So this is the picture I shot in one of my attempts to take a landscape.
Yuch. Looks pretty washed out, and it isn't very straight.
The very first thing I'm going to do is switch to 16-bit mode by clicking on Image... Mode... 16-bits/Channel. Because I'm go to be mucking with colors and stretching them, squishing them, and otherwise distorting them I want as many variations of colors as possible.
Then I'm going to set this to Adobe RGB color space if it's not already there. Again, pretty much the same reason as above - more colors. Adobe RGB is a larger color space then sRGB - that is, it actually has more colors available to use. (It's a very long story so trust me for now.) Choose Image... Mode... Convert To Profile and choose Adobe RGB (1998) as the Destination Space. If the Source Space is already Adobe RGB then click Cancel, otherwise click on OK.
Next I'm going to tackle the washed out look by adjusting the Levels to get some contrast in there. Image... Adjustments... Levels and here is the histogram.
One of the ideas behind using Levels is to utilize the entire range of colors from pure black to pure white. This histogram shows that my image is only using about 2/3 of the range, all in the middle. I'm going to stretch out the colors to use as much range as possible - well, as much as necessary to make the image look good.
The first thing I'm going to do is grab that bottom left slider - the black one - and drag it over to where the blacks seem to start, right at the beginning of the hump. By doing this I'm telling Photoshop to make my blacks start at the point above the slider - or in other words, make this point pure black. Anything blacker (to the left) will be made black, too, but there's not much black in that range so it won't make much difference.
Then I'll grab the right slider - the white one - and drag it over to the left, again to the beginning of the hump. Same idea - make this pure white as well as anything brighter.
Here's the histogram:
And the resulting image:
But I didn't like that, because it really increased the glare at the top of the gazebo, and I lost detail. If you look at the histogram above you'll see that there *are* some whites all the way to the right edge - very few, indicated by the very thin black line, but they are there.
Here's the detail I lost (original on the left):
To get the details back I'm going to move the right slider back all the way to the right.
Come to think of it, I lost some blacks in the same way when I compressed them by moving the left slider. But with blacks it doesn't seem so noticeable. Losing the whites by compressing them did noticable damage, so I want those details back. The blacks I destroyed just became more shadows, and the eye doesn't seem to notice that. (Well, in *this* picture it didn't. Sometimes it's the other way around.)
Now the image doesn't look quite right. It's a little dark. I'm going to move the middle slider - the midtones - around until it looks good to my eye. Moving it to the left will make the image brighter, and to the right makes it darker.
This step is totally subjective - play with the middle slider until it looks good.
This is what I eneded up with:
And this is the histogram:
And that's it. The picture doesn't looked washed out any more, and we're using almost the entire range of color. What's important is that it looks good to me.
OK, the *colors* look good to me.