My first suggestion to make a great shot is to start with a good image and then add extra degrees of nuance to help it transcend the “good photo” status. The second suggestion, covered in another article, is to use post processing to create a stylistically different image that reflects your own personal vision and stands out in today’s overcrowded marketplace.
In this image, I captured a beautiful sunset. This is a “good” picture. It has pretty colors, pleasing mood, sharp detail, and good composition. The horizon is a little off, and it was purposefully underexposed in order to highlight the sky and create silhouettes. Good, but not great. Our goal is to add a little more zing and nuance while retaining the overall feel and natural quality to the photo.
One of the reasons I chose this particular composition is the beautiful wildflowers in the foreground. My eyes could take in more dynamic range than my camera’s sensor. So, planning for this, I bracketed a few exposures. I carefully aligned the images and used a mask for the brighter exposure. For masking and selections help, watch the videos Jimmy made to illustrate the process.
In this case, I don’t want the sky to be affected by the brighter image/layer. I used a reverse layer mask, or one that appears solid black. For this, I held Alt/Option while I clicked on the create mask button at the bottom of the layers panel in Photoshop. Next, using the brush tool