Are Your Nature Photos Dull & Lifeless? Try This Lightroom "Relighting" Trick (VIDEO)

Dull, lifeless photos are the bane of landscape photographers, and flat light is often the culprit. Sometimes our camera settings deserve some blame too, but in either case there's a simple Lightroom "relighting" trick that will come to the rescue.

The topic under discussion is Dodging and Burning, a powerful remedy that often gets a bad rap because of a misconception that it's difficult to accomplish with precision. Today's instructor Simone Staffoli demystifies the process in barely 10 minutes so you can begin bringing your photos to life today.

The idea is to forget about all the complicated methods you've read about in the past, and it's is easy to do this by following the "best practices" that Staffoli reveals. In simple terms, Dodging and Burning involves brightening or darkening certain areas within a photo. You'll see how doing this balances the tones throughout the frame to create an image with far more interest and impact.

Achieving realistic results requires paying attention to two key considerations, one of which is the direction of prevailing ambient illumination. Or as Staffoli puts it, "you have to respect the light in your scene." In other words, don't Dodge elements that are in the shade, making them as bright or brighter than areas that are bathed by direct light.

It's also important, before getting started, to determine the specific elements within a photo that you want to accentuate by adding light in a way that gives them more relevance. With that understood Staffoli brings up a landscape photo that he previously adjusted for color and basic enhancements to prepare it for the Dodging and Burning tricks that come next.

His goal is to emphasize a person walking through the landscape and make the small path more visible at first glance. The first step is darkening the uninteresting foreground to direct a viewer's eye higher in the scene. He then quickly refines the selection to further de-emphasize this zone of the image.

One trick to retaining a natural look is to use the far edge of a large boulder to define the upper boundary of the mask. With the foreground now looking good, Staffoli proceeds with Dodging and Burning other areas of the photo to get the light just right—walking you through every step of the straightforward process.

Once again, while creating a couple Radial Gradients on the right and left sides of the frame, Staffoli is careful to follow edges of natural elements. Doing this makes it much easier to correctly adjust whites and blacks for perfect contrast as Staffoli carefully moves throughout the image.

Once you're done watching head over to Staffoli's popular YouTube channel where there's much more to learn.

And on a related note, don't miss the tutorial we posted with another landscape pro who explains when and how it's important to expose for the highlights when shooting in the field.