Use Color to Dictate Your Style in Landscape Photography

Ansel Adams loved editing his images in the darkroom and often spoke about it. More importantly, he saw it as an important role in creating the final image that he had visualized when he took the shot.  

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships. -Ansel Adams

Why am I talking about Ansel Adams, you may wonder, in terms of color?  Well, the same principle applies to black and white and color in that it is the artist's job to portray the landscape as they saw it and the tonal range and color range are important processes along the way.

Color has always been a fascination to me. When I changed from shooting black and white to color images back in the 80s, I realized that the color was part of the composition, and if I didn't use it to add to the final image, then I may as well have stayed using monochrome. For instance, this image tells a story with the color. The black sand (which in monochrome may not be as obvious) and the orange tones throughout the image help to create that fantasy look of another world and show it is towards the end of the day, adding to the story of the image.

A Land that Time Forgot, Iceland

I feel I have now developed a style in my photos, and people often tell me they have a painterly look, which is of great satisfaction to me, as that is my intention.

A lot of what I do is in Lightroom, where I use the tools to create harmonious color relationships. If you don't have a color wheel on your phone, laptop, or iPad, then get one, as it is so useful to be able to refer to it when you are both shooting and editing.

In this image, the colors are next to each other on the color wheel and give a sense of calm and warmth.

Buttermere Sunset, Lake District, UK

In this image, I purposely tweaked the blue and orange to sit exactly opposite on the color wheel without creating an image that was unrealistic. In this case, the blue sky works with the soft light on the grasses.

Glencoe, Scotland

In this video I talk about why I often shoot in a small color space and when I use opposite and analogous colors. I also share tips how I edited this image in Lightroom using a combination of white balance, HSL sliders, and split toning to create the exact painterly look and calm morning feeling I was looking for.

Summer Morning Bliss, Peak District, UK

You can view video above, which goes into the full process and more.

Nigel Danson's picture

Nigel Danson started photography when he was 11 years old and fell in love with black and white images and the darkroom process. He turned professional in 2017 and now has a succesful YouTube channel that inspires and teaches landscape photography. Nigel lives in Cheshire, England and frequently runs workshops around the world.

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Ansel Adams had greatness respect for the creative in the Dark Room.
But he had little respect for Photographers .. He was the original F Stopper.

Ansel Adams was a Photographers Lol!