It’s no secret that I LOVE photography. So much so that Savi often feels that my camera is my first wife. Not true. Close, but not quiet 😉
It was almost 8 years ago that I picked up my first DSLR. Over the next few years, I practised and practised some more and invested in some good photography essentials. My photography got better as time progressed and I started learning new techniques. A couple of years ago I gave up my “I will not post-process my photographs” ideology and started using Lightroom for applying basic enhancements to my images. I feel post-processing brings out the best in your photographs and if done right and tastefully can do wonders to images.
Ever since we left our jobs in London to travel the world, I have been spending a lot of time on learning new skills when it comes to photography – think endless hours online checking out tutorials, spending days at length with my camera, and bugging Savi to death to be my muse. I recently chanced upon a photography tutorial on YouTube by the talented Elia Locardi and the cool folks at fstoppers and fell in love with what they have come up with. Have a look:
I am hooked. The idea is simple: create amazing and high quality video of on-field photography action and then showcase post-processing techniques for bringing out the best in those photographs. What’s more, they have shot these videos in two of my favourite photography locations in the world: Iceland and New Zealand. I loved the first part so much that I decided to try out the entire tutorial series: 15 episodes shot in stunning locations across Iceland and New Zealand, tons of post-processing lessons, and snippets of their behind-the-scene shenanigans.
Who is Elia Locardi
Elia Locardi is a talented photographer who travels the world discovering and photographing some of the most stunning landscapes. I have known Elia’s work for years and follow him on social media where he posts some technically brilliant photographs from around the world. He has a unique style of shooting and post-processing that make his images a visual treat. What I have always liked about his images is that they all look natural and tasteful instead of having that HDR effect that a lot of other landscape images have on the internet. Have a look at this one:
I always used to wonder how he manages to get such a balanced finish to his photographs and now I know why. There’s a regimented process and careful application of that process which he has shared in this video tutorial series. He also shares his photographs and thoughts over on his blog blamethemonkey.com.
Who the tutorial is for and what one can expect to learn
I feel this tutorial is for those who already have a good grasp on the basics of photography and know their way around Lightroom and Photoshop. That does not mean that a beginner won’t benefit at all, but chances are if you’re starting out in photography, some of the concepts and terminology might seem intimidating 🙂 Although the tips and tricks that Elia doles out throughout the tutorial can be used for any form of photography, this series will particularly benefit those who are interested in landscape photography.
The entire series has been shot and edited in a very structured way. Elia starts out by sharing details of his photography gear (serious gadget-jealousy happened while watching that episode ;-)) and then moves on to briefly explaining the basics of photography. The 13 episodes that follow are each split into two parts – the first part focuses on the on-field experience where Elia and the guys at fstoppers scout for and shoot stunning locations in Iceland and New Zealand. Trust me, there’s some serious eye candy for you if you love travelling – think videos similar to Nat Geo travel documentaries. The second part brings us back to the studio where Elia shares his post-processing workflow and applies it to the selected image from the on-field section. When combined together, both parts give you an excellent insight into the world of photography – from advice on how to compose a landscape photo to tips on how to process the photo so that it looks natural yet eye-catching.
The best part about this series is that the “lessons” never get too boring – you get to travel virtually with these guys. When it comes to post-processing section, Elia has shared the RAW files that he uses in the videos as part of the package so that you can use the exact same files and follow along.
While the tutorial start off with just basic processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, it gets progressively more difficult as Elia introduces more advanced techniques such as manual exposure blending, luminosity masking, focus stacking (focus on both the infinite background and the closest foreground objects), and colour correction using adjustment layers.
The good thing is that Elia takes his time explaining all these seemingly daunting practices in detail and you start getting the hang of them real soon. The post-processing workflow is broken down into these 4 steps, repeated like clockwork:
Step 01 – RAW Processing and Light Balancing
Step 02 – Exposure Blending (if needed)
Step 03 – Color, Contrast, and Texture Adjustments
Step 04 – Sharpening, Details, and Noise Reductions
By the end of episode 15 you’ll feel much more comfortable with post-processing techniques.
What I have learnt from Photographing the world tutorial series
Truth be told, all my post-processing workflow involved only Lightroom, so it was a good chance to see, as part of this tutorial, what Photoshop could offer to me. After spending many hours going through the tutorial and using Photoshop for post-processing, I have discovered new techniques that I have now tried on my own photographs from Leh Ladakh, Canada, and Central America, with excellent results. Here’s one photo from Guatemala where I blended 3 different exposures in Photoshop using techniques explained in the tutorial:
The other technique I have found particularly useful so far is dodging and burning. I have been going back to my previously edited landscape photographs and trying out this technique to a great effect. It’s a very simple yet powerful way to make your image pop and to draw the viewer’s attention to particular areas in your image.
Some other things that are explained in the tutorial are:
a) Achieving good sharpening using high-pass filters
b) Enhancing images using Google’s Nik collection (photoshop plug-in which is now free to download)
c) Appropriate usage of lenses and gear (tripod, filters etc.) depending on the scenario
d) Getting the smooth water effect / light trails using long exposure
e) Removing unwanted objects from an image using Photoshop
f) Creating light glow (Orton) effect
g) Dodging and burning to make details in an image stand out
Although many of these techniques have been a part of my post-processing workflow, it’s good to see them used by a different photographer. You’d be surprised how differently two photographers can edit the same photograph 🙂 I’ll surely be going through the videos again to pick other tips and tricks.
My favourite sections of the tutorial
Although all videos and lessons are of excellent quality, I particularly loved the lesson where Elia explores the ice caves of Iceland. I really enjoyed watching the drone footage of the landscape around the caves and then following Elia in the post-processing studio making that image as spectacular as it looks:
My second favourite lesson will have to be the one shot at Mt. Cook in New Zealand. Even more so because we were driving through New Zealand earlier this year and happened to shoot at the exact same spot where Elia took this image from:
Whenever the lessons got too much to take in a single sitting, I loved switching over to the behind-the-scene videos for each episode to get an insight into what all went into making these stunning videos. Excellent additional touch, guys 🙂
What I would have liked to see more of
Although one really can’t fault anything in the location videos and post-processing technique, I would have liked to see some details on how best to export images once processed in Photoshop. It’s easy to find this information on the web, but it would have been a good additional tip that Elia could provide. I also noticed that in some episodes, the location scouting and photographing part of the video was too short – would have loved to see more footage from those spots (being selfish here lol ;-))
In one of the lessons, Elia teaches the sky replacement technique – basically taking a dramatic sky from one image and using it in an image that has an eye-catching foreground but a dull sky. This is called a composite image. Now I know tons of photographers who use this technique to enhance their photographs, but personally I don’t use (yet ;-)) this approach. There’s no right or wrong here and by virtue of being an artist, a photographer is allowed to use his or her imagination to the fullest to make the image a piece of art. Even though I won’t be using this technique in the near future, it was good to learn the fundamentals of how to achieve the effect in Photoshop.
Is it worth getting this tutorial?
In short, YES. This is one of the best travel photography tutorial I have tried (and trust me I have gone through hundreds) when it comes to production value and techniques that are taught. A lot of people (including myself) end up spending a lot of money on camera and lenses but shy away from doling out money when it comes to self-education. Increasingly I believe that constantly learning and evolving is imperative to becoming a better photographer. If you’re serious about your photography and want to take it a step further, you’d find this course very helpful. You can find more details here.
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