A chinstrap penguin on the rocks in Antractica.

How to edit Antarctica photos to enhance their impact

Capturing the perfect shot is just the first step in the journey of your Antarctic photography. The post-processing stage is where you can take your shots to the next level. Post-processing is a vital step in the photography workflow, and it allows you to refine your images and bring out their full potential. With the right techniques, you can enhance the details, adjust the colours, and create a mood or a sense of depth that makes your images stand out. When it comes to Antarctica photography, post-processing is particularly important, as it can help you overcome the unique challenges of shooting in this extreme environment.

In this article, we will explore some of the best post-processing techniques that you can use to elevate your Antarctica photography to new heights. We will focus on using Lightroom, a powerful and user-friendly software that allows you to make both basic and advanced adjustments to your images. So let’s dive in and discover the magic of post-processing in Antarctica photography!

Preparing your images for editing

Shooting RAW

I would always recommend shooting in RAW, this ensures the image files are uncompressed and unprocessed. The main reason is to ensure you can retain the detail in the highlights and shadows. Due to RAW files containing a high amount of detail, they’re larger in size.


If your photos are important to you, it’s critical that you always have at least one backup copy. I would strongly suggest taking a laptop to Antarctica with you together with plenty of memory cards and an external hard drive.

At the end of each day, you should copy all the images from your memory cards and backup them to either one or two locations. I prefer to keep the images on my memory cards until I return home, this serves as an additional backup in case a hard drive fails.

Iceberg with blue hole.

Photo organisation and workflow

There are many ways to manage photos, the majority of photographers, both amateur and professionals use Adobe Lightroom for organisation and post-processing. If you’re new to Lightroom, or you’re unsure what you’re doing when it comes to photo management it’s worth investing some time in understanding it early on

  • Set up a folder structure within Lightroom which works for you, I use date based structure which I find is a good way to easily locate folders quickly.
  • Copy photos from your memory cards to the location of your Lightroom folders (In Finder or File Explorer)
  • Within Lightroom – > Library module-> Folders (left panel)-> Right-click the containing folder and click “Synchronize folder” – > “Import new photos. This will automatically bring your folder into Lightroom keeping the images stored in the same location on your hard drive.
  • If you’re reorganising the folder structure, do this within Lightroom, this will then automatically move folders/photos within Finder for File Explorer.
  • I then typically work through and use “X” to flag as rejected (Photo -> Delete rejected photos)
  • I then rate photos using stars (“1 “= 1 star, “5” =5 star)
  • This then allows me to focus on the best photos to start editing.

Useful tools within lightroom for the review process include the following:

  • “C” – Select two photos and click “C”, this allows you to compare them side by side, great for deciding between similar photos

Other useful Lightroom shortcuts

Folder structure examples in Lightroom

Example of date format folder structure in lightroom.
Date based organisation
Example of date format folder structure in lightroom.
Example of Antarctica folder within 2022


Before getting started, it’s worth discussing the histogram. When taking photos (especially in Antarctica) it’s always worth checking your histogram regularly. In Antarctica, it’s easy for your camera to under-expose to compensate for the bright environment. As a result, exposure compensation needs to be applied (1-2 stops), and your histogram should be checked to ensure you’re not overexposing the highlights.

A histogram is a chart that represents the tones in an image which includes the highlights, shadows, and everything in between. The far left-hand side of the histogram represents pure black and the right-hand side is pure white.

The photos below show the histogram differences when underexposed, overexposed and finally with a balanced exposure.

Note the underexposed and overexposed images have peaks on the left and right-hand side of the histogram respectively. However, the balanced exposure is more evenly distributed. Of course, the histogram distribution depends very much on the scene, however, you’re looking to avoid peaks at each end.

Underexposed image of a penguin colony on snow and rocks in Antarctic.
Overexposed image of a penguin colony in the Antarctica.
The balanced exposure image of a penguin colony in Antarctica.
Balanced exposure
Histogram referrng to underexposed image.
histogram referrring to overexposed image.
histogram referring to balanced exposure.

Basic adjustments in Lightroom

Once you have your photos backed up, organised, and you’ve selected your best photos, you’re ready to start editing, this is done within the Develop module of Lightroom.

Even if your photography skills are excellent, the editing process remains a critical aspect to get the most from your landscape shots and wildlife photos. Don’t be fooled, even the best professional photographer will not skip the post-processing to get to their final image. Therefore, if you really want your antarctic expedition photos to stand out as a travel photographer, becoming familiar with the develop module in Lightroom is essential.

  • Lens corrections tab
    • Enable profile corrections. It’s best to do this first, as this can change the composition.
    • Remove chromatic aberration can also be applied. This often occurs where there is high contrast between light and dark subjects. For example the dark feathers of a penguin against the snow.
  • Basic tab
    • Crop the image to improve the composition or change the aspect ratio, if required. Use “O” to toggle between different gridline overlays while on the crop tool. Don’t be afraid of cropping in significantly, especially photos of wildlife which may have been far away. The resolution of most digital camera sensors will retain sufficient detail even when cropping in.
    • White balance – Always make sure photos with snow are not too blue or yellow. Adjust the temperature & tint if needed. The dropper tool can be used to select something grey on the image or the as-shot or auto options can be used.
    • Exposure – Check your histogram and adjust the exposure slider to avoid clipped highlights and shadows. Also, fine-tune with white and black sliders. This can be a good way to correct your exposure if your camera settings were not quite correct.
    • Dehaze / clarity – These can be good ways to dehaze or improve clarity, as the names suggest! These sliders need to be used in moderation.
  • Detail tab
    • Sharpening – Use the sharpening amount, radius, detail and masking options. This is particularly useful for images shot at high ISO or with a lot of detail, such as close up of penguins.
    • *New Feature* Denoise – In April 2023 Lightroom introduced a new AI-based Denoise feature. This is far more effective than the standard sharpening. Although you can rarely recover an out-of-focus image, if you were not using a fast shutter speed and your image was very slightly out of focus, Denoise can help rectify this. The use of this feature is fairly self-explanatory, but it’s a GPU-intensive feature and can therefore take a while to apply. The best practice is to apply this before masking. Adobe has also provided further guidance for the use of this feature, together with other Lightroom features released in April 2023.

The examples below show the effect of dehaze within the basic tab of the develop module. It’s a good idea to regularly use the shortcut “Y” to compare the before and after and monitor the impact adjustments are having on the image.

Deception Island landscape image without dehaze applied.
Edit without dehaze applied
Deception island lanscape image with dehaze applied.
Edit with dehaze applied

The examples below show how effective the remove chromatic aberration tool can be around the outside of this Chinstrap penguin’s head. Note this is cropped in at 100% to allow this to be seen clearly.

Chinstrap penguin image Without "remove chromatic aberration" 
Crop @ 100%.
Without “remove chromatic aberration”
Crop @ 100%
Chinstrap penguin portrait With "remove chromatic aberration"
Crop @ 100%.
With “remove chromatic aberration”
Crop @ 100%
Final image crop of the chinstrap penguin on the rocks in Antractica.
Final image crop

Advanced adjustments for Antarctic photography

HSL – Hue, Saturation & Luminance / Colour

This can be a great way to enhance the natural iceberg blues in the polar regions. Within the HSL/Colour tab open up the saturation and increase this slightly for blue. To then darken the blue switch to the luminance and decrease this slightly. The impact of these adjustments is subtle but effective.

Examples from our antarctic expedition cruise of increasing the saturation and reducing the luminance of blue are below.

A heart shaped iceberg in Antarctica without HLS adjustment.
No HLS adjustment
A heart-shaped iceberg with setting adjusted to: Blue saturation +21,
Blue luminance -11.
Blue saturation +21
Blue luminance -11

Local adjustment/masking

Adjustment brushes selectively enhance certain areas that need to stand out of all the white in Antarctica. In October 2023 Lightroom introduced AI-powered masks. These can be used to automatically select a subject, background or sky with just a click.

You can access masking tools by clicking the highlighted icon shown below. Fid it directly below the histogram in the develop module. By clicking the “+” this gives access to both the AI-based tools together with the standard brush and gradient tools.

A screenshot of lightroom showing location of masking tools.
Location of masking tools below the histogram
A screenshot of lightroom showing masking tool options.
Masking tool options

AI-based selection tools: For subjects, sky and background selection, the AI-based selection tools work very effectively and can save significant time. Subject selection in particular can be a great way to accentuate the focal point of your images, often the wildlife of the white continent.

Local adjustments: Using the brush tool is the best way to apply localised adjustments, such as dodging and burning (Brightening or darkening specific areas within the image). A good tip for using this tool is to turn on the mask visualisation (red overlay) and if you’ve inadvertently masked an area, use the subtract from mask to locally removed masked areas.

Gradient filters: For the sky and foreground the linear gradient tool used to be my go-to. However, the horizon is rarely completely visible, which leads to additional adjustments to where the gradient is being applied. The select sky tool is now far more effective. This being said, the radial gradient is still a great way to apply local exposure adjustments, where the shape and feathering can be modified where needed.

Stitching the vast Antarctic panoramas

Antarctica offers vast and breathtakingly beautiful and unique landscapes that can be challenging to capture with a single photo. If you don’t have wide-angle lenses to take in the entire scene, creating a panorama can be an excellent solution. By stitching together multiple images, you can create a high-resolution photo that showcases the entire vista.

When it comes to creating panoramic images of Antarctica, the key is to use a stable tripod to ensure your images are aligned correctly. With the extreme cold and often windy conditions, it can be challenging to get a steady shot when shooting handheld. A tripod will also help ensure that your images are consistent in terms of exposure and focus.

Having said that, below you can see an example of panorama images that were taken without a tripod.

For more tips, head to our article on Panoramic Seascapes. Advice in this article will apply perfectly well to Antarctica Photography too.

To stitch the photos together into a beautiful panorama, follow the steps below:

Right click on selected photos –> Photo Merge –> Panorama –> Merge.

image 1 of the Antractica seascape that is used for stitching a panorama.
Image 1
image 2 of the Antractica seascape that is used for stitching a panorama.
Image 2
image 3 of the Antractica seascape that is used for stitching a panorama.
Image 3
image 4 of the Antractica seascape that is used for stitching a panorama.
Image 4
Stitched panorama of the mountains and water in Antarctica.
Final stitched panorama

Export settings

When you’re happing with you’re edit you’re going to want to export your image from Lightroom. You can do this by either right-clicking the image and clicking export or file -> export. Shortcut options are: command + shift + E (for Mac) or control + shift + E (for Windows)

Exporting at full size

e.g. for selling online, note this will export images with a large file size.

  • Crop: any
  • File format: JPEG Colour space sRGB
  • Quality: 100
  • Image Sizing: untick the resize to fit option

Instagram exports

  • Crop: 4:5 (Note when selecting this aspect ratio in Lightroom it will be in landscape, clicking “X” will rotate the crop)
  • File format: JPEG Colour space sRGB
  • Quality: 76 – The general consensus is that this is optimal.
  • Image Sizing: Resize to fit: Width & height. W: 1080 pixels H: 1350 pixels
  • Output Sharpening: Sharpen for screen, Amount is a personal preference.
Screenshot of lightroom export settings for exporting for instagram.

Facebook exports

  • Crop: 2:3 (most common, other aspect ratios will also work fine)
  • File format: JPEG Colour space sRGB
  • Quality: 100 – The general consensus is that this is optimal.
  • Image Sizing: Resize to fit: Long edge. 2048 pixels
  • Output Sharpening: Sharpen for screen, Amount is a personal preference.
Screenshot of lightroom export settings for exporting for facebook.


In conclusion, post-processing is a critical step in the photography workflow, and it can help you bring out the full potential of your Antarctic images. By using the right techniques in Lightroom, you can enhance the colours, adjust the exposure, and create a mood that captures the essence of this incredible destination.

If you have just come back from your Antarctica cruise, and have hundreds of beautiful photos from the Antarctic Peninsula, you are sure to have a lot of fun editing them! We hope that this guide has been helpful and inspiring and that it has encouraged you to experiment with different post-processing techniques and develop your own style. So go out there, capture the beauty of Antarctica, and let post-processing help you bring it to life!

Read Next

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *