Whenever I look at a photo I like, I always wonder how it has been made. What was the intension when the photographer pushed the button? What was the context? Had it been planed? Or completely candid? What did the picture look like when it came out of the camera? What were the post process steps to reach the final result?

This is why I decided to start a series of articles about the making of some photos. To share the answers to these questions regarding my own shots.

NOTE: It’s been a while that I wanted to share and exchange stories about making photos. I’ve never done it because I never thought my skills are good enough to be worth sharing.

I still don’t consider my work that good, but my goal here is sharing, not teaching. I’m expecting to learn a lot from those who will read and comment on those articles.

So please, if you think I’m wrong in some aspects of my processes don’t hesitate to use the comments section to share your knowledge! On the other hand, if you’re particularly interested in one aspect that is not detailed enough, don’t hesitate to ask for more info.

The mantra is: Share to learn!


That being said, let’s start with this picture taken during my last holiday in France.

It was taken in the afternoon, from the balcony of my parents’ apartment. The mountains were about 100km away. I had this composition in mind right from the start.


Gears, Setup, Shoot.

I used a Canon 135 mm at f/6.3 mounted on a Canon 5D Mk II, ISO 100, Exposure 1/1259. I leaned a bit over the railing to avoid some tree tops, and take the shot.



So, this is what came straight out of the camera.

I voluntarily under expose to get the maximum details from the mountain snow and the sky.


I manage my pictures with Aperture, so I used it to do some adjustments on the Raw file. I essentially tweaked the white balance, remove some vignetting, adjust the exposure and add some contrast by playing with the main RGB curve.

This is what my RGB curve looked like at the end of the process:

And this is the picture right before importing it into Photoshop.

As you can see, increasing the contrast also increases the saturation. That will be adjusted in PS.



I knew I wanted it in a cinemascope format so I worked on the composition first. I use a very simple macro to add to black rectangle on top of the image to crop it at a 1.85:1 whatever the original image is.

That had also the benefit to remove most of the tree tops. I just removed what left with the patch tool.

Then I duplicated the layer [Cmd + J] and selected the mountains (and everything under) with the Quick selection tool [W].

Tips: [W] is the hotkey for the Quick selection tool and the Magic wand. Like for any tool, you can cycle through the different tools using the same hotkey by pressing [Shift] + the tool hotkey. So here press [Shift + W] to swap between the Quick selection and the Magic wand tool.

I created a mask on the new layer by clicking on the ‘Add layer mask’ with the selection still active, so the white part of the mask (which is visible) is corresponding to the selection.

Then I slightly moved downward and scale the underneath layer, to create a more dramatic sky. The color range between the horizon (lighter) and the top (darker) is more compressed.

To reveal the snow details as much as possible I duplicated the mountain layer, and apply a High pass filter.

Then I changed the blending mode to Overlay. Basically, that sharpen the image. This technique is often used in portrait photography.

I erased everything but the mountain from that layer, and then I duplicated it to sharpen even more some details.

Then I played with the curves to adjust the contrast, and start researching the tones. I lowered a bit the high value of the Blue curve to bring some yellow in the highlights.

To tweak the saturation I created two adjustment layers, each one with a mask to be able to modify the sky or the mountains separately.

Tips: To reuse an existing mask on another layer, simply ‘Alt click’ on the mask icon, and drag it on the layer you want to add this mask.

Bonus Tips: To invert a mask, simply select it and press [Cmd + I].

Then I added a new curve adjustment layer to tweak the overall contrast and tones again.

To have a precise control of the luminosity, I added a layer with the Overlay blend mode, filled with a neutral grey. That allows me to darken some areas by painting them in black, or lighten them with white. Here I darkened the top part of the sky.

Then I added two Curve adjustment layers, in order to tweak the sky and the mountains tones separately.

After that, I added a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, to desaturate the whole image again.

Then I added a Hue/Saturation only on the sky to desaturate and darken it a bit more. I also slightly shifted its Hue.

And finally, I smoothed out the top of the sky to remove some noise.

Et voila! I hope you liked it and found that useful. Again, don’t hesitate to share any comments, suggestions or requests.

Thanks for reading!


2 commentaires pour “MAKING OF: Alps”

  1. Merci beaucoup pour ce super tutoriel! Tres intéressant a lire ,on apprends bcp sur le traitement photo avec ce tuto! Le avant-apres est bluffant! Bien hate au prochains tutos que j’attends avec impatience!

  2. Vraiment intéressant.
    J’espère que tu en feras d’autres… Y a plein de bonnes choses à apprendre dans tout ça.

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