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Landscape Photography

Lesson 21 of 27

Color Correction

Marc Muench

Landscape Photography

Marc Muench

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Lesson Info

21. Color Correction
Gain insight into best practices for color correction for landscape pictures. Learn the gear that color corrects your monitor and how to decide what's too much color and what's not enough.

Lesson Info

Color Correction

And this is something I must say before I start on the rest of this, I'm always asked, what's your workflow. And honestly, it's one of those things that changes over the years. So it's very fluid. However, of the all the different things I've done, most of it's based on the software changes. So as new software comes out, it requires a different workflow. At the moment, and in LightRoom, the minute I got LightRoom, and I carried over a lot of what I was doing in Bridge, by going through the folders, and flagging them, and putting them in different places, I still do that in LightRoom. So even though some procedures change, and they will, most of that's based on software. And as you guys know, there's always a software update that you're not ready for. And you have to re-find or re-look for things. So, you just have to stay fluid and you have to stay on top of it. Look at those posts and forums where people are talking about the things that change in software. LightRoom is one of those n...

ow. If you're on CreativeCloud, they're adding things to it as you're going along and you might not know about the change that was made. So you're not using the same software that you used back in Kansas. Just to make a joke. Things change. Anyways. So, now we're off to what to consider once you get to that point where you wanna process something. And really, this is, I think I'd like to start with, how much is too much? Because I think that's kind of the basis for one of the problems we have in processing. So it's one of those things where, if you can go to the screen here, I can actually contemplate this best when I'm in a place like this, and I'm not sitting behind the computer. So, this is not something that you're gonna answer right away. I think it's a personal, subjective choice, that you're gonna make based on, not only your preferences, but what's going on in the world around you and the pictures you're looking at. You're gonna have to ask yourself this question forever. Because always something's going to be changing and the best way to deal with it is just learn how to use the software. Learn how to use the cameras. And make your own mind up. In the end, that's what matters. It's what's gonna make your pictures look better. The reason I showed this picture is, how much is too much? Well, remember that painter I mentioned, Yaesu Guchi, he sat there and that's what he was thinking about forever when he was sitting there looking down at the stream studying it to the point where he could actually memorize what was in front of him. So, I take the same theory or practice if I can into nature. And, a lot of times, I will look at something, and really consciously try to remember what that color is relative to another color next to it. Because our eyes are great comparators. And I'll talk about that in a minute. But just to get to the point. How much is too much? Well typically, that's a question for, when you're having sundowners in Africa, too much can be a problem. I do think too much. This is too much. This is a little close. Sorry. My friend Bob's probably gonna kill me. But essentially I think the real issue is not anything like that but more, how much color can we deal with? And how much is that affecting our pictures in a good way or a bad way? Before I start with that, you just have to know something as I mentioned about comparing things. Our eyes are great comparators. And as we sit and look at a picture like this, not only is he trying to compare his print to his monitor, but the picture was taken inside a room with florescent light bulbs. And as I switch over here to the picture that has been color corrected, if you look at either of these versions for long enough your brain will compute that that computer, that's an Apple computer, is actually gray. Now we know that if we look at this, and we put them up side by side, it's very easy to tell that there is a difference or a color cast. But, take the side-by-side comparison away, and all of the sudden, it's very difficult to tell where those colors are. What those colors are. And how far off they are. So one of the things I learned back when, when we started drum scanning and working in the digital realm was basically that, all these colors are created based on the premise of a digital file, which has a black point and white point. And everything in between is basically a variation of both luminosity and chroma. So, you can change the luminance, which is dark to light. But you can also change the chroma. And so if you, if you remember that your eyes will compare the best towards what is gray, the same thing happens to a digital file. So, when somebody asked me earlier, how do you take a meter reading? And I mentioned that really the best thing to do is kind of look for that hidden gray card, the same thing applies in post-processing. The gray on an Apple computer's pretty close. Not that you wanna carry one around and put it in your pictures as a gray card. But we all understand gray. We all understand white. And so those things will help you approach this part of the processing. But, in addition you also have a couple tools that will do that for you. And one that I use often is something that will profile your monitor. And this is the i one display pro. And it's made by X-rite. And you can use this on all your computers to profile the monitor so that it stays constant. It almost doesn't even matter if it's 100% perfect, the profile that it makes, because, as long as it stays consistent, then you'll be able to edit within that world. Now of course, it's going to be accurate if you use one of these because that's what it's doing. It's setting up the parameters to make sure that the luminance is correct. To make sure that the colors are supposed to be projecting the colors that are actually there based on numbers. And you don't have to think about it. So, I just wanna make sure that we all level the playing field before we start evaluating what it is that's either too much color, or not enough color, or, what the problem is. So, color is not a problem unless there's a cast. Color in general is a subjective choice. And the problem is when there's an unintended cast. And so, just a real quick description of a color cast, is nothing other than the numbers in an rgb pixel are basically let's take zero, which is black. If they're all three the same, there's no cast. If one of them changes, whether it's red, green, or blue, to one, zero, zero, or zero, one, zero, all of the sudden you have a color cast. So, what you wanna do since our eyes are great comparators is that you want to make sure that the things that we are used to seeing, that are either white, gray, or black, are actually very close to those neutral, castless colors. And, then the rest of the colors can be almost anything. Of course that's the subjective part. So, once you get over the hump and realize that you have to be able to calibrate your monitor. And you wanna sit in a place where you don't have a whole lot of mixed lighting. These guys went to Iceland with me. I know that they're on their first round of editing. So they're really not concerned about the third round and beyond. But it's a good example. You got the sunlight coming in behind them. And tungsten light coming over the top. And so that's creating a condition that is not a perfectly balanced light. It's not consistent. So, if you really wanna be accurate about this, not only is the calibration of your monitor a concern, but also the environment you're in. So, to extend that, I mentioned earlier about eating lunch. Well, when you do eat, sometimes that changes the blood sugar level. And when we would go in to do press proofs on some of the bigger prints, presses down in Portland, they actually made sure that some of the guys didn't eat certain sugars. So, I don't know how far you wanna take this. (laughing) I refuse to go that far. I want my sugar. All right. So, an example of the northern lights. There's a lot of color in the northern lights. But how much color is in the northern lights? That's kind of the question. And when it comes out of the camera, it looks pretty flat. It really does. You might not even see these colors, like I said, in real life. And so, when you get there to edit them, how can you tell that it's too much? Well, as you, as I advance forward, to the next image, I'm going to zoom in here a little bit, and you can see some of the noise. But what you're also seeing, when it's over-saturated, are some color fringing. And so, right around the edge of the cloud, you're gonna see some colors that really shouldn't be there, because it's near a cloud. Let me go to one-to-one. Yep. So, as you add certain amounts of saturation other things, remember that were once white or gray, if they have a slight little color cast, they're going to become exaggerated. And that's a good way to tell if you've gone too far. Another way to tell is, as we talked earlier, some of this detail in a color, when you saturate it too much, is lost. So, I'll show you some other examples of that coming up. But you can see here, this is, the saturation that I like. And then of course as you add more saturation to that then you're gonna start seeing some of this funky color fringing. In addition to color, when we look at something, and we're looking at how much color we're trying to add to the picture, the biggest mistake I think that happens over and over and over is that too much contrast is added. And so, this is probably the bigger problem of the two. When we talk about how much is too much. Because it's not really that anybody's the perfect telltale on exactly what a color should be, as I said, it's subjective. I think we can all agree that that's too much contrast. Especially if you're looking at things like this on a calibrated monitor that shows all the detail. The problem with this is that once you go this far and you look at it this way, it's really hard to appreciate it without that contrast. All of the sudden it looks dull and dead and almost something you wouldn't want to see. So, it's not easy. And sometimes you have to get an image just the way you think it should be and walk away. And come back ten minutes or the next day. Whatever it is. Show somebody else. I think it's better in the end for somebody to, who's learning this, is to go too far. Add too much contrast. Too much color. Show a bunch of people. Get a consensus if you don't feel confident about making that decision. And they'll tell you right away. Especially online. And when they don't know you. "Oh, that's way too gaudy. That looks horrible." And you'll get comments, whatever it is. But, in the end, it's really not about that. It's about your choice. So, that's just a helpful tool in the beginning. Because it kind of guides you to steer you if you're wondering which way to go. But talking about how much is too much it always kind of brings up the term of what's real? What's ethical? What is photography? What is not photography? And so, I just wanna bring up a couple examples of things that kind of, I don't know, enter that gray zone between photography and illustration. And, as we know, photography has done that. We can do anything we want with our pictures. We can make 'em look misty when it was perfectly clear out. Vise versa. So, the sky is the limit. Before you get into processing though, there's all these things we do with the camera that aren't real. We can't see 'em with our eyes. The sun star. We don't really see that. So, that's just approaching that limit where that's something we can't see with our eyes. Snowflakes being strobed. You know, you're not gonna see that. Maybe. Somebody will set off a strobe and if you catch it just at the right time you'll see it slightly. But, it's a little bit faking it. Putting a hand in front of the sun star and getting unflared data at the bottom and then merging that with the sun star without. Well, yeah, in the end, you're moving pixels around, and it's not real. So, you're kind of approaching that zone where it's not photography. Camera dragging. Another example. Is that really photography? Well, you know, has it gone too far? That's up to you. I just bring it up because all these things come up when you enter this discussion. This is where I didn't even mention this one. You turn the camera and the zoon lens together at the same time and you get this swirly effect. Same thing as dragging it. A fisheye lens. This was actually kind of funny. There we're tornado warnings our that day, and so, kind of was fun because I thought I was gonna get sucked up into that hole while I was driving through the south. But fortunately I didn't. This is a fisheye lens and it warps things. And so, you're gonna get all kinds of distortion with certain lenses. And distortion is not something we all see. Infrared changes the colors dramatically. And then of course just good old saturation. And contrast changes. It's really hard to look at the other one after you see this. But obviously a little too far can be obvious in some cases. But in this situation, I have a pond, and it's pretty much gray. Blue. Maybe a little bit of green. And so, to change the look and feel, to add that saturation totally completely rearranges how this picture is seen by everybody. And I guess that's really at the heart of the matter, in the end this isn't manipulation. I'm not moving anything. What I'm doing is I'm manipulating the viewers point of view. What they feel when they see the picture. And that's the key for me, is that I want to get to the point where when somebody looks at the picture they, I can evoke some kind of emotion. Hopefully the emotion that I'm trying to portray. Not something else. And so that's how I would typically judge myself in how much is too much. I wanna keep honest. I wanna be, I want the images to be seen so that nobody is saying, "Oh my gosh, that looks fake." Not that that never happens. For example this picture. There's the original. So, I did a little dodging and masking to get to that point. But it's all there. All the data is right there. I didn't even bracket. It was just one picture because we had it set up and another photographer took it. So, another example. This is essentially just a creek. And flowing down. It's beautiful though. And the colors in that creek are just amazing. They really are. And, this raw file, the way it comes out, looks nothing like the way I saw it when I was standing there. So in the end, it's back to that how much do you know about what you're looking at? How much of that is absorbed? And how much can then you relate that through your pictures to get to the point where you're actually portraying something that you wanted people to see? Bracketing. Bracketing is the same thing. You know, you're taking different areas of the scene and you're using different luminesce areas to combine together in the end. And this is kind of an interesting one. This is I think nine exposures. And then I started right on the seventh one to put my hand down in to block the sun on the last one. So it was auto-exposure bracketing. And I was bored. So I just thought I would, could do it without taking it manually. I got close. Stitched it together. But again, another example of things that aren't really, really there. Scene at night. You know, we don't really see at night, that well. We can't see all those colors. So, photography is doing something again. A trick. So in this case, at night, it's a lot of fun because you don't necessarily have to be as real as you do during the day. A little bit of creative freedom if you will. So speaking of a little bit of reality. I was fortunate this last year when I was up in Tuolumne Meadows, we had on the first night what was truly a Sierra Wave. This is when the lenticular clouds build up over the Sierras, I showed you a little time lapse of that earlier. I didn't have time to set up the time lapse that night unfortunately. But in this situation, it's just so dramatic, it's so colorful, it's so amazing, that the last thing I wanna do is mess it up with my processing. So I'm really working hard to get all this set up so that when you look at it, at least when I look at it, it has some believability. And especially to me. 'Cause in my eyes when I look at this on the monitor, and then I look at it later on the print, that's what I saw. That's what I felt. And that's the goal I'm trying to achieve in my editing. So, Mark, if you don't mind, I'd love to jump in really quick with a couple questions on that. Sarah Beth and three other people first of all, were wondering if you could just briefly discuss the, kind of, ethics of using Photoshop and LightRoom with nature photography. And landscape photography. I know a lot of people out there really do feel that they should be represented exactly as they are seen. And so, using this is wrong in some way. Can you talk about your feelings just in general of, about that. Absolutely. It's the ongoing discussion. I by no means am the authority. Read the fine print. Which is basically, years ago it was a little easier because, you know, we were governed by, sorry, publications to name a few well-known ones. But I think that most of the editors would say that, "Just don't move the pixels. You can change the colors. You can enhance the file. But don't move the pixels." And then that changed. Because now with stitching and merging images together, even that's acceptable. So away goes that philosophy and that rule. So, I guess in the end that's why I go to the great length of saying that, really what is believable to you as the photographer is what really matters. Your audience. Remember that very first question I asked. Who's your audience? If you're constantly asking yourself who's your audience, then you're probably gonna wonder, what is it that I need to create that I'm ethically okay to do? If your audience is art. You can do anything you want. If your audience is editorial. You better be really careful about what you do and what you change in that picture. If your audience is legal. The law. Or for military. Then you can't change anything. The raw file is what it is. I love that. That's fantastic. I think that goes a little bit to another question from KayMax77, who said, "When selling for commercial editorial use, what constraints do you have on manipulation?" It sounds like, whatever the target requires. Whatever it needs. And then there were also a lot of questions about, when yesterday you said that you would move in order to get footprints out of the sand. And the question was, well can't you just remove those in Photoshop later? Same answer to that, right, is, whatever you're comfortable with. Whatever your target publication or audience is comfortable with is what you should do. Is that right? That's about right. Although I would still vote for moving. (laughing) My point of view, but. So I try and do as much in camera as I can. Especially in a situation where you can. So if you just simply cannot move, whether there's somebody there, or there are more footprints, then you have to go to Photoshop or post-processing. But essentially, if I can change it in camera, and get most of the work done in camera, great. I guess yeah, in the end, you really have to aim for what your audience is. And if you're commercial, or making money at it, who your client is and what they want. The catch 22 to that of course is, when I was in art center, one of the best instructors I had said, "Look, Mark, if you're," 'cause I was contemplating doing landscape photography or commercial photography or fashion or whatever it was, and he said, "Look if you're doing what you love, your work's gonna be better. And so, because your works better, you're probably gonna get hired faster. And more." So, in the end, if you're doing what you like, then you're gonna get the clients that you like, and then they're gonna ask you to do exactly what you wanna do. So that's the ideal situation. In a roundabout way. And then just, the final question, and then we'll keep going. 'cause I know we've got a lot to get through, Iowa mom and seven other people wanna know this, how much do you crop to improve composition? It's less on the ethical side and more on the issue of retaining quality and printable size. But, can you talk about cropping in post? Yeah. Absolutely. And that's actually coming up next. In the next part. Then let's do it. That's a great segue. Good job me. Great job. I don't know if there are any other questions or. No, I'd say let's keep going. Okay. The only, the last thing I was gonna say is, regarding moving things, and so, nowadays, it's just so easy to move things and take 'em in and out. And so, once again, it's just another example of the same old story. Should you move things or not? Should you make things too colorful?

Class Description


  • Capture great shots of landscapes and nature
  • Confidently shoot in manual mode
  • Fine-tune your eye for composition
  • Master light for landscape photography
  • Work with HDR and panoramas
  • Perfect your images with post-processing in Lightroom


Turn a spark of passion for the outdoors into beautiful landscape photography in this start-to-finish course. From gear and exposure to light and post-processing, master the landscape photography workflow with veteran artist Marc Muench. End the frustration of being unable to capture the raw beauty of nature and capture inspiring awe-inducing views on camera.

With both live instruction and on-site photography tutorials, you'll master both the technical and creative necessities for capturing better landscape images. After the adventure, learn to perfect the scene using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to crop, color and fine-tune those images. In addition, you'll tackle advanced techniques including HDR and panoramas.


  • Beginners ready to get off auto mode
  • Intermediate photographers looking to improve
  • Photographers ready to tackle landscape photography as a new genre

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom CC 2015, Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


As a third-generation photographer, Marc Muench has spent nearly 30 years working as a landscape and sports photographer. His work has appeared on the cover of publications like Time, National Geographic, Traveler, Outside, Sierra Magazine and more. In addition to shooting, he leads photography workshops around the world. He teaches with a mix of technical and creative details and personal insight.


Jeff McPheeters

This was my first class with Creative Live and also my first exposure to landscape photographer Marc Meunch. I've been a photographer for many years, an educator in science and technical fields for more than two decades, and a lifelong learner of the craft of making photographs. I am pretty picky when it comes to educational resources and when it involves recommending something that I want to reflect my own standards of excellence. That said, I came with an open mind, with some expectation that I would learn a few tricks, but also with the understanding that after spending thousands of hours in books and online courses as well as direct workshop and tutorials from a range of photographer workshops, Adobe training, KelbyOne and other professional organizations, that some of what I'd hear would be stuff I'd already known. My first impression was positive, as I think Creative Live did a good job explaining the purpose, intent, and scope of the workshop, as well as giving me a good idea of the speaker's credentials. As the session begin on Day 1, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the technical aspects of the live feed. It was like I was there. The sound quality was outstanding. The video streamed effortlessly and I only have wireless access to the Internet. I'm not on high speed wired cable. The bandwidth can fluctuate, yet it worked extremely well. The speaker, Marc Meunch, was relaxed, engaging, professional, and possessed such a comprehensive and deep understanding of the topic that I felt extremely lucky to have been told about this workshop. I don't think I've ever been able to watch someone who was so masterful in their presentation, so thorough in their organization and outline, so enthusiastic about their work, so passionate about the craft of landscape portraiture, or so articulate and engaging with the audience; at least in the realm of Photography. I'd jump at any chance to listen to Marc Meunch again; and especially to attend one of his outdoor workshops. One of the unique aspects of this workshop was that Marc uses some video clips from his outdoor workshops to illustrate what he's talking about in the classroom. Very effective. And the slides he chooses to share are effective and easy to understand. It's very inspiring to watch Marc present ideas and illustrate them through his own work, showing before and after and alternate compositions to demonstrate the point he's making. Day 1 was so good that before it was over I'd already purchased the two day workshop. I was that certain it was worth the cost. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd find a class like this for under $100/day. This is a pretty good deal. Day 2 was equal in usefulness and inspiration as Day 1. The discussion of gear selection and scouting techniques along with the introduction to his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow was very helpful and would be especially apropos to someone getting more serious about their landscape work but not very experienced with Lightroom or Photoshop, even perhaps a little intimidated by the prospect of needing to learn those two software giants, because Marc shows the power and easy of learning them. I was pleased I was able to attend and even more pleased I can watch these over and over and study points I didn't quite grasp the first time through. I highly recommend this course. The viewer will be inspired and encouraged as a result. Marc doesn't make it look easy; rather he makes landscape photography look fun and exciting and worthy of the effort and time to find ones own style and vision, clearly imparting the practical how-to's to aid each person in their own journey to make it more enjoyable and satisfying.

a Creativelive Student

I don't like writing reviews. Seems like everyone just wants to hear that everything was... awesome. So, let me try to be specific about what I liked: I thought that the concept of the creative trinity was brilliant. I thought that Marc's presentation on composition was the best I've ever seen. His ideas on having a theme for shooting was inspiring because it was simple. He also had some great tips on light. The other thing I appreciated about Marc's presentation was the wide variety of locations shown and his knowledge of them. I also am always interested to learn more about the people that have inspired presenters. Sometimes, it feel like CL classes are aimed at the lowest experience levels. But, as someone else said in review... there is always a nugget or two and review is beneficial. I wish Marc was more animated. He's obviously very self contained and reflective -- gotta be who you are, right? I have purchased Marc's class, the Shive class, and Art Wolf's class. All have had different benefits. I wish they would do others and take complexity up a notch -- specifically, helping others understand the planning necessary... how they find reliable contacts to guide them and what those things cost. How they are transporting all the gear they carry. More specific information on permits, camping gear, dealing with adverse conditions, etc. And, more information on how they get different images of frequently photographed locations.


I happend to stumble upon the course by an email. I clicked on it and realized that Mark had come to my town (Sitka,Alaska) to do a trip with my good friend. So I thought I'd watch a bit. After awhile I realized this is good, way good. So I shot a lot of that day just eating it up. The director would come on every bit and say there was a show price. I thought well I'll just watch. Then on the second day he did some things that the announcer said he had never seen. I thought the same thing. So I bought. I have been shooting for 40 years and I still LOVE to learn. A noted psychologist said "We are happiest when we are learning" and I couldn't agree more. Thank you Creative Live for offering these courses. I live on an Island in Southeast Alaska with 14 miles of road. BUT I can be a front row student with some of the best teachers in the world. Thank You! Also a Huge thank you to Mark. It takes a ton of time to do this, and Im sure you get tired of the same questions again and again, but it truly changes the lives of us who love this type of life.