If you’re fortunate enough to own a drone, you know just how much fun aerial photography can be! It’s like a floating, flying tripod — the ability to put your camera just about anywhere you want, especially way up in the sky, pointing down and capturing a view you’ve probably never seen before! So exciting. 

However, just like when shooting from the ground, any atmospheric “clutter” is going to get in the way of your masterpiece. If it’s a foggy day, has recently rained, is dusty, smoggy, or there’s any other molecular intrusion into the airspace, that’s going to degrade your image. And since we are shooting from above, we may encounter even more of that interference. Put all of this together, and you may end up being disappointed with the immediate results, especially on anything less than a perfect day. Fortunately though we can work to improve those results in software.

Take the example of this photo below. It’s a small town in Slovenia, on a cold, snowy day, and as you can clearly see, the photo is quite flat, perhaps a little soft, and there’s even some weird coloring in the trees above the village. Maybe a drop of water or ice on the lens? 

Let’s fix it! I’m going to use Nik Collection Viveza 2 for this. From Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you can do some basic editing then send the image to Viveza for finishing, or in this case, I’ve ignored the capabilities of the host app and have simply opened the image essentially “straight out of camera” in Viveza.

What makes the Nik Collection so compelling are the control points called U Point Technology. The idea behind a U Point is quite simply that instead of having to build complex masks to isolate certain colors or tonal ranges in an image for editing/enhancement, you simply drop a U Point on a sample region that you want to edit, and the software automatically selects (masks) everything smilier to it. The more similar the tone and color, the more it will be selected (and therefore affected). The less similar, the less selected.

However before we even get into that, this image could use some global, general enhancement — it’s quite flat. Again I could have done this in the host application, but I’m choosing to do it all here. So let’s fix this contrast problem. I’ll raise both the global Contrast and the global Structure. Contrast is quite generalized, making the darker areas darker and the brighter areas brighter. Structure however focuses on the micro contrast, enhancing contrast in the fine regions of the mid-tones, providing the benefit of enhanced contrast and detail without crushing the shadows or highlights.

Next, let’s get local. That oddly washed out area in the trees above the village is still there. To isolate that region, all you have to do is click on the Add Control Point button, then click on the trees where you want the control point to go. If the circle isn’t covering the trees, or is too big, you can adjust it by just grabbing first slider control and adjusting the circle size.

Don’t worry if some of the village is selected, too. This Control Point won’t affect that since it doesn’t look like the trees. In fact if you want to see exactly what will be affected, hold down the Command key while dragging and you’ll see a mask view. The brighter the mask, the more that area will be affected.

Now to fix this image, first I’m going to drag the warmth slider down a little bit. The effect of this water drop, or whatever it is, has been to shift the color warmer. It just so happens that by cooling that region down a touch, and adding a little saturation, I can make it match the other group of trees to the right pretty much perfectly!

The last thing I want to do to this photo is make the red roofs pop a bit more. To do that, I’ll drop another Control point on a red roof, ensure the circle expands big enough to cover the entire village, then bump up the saturation a little bit.

Let’s check out a final before and after…

I like it! I’m sure there’s plenty of other creative things you could do to this image, but I’m happy where it is now. I like the cool tones overall; it helps to tell the story of how cold it was that day (it was really, really cold!). But maybe you’d rather warm it up, and make it feel more welcoming? What do you think? How else would you change the photo? 

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