5 Tips for Processing Images on the Road

by Christian Høiberg

Most of us who enjoy landscape photography also have a passion for travel. In fact, the lines between landscape photographer and travel photographer can be thin.

In this day and era, where there’s a constant pressure to deliver content on a regular basis, it’s not always that we can wait for several weeks until we’re back home before we start processing and sharing our latest images. Instead, we have to adapt to the environments and make time to process images while we’re still traveling. I don’t have any problem with this and I see why a lot of photographers choose to work like this but there are certain steps I recommend you to follow when processing images on the road.

Just because you’re processing on the road doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your best in creating a good image. Being on the road is no excuse for being sloppy, which leads us into the first tip:

1.    Being on the Road is no Excuse to be Sloppy

Yes, when you’re on the road you probably won’t have all your fancy equipment you “depend” on to perfectly process your images. Probably, you won’t have nearly as much time to process an image either. Time is often scarce and you’ll need to take advantage of the few moments you have available to process your files.

Columbia River Gorge Portland USA

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t process the image with just as much care as you would at home. I get that you might reprocess or continue processing the image when you get home but if you plan to post it online before that, it should still represent your quality.

If you only have 5 minutes available, you don’t need to finish the image now. Do what you can in those 5 minutes and continue working on it when time allows.

2.    Zoom in 100%

When processing images on the road we rarely have the same equipment as at home. Many of us have a larger monitor that we use when processing images but bringing this with you on trips isn’t much of an option.

Despite not having a large monitor and rather being restricted to a smaller laptop, you’re still able to process an image just as detailed. By zooming in 100% you can easily spot any obvious mistakes or distractions and take care of them.

Processing on the road

Processing on the road

Zooming in and out several times throughout the workflow can be a huge benefit. Remember that a lot of the smaller details are hard to spot when you’re working on a smaller screen.

3.    Use a Mouse or Tablet

Let’s be honest; processing an image using the laptop’s touchpad isn’t ideal. While it works perfectly fine if you’re only going to be adjusting the sliders of Lightroom, it’s nearly useless as soon as you begin using masks, brushes and more selective methods of processing, which often leads to better results.

Trangfossen Norway

This image required a lot of detailed work so using a mouse was crucial

If possible, bring a mouse or tablet that you can use when processing an image. Personally, I use a Wacom Tablet for the majority of my images. You don’t need to get a big one, in fact, my Wacom Tablet is smaller than a regular iPad so it doesn’t take a lot of space in your backpack.

Try to at least bring an external mouse that you can connect to your computer. This will allow you to be much more accurate when using tools such as the Brush.

4.    Avoid Direct Sunlight

It’s not uncommon that I’ve seen photographer’s process images while sitting in the passenger seat of a car. If you need to meet deadlines, that’s sometimes the only way to do it. However, it’s far from ideal.

Try avoiding direct sunlight on your laptop’s monitor to ensure a correct display of your image. When you’ve got direct light on the monitor it’s hard to see the correct colors, brightness, contrast and even sharpness.

Blue Ridge Mountains North Carolina

This image was processed in the backseat of my rental car but I managed to block out any direct sunlight

If you must process the image while outdoors or inside a car, try covering yourself and the laptop with a jacket or something similar that blocks light. Yes, it might look ridiculous but after all, you’re the one processing on-the-go!

5.    Calibrate Your Monitor

The last tip for processing images on the road is one that you should know in general.

Calibrating your monitor is a crucial thing that every serious photographer needs to do. Use a tool such as Spyder Pro to properly calibrate the monitor so that the colors are accurately presented. This will save you a lot of work in the long run and also make your images look much better.

It’s not only your home monitor that you’ll need to process. Make sure that your laptop is calibrated as well. This is essential when processing images on the road. You don’t want to come back home, open the image on a different device or monitor and see that the colors are completely off.

Last Words

There are several reasons that we process images on-the-go. Some of us have deadlines that we need to meet and our employers or customers expect content to be shared rapidly, others choose to post content quickly because they prefer to do so and some simply don’t find the time or chance to do it at another time.

I think it’s important to process your image as detailed and proper as you would in any other situation. Not having all your fancy equipment with you isn’t necessarily an excuse to be sloppy.

After all, you don’t want to share an image you’re not happy with, right?

About the Author

Christian HoibergChristian Høiberg is a Norwegian landscape photographer with a passion to travel and explore new destinations. Besides being in the field photographing beautiful landscapes, Christian teaches photography through his website CaptureLandscapes, a place where you can find landscape photography tutorials and resources. Oh… and he loves sushi!

Comments 2

  1. Great practical tips! There’s so much pressure to be posting on your social media profiles 100% of the time that taking a few days “off” to travel can kill your engagement level. So if those five minutes are all that you have to get the photo online, then that’s all you do. It’s more important to a lot of people to keep that stream of content running than to ensue every photo meets a standard of quality, and that contributes to the amount of subpar images posted online.

    Those tips about managing light and expanding the image are spot on, but I’m not really really familiar with working on a Wacom tablet. How does it compare to using a mouse; are the precision and control the same, or better?

    Calibrating the monitor is something that I (unfortunately) also tend to overlook. It’s just one more thing to remember during a busy life! How frequently would you recommend calibration—once every few weeks, once a month? I’d like to start doing that more frequently.

    1. Hi Sara! I’m happy that you enjoyed my article!
      It is unfortunate with the constant pressure but I don’t think it has to limit the overall quality. I’ll often process an image on the road and then reprocess it when I’m back home.

      I use a Wacom tablet for 99% of my images, in fact I even use it for just browsing the internet these days. The precision is much better and you can use pressure sensitivity which means that the harder you brush, the higher the opacity is. Some really sweet functions with it.

      As for calibrating the monitor I recommend doing so approximately once a month or every second month. You might not need to do it more than 3-4 times a year but I’ll rather be sure that the monitor is calibrated at all times.

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