the midtones recover a little light lost in the two previous adjustments. The exact value you will get with the naked eye. You can even set it to the maximum, while ensuring that no noise appears on the image.
Here, we set the shadows to 70, which provides more light in the midtones of the photo.
The retouching of the photo is almost at an end, modifying only three settings: clarity, intensity and saturation. Sometimes they cause more problems than benefits. Well made, they nevertheless give very good results but it sometimes happens to be heavy-handed, so you have to make sure that the photo is not too saturated.
5th step : end of photo editing
To finish retouching beach photos, we will make a local adjustment with a gradient. We will have to review the area corresponding to the expanse of sand. In this setting, we will perform a gradient on the lower part of the image and make sure to give a little more presence to the shells, while enhancing the green tones of the shore, which are particularly attractive.
We open the Graduated Filter tool, then drag the slider from the bottom edge of the photo to the horizon. We then set the white balance to the green side, increase the contrast and give some clarity to give more sharpness, especially to the seashells, while being careful not to generate strange halos when retouching the photo.