Features and Process
LandscapePro will run as a standalone program, or as a Photoshop plugin if you have at least the studio level. It can also be set up as an external editor in Lightroom, which is the way that I've run in the most so far.
The first thing that I did before sending my file to LandscapePro is the thing you want to do before using pretty much any plugin or editor. That is, to do basic adjustments such as white balance and exposure that are best to do on a RAW file. After that, you can send your photo into LandscapePro.
Once inside LandscapePro, you will begin tagging areas of your photo. My photo had trees, sky, and snow, so I used those tags. My first thought was to tag all the different areas, but one of the strengths of LandscapePro is its ability to analyze the photo. If you tag one patch of snow, it should be able to discern the others. If not, you can tag it or brush it in the next step.
I knew the photo I chose would be pretty hard for the software. The photo has lots of tree branches, and with snow that would be very low contrast compared to the white sky. I wanted to see how this would be handled by the software. The initial results were not bad. It got most of the photo right, especially the snow and the sky. There was a lot of cleanup to do on the trees, and especially with the snow on the trees.
This is where the tools in the next step will help.
Here are your tools:
- Pull: This is the fastest and roughest way to expand one selection in the photo. Click in the sky and drag it through another area to set it all as sky.
- Smart Brush: This tool was the most helpful for me when I was selecting the snow that was on my tree branches. The action works the same as the pull tool, but by default it is looking for areas similar to where you first clicked. It was able to discern the difference between snow and sky in my photo pretty well.
- Feather: This tool blurs the edge of your selection. It is useful for trying to make a transition more gradual, or to try to make the edge of a selection not catch your attention.
- Expansion: If you make a dramatic change in the sky, you will get fringing on the edge of your selection. This tool adjusts your selection by one pixel each time you use it, which will eliminate the fringe.
- Tree and Sky: This tool discerns the difference between a tree and the sky. It works so much better than anything that exists in Photoshop. LandscapePro is worth it for this tool alone.
- Object in Sky: This is similar to Tree and Sky, but for objects.
- Horizon Line: Setting the horizon line will help the software know where sky should and should not be.
- Reflection Edge: If you tag water and sky reflection in your photo, this tool will help refine the edge between the two.
After you get your selection just right, hit continue. If you haven't set a horizon line, you'll need to do so now, and then the real fun begins. You will have in front of you a whole panel that has different ways in which your photo can be edited.
Here is a bit about what each of these do:
- Add & Edit Areas: This takes you back if you need to adjust your selection.
- Global Presets: These are presets that will affect sky, light, and all the areas of the photo. Most of them are pretty dramatic, but they are a fun place to get started, especially if you want to learn what the software can do. With presets here and elsewhere in the program, there is a slider to control the effect.
- Lighting Brushes: These are brushes that you can use to dodge and burn. You can use color if you want, which is a nice feature. The most innovate part is the 3D setting. If you use the depth tool (further down) then the brush will work appropriately for the simulated depth in the photo. It provides a dodging and burning effect that makes the subject pop right out of the frame! The lighting brush also allows the direction of the light to be set, and the brushed lighting will fall off in a realistic way.
- Whole Picture: These are presets and sliders that apply to the whole picture, but unlike the Global Presets, they aren't sky replacement. Think of this the way you would use a preset in Lightroom.
- B&W, Vignette: This panel allows you to move your photo towards black and white, or some other toned monochromatic look, like sepia. It also has a slider for a vignette, which can also be toned.
- Depth: You may need to play with this one for a while to get it. It is a tool that allows for simulated depth of field. Of course, since the program is guessing depth, your results may vary. Don't go overboard on this, but do use it, because it then allows for that really powerful 3D lighting brush.
- Sky: One of LandscapePro's main features is sky replacement. The program has a huge library of skies, and you can also import your own.
- Other panels for labeled areas: Depending on what you labeled in your photo, you may have panels for tree, object, snow, ground, etc. Like the other panels, these have both presets and sliders that allow adjustments to those areas of the photo.
- Lighting: This is one of my favorite panels. The ability to adjust the strength and direction of the light is amazing. An edit like this in Photoshop would take a very long time to pull off.
- Fixes: This panel has straightening and noise reduction.
I repeated my selection process a few times to get better at it, learning how I could avoid going over the same areas many times. Here is the process I used to do my selections:
- Label tree, sky, and snow.
- Use the Pull tool to roughly fix confusion between snow and sky.
- Use the Tree & Sky tool to refine the edge between the trees and the sky. This made a lot of my snow on branches get labeled as sky, but I found it was better to let this happen and then come back and fix it.
- Using the Smart Brush, and occasionally the Pull and Feather tools, I relabled my snow on branches as snow rather than sky.
This process made making a decent selection pretty easy. The Smart Brush was really useful, so be sure to get some practice with it.
Time Savings: The most obvious advantage of using LandscapePro is the amount of time it could save you, especially if you do a lot of sky replacement or advanced selection work. I'm sure that all of this is possible in Photoshop, but to do it you need a lot more skill, and a lot more imaginative ability. That said, even if you possess those things, it will still take you longer in Photoshop. Also, keep in mind that LandscapePro can run as a Photoshop plugin, so even if you have more advanced work to do, you can still make LandscapePro a part of your process.
Simple, Easy to Understand Interface: Despite being a powerful editor, LandscapePro has an easy to understand flow. The software does a nice job presenting one step at a time, so that you know exactly where to start and where to go next. The most overwhelming portion is the main edit screen with all the panels, but a little experimentation allows the user to learn pretty quickly. The tutorials on the website are helpful as well, although I wish they had audio.
Helps with Creativity: One of the strengths of a program designed to produce particular edits and with built in presets is that it really shows you what's possible. I've always liked the Nik Collection for the same reason. If I want to get out of a rut and try to edit in a different way, a program like LandscapePro can help me see what is possible. It's kind of like watching your friend edit over his shoulder, it opens up the mind to new possibilities.
Areas for Improvement
It needs a tool to deal with low contrast objects and sky: I chose an image with snow in front of white sky on purpose. I wanted to see how Landscape Pro would handle low contrast. I was not surprised that this did end up being the most challenging part of the edit. The smart brush worked pretty well, but I'd like to see a tool like Tree & Sky that would work on low contrast areas (like Snow & Sky) to help find the edge.
It would be nice to see some subtler presets: A lot of the presets in LandscapePro are pretty flashy. They can be a lot of fun, but I'd like to see some subtler options. Of course, this can be managed by turning down the effect, but I'm hoping people who use this software don't feel that the best thing to do to their photo is to put in some crazy explosive sky every single time.
Let me save my selections, and let me import those into Photoshop: I found it frustrating that I couldn't save my selections, and that there was no way to revert to the original, but with my selections intact (other than clicking undo a whole bunch of times or resetting every panel). My hope was that I could make my selection once, and then make a bunch of edits. This was not easy to do. I'd also love the ability to export the selections to Photoshop. I get that most of the time, you're going to want to edit right in Landscape Pro to leverage all of the intelligence, but it wouldn't hurt to be able to use LandscapePro for advanced selections and be able to use those in Photoshop as well.
The Photoshop plugin gave me problems: I had some issues with the Photoshop plugin. Admittedly, I am not running the fastest computer on Earth, but it took a very long time for my photos to save back to Photoshop. Because of this, I didn't get to play that much with using LandscapePro as a layer, or doing Photoshop edits after Landscape Pro. Try the plugin and see if you have any issues. It could just be my system.
I hope you'll give LandscapePro a shot, and let me know what you think!
Disclosure: Anthropics granted a press license of LandscapePro at no cost in order to review the software. This has no bearing on the content of the review.