The Great Journey in Photography

Posts tagged “Photoshop tips

Free Hi-Res Wildlife Images


Just a quick little reminder that the Wildlife & Nature Pictures application that I have for iPad and iPhone contains 46 free full resolution images available for download and personal use. The application is a free download too. Counting it all up that means that there are 46 nature and wildlife images at no cost to you! When last I checked, that is less than a cup of coffee.

For real.

Wildlife & Nature Pictures is available world-wide in the Apple App store and is translated to Spanish with more languages coming soon.

You can download your free copy today at the link below or search for app id #595565558 outside the US.



Puppet Magic

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle photo from my new iPad app Wildlife HD

Just when you think you are at the top of your game when it comes to Photoshop, this guy gets completely blown out of the water.
OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration but I did feel high and dry, let me explain. One of my favorite shows on the internet is Photoshop User TV on Kelby One. The show rotates through the staff as hosts for the show and every episode has at least two Photoshop or Lightroom tutorials. The other day I was catching up on some shows when what comes along is the “Puppet Warp” tool and birds and I am blown away because I could have used it about a million times the last couple of years.

First, let me point out a very cool tip in making a selection around a bird. If you follow this blog regular you will know that digitally separating the subject from the background is an important part of my workflow and making a selection around a bird can be a time-consuming process in Photoshop. Rather than making a fine grain selection you can also make a very loose selection around the bird with the Lasso tool and then grab the Magic Wand (aka Tragic Wand) tool, hold down the option/alt key and the selection will snap to a tight fit around your bird, then go to Selection>Modify to expand, contract, or feather your selection. Given enough contrast it works really well but the real magic is in the Puppet Warp tool. Once you have made your selection put it on its own layer in most cases, and then go to Edit>Puppet Warp. There you will create a fine grain mesh containing the bird where you will create anchor points to manipulate body parts without harming other pixels. This is the perfect solution for moving a wing ever so slightly or changing beak position to that perfect point.

I highly recommend watching Photoshop User. You can catch the episode here.
Also, if you are not taking advantage of it now Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are available as a package for $9.99Mo.


Post Up II

Bald Eagle Workflow

Last week we did the most basic editing by separating the subject from the back ground, balancing the exposures and making contrast, saturation, and shadow/highlight adjustments independent of each other. Today we are going to finish off the photo with some cloning. There are plenty of different ways to do cloning and none of them are wrong, so don’t think you need to do it the same as I do. Any way that accomplishes the result is just fine. Lets go back to that background layer that we just adjusted and duplicate it. We see an ugly black waterline from the river going right through the bird. This is going to be a lot easier to fix with the layer mask in place, we won’t have to worry about our bird at all. Select a soft brush with medium opacity in your clone brush tool and be sure that you are sampling only the current layer and the “aligned” box is checked. Here you have your choice, you could clone with the river bed rock, the foliage, or a combination of both. In this case I did both trying to make the water line slightly meandering so it is not a straight arrow shooting straight through our eagle. The log under the eagle could also be cloned out at this point but I think I will leave it in. The only big distraction it creates is the huge black spot behind the subject in the trunk. I am going to sample the area just below it and at a very low opacity tap the brush repeatedly until it looks ok.


Yeah, that’s the ticket. Now lets look at the bird. Not much to do here, the beak has a white highlight on the tip, it is not a blown out highlight just a white area that is overexposed. All we need to do is put some color in it and that is easy to do. I could clone from the area around it but since the area is round and irregular shaped it is much easier to simply sample a nearby color and paint over it on new blank layer. At this point you could try different blending modes and the “color” mode is often a good choice but since the underlying layer is white just lowering the opacity until everything blends in works just fine. By the way, there is a lot of blood and dirt in this eagles head area, usually eagles clean up after eating but this guy must have forgotten. I could have cleaned that up but for me it is just part of nature so I left it in. On the strip of the tail that was too bright I did a little cloning lowered the opacity and changed the blend mode to multiply (I think!) to darken it up a bit. After that  Shift<Option<Command<E to make a complete layer, flatten the image if you need the performance. I now just need to clone out that branch in the lower left corner, healing brush will get it too, and send the image over to Lightroom for some final adjustment. I like to use Lightroom for sharpening, noise reduction, saturation, and selective exposure or gradient masking. There is no need to do it in Lightroom but for me it seems easier, probably because it is one step closer to a final output.


I am sure you will agree that the final image is a vast improvement and I hope one or two of these methods finds its way into your workflow. Until next time Thank You for stopping by and Happy Shooting.

You can catch me on Twitter: @RonBoyd

To Crop or Not To Crop II

Bosque Pano-2

Last week I said we would walk through making the photo into a real masterpiece, well maybe not a masterpiece but lets say make it all it can be. It looks like I cheated a little bit with the photograph I showed last week. I don’t believe I cropped that image at all but rather used the content aware scale feature in Photoshop to compress the image down to an 8×10 layout. For todays post I am going to revert back to the original image as it came out of the camera. It looks like this.


That is not so great but if you were paying attention the past few years you know that there are other images to work. Yeah it’s that burst of three thing, so lets look at the image before that one and see if it is better.


I actually like this one better except that the crane is way too far forward, it is falling out of the picture, but I really like the arcing cloud formation in the back. I think I am going to take the best of both worlds and merge the to photos and take the best of each to make one good image. In the process I am going to move the bird to the ideal position. That won’t be hard since it is a silloutte just make sure the background is seamless where you clone out the old bird.

I am not sure exactly what the problem is but Photoshop would not merge the images so I wound up manually blending the images together. It takes a lot longer but doing that also gives you ultimate control over the masterpiece. Just automate to manual (File-Automate-Photomerge-Interactive Layout) mode in Photoshop. You will get individual layers with masks to work. Once finished blending I always make a new layer (shift, option , command E) and work from that so I can always go back to blending if need be. Now lets select our bird with the  quick selection tool, copy and past onto a new layer positioning it to a good place according to the rule of thirds. I see that this image has the white balance out of whack. The clouds are nice and saturated with orange, yellow, and red but is still very warm where I should be seeing some blue sky, so lets fix that and also give a little more color  impact to the image. Rather than trying to balance out the colors I am simply going to create a photo filter layer mask and set it to a cooling color painting in the areas of sky that I think should be cooler.

Now I am going to save and turn it back over to Lightroom for  my standard processing adjusting color balance, highlights, shadows, contrast, saturation and noise reductions. You should note that I go back to Lightroom simply because it is a newer version and the Adobe Camera RAW engine there is far superior to the one in my version of Photoshop. You can also make all those final adjustments in Photoshop too if desired.

There it is , a nice wide screen image that is pleasing and rather that breaking the rules hits the mark for composition, and if you feel the need has plenty of room to crop to other sizes.

Thanks for stopping by everyone. If you have any questions about how I processed these images just leave a comment or drop me a line.

My iPad application Wildlife HD is getting a major tune up for the upcoming iOS7 platform and while it is I am sell it at half price. Just $.99 Wildlife HDuntil the new version comes out. If you don’t have it yet you might want to take advantage of the sale.

Sources of Grief & Post Process Relief

Cooper's hawk sitting in a tree

500mm f8 400iso 1/1,000sec

Remember a while back when I wrote about how important backgrounds are? How about a couple of weeks ago, about trying different ways to process photos, or even last week when I wrote about not being able to make a good shot in weeks? Well here is an example of all three rolled up into one image.

I loathed this photograph the moment I took it. It was my safe shot. I don’t often see Hawks perched only a few feet off the deck. In this case about seven feet. There were other noisy people in the area so I knew my time was very limited. One of my greatest peeves is people who scream on a cell phone while on nature trails disturbing everyone and everything in their wake. There will come a day of reckoning for those clowns, but I digress. This was about as close as I could get before the bird retreated to higher elevations. Here is what I really didn’t like about the photo.
Not close enough. I really wanted to half the distance from this shot but I rushed in and made too much noise probably chasing the bird off before I could have worked my way in to the position I really wanted. Had that bird been watching over a recent kill I would have easily made that position.
I was shooting hand-held at 500mm. In thick brush I decided hand-held would be best. I had the shutter speed up at 1/1,000sec but even then it is really hard to get a very sharp image. Remember effective focal length is going to be about 750mm with the 1.5x crop sensor.
Then there is the fact that the subject is not just close to the background, it is in it! As I approached I was circling around to see if there was a vantage point that separated the hawk from many of the branches but no luck, this guy was pretty much in it.

When I saw the photo on the computer I decided I had to do something with it if for no other reason just to document the days events. I thought a B/W conversion could be all right but when I did it the bird was completely lost in the background, then I thought of the technique I never use because I have always heard it was a cliché. I also remembered that when I make people photos it is one of the things I hear requests for, so it can’t be all bad. Anyhow, this is what I did. Now the image has the separation it so desperately needed. Not by distance or depth of field but by contrast of color and black and white. To the viewer’s eye it has the same effect.

I did this using NIK Color Effects plugin. Just choose the B/W conversion filter and adjust as you see fit, then add a negative control point to the subject and you are done. Back in Photoshop if you notice any areas of the bird that didn’t get colorized just add a mask to the layer and paint the B/W out. You can also do this just with Photoshop rather easily. Simply make a second layer and convert to Black and White with the method you are most comfortable with, add a layer mask and paint away the areas you need to be in color. I recommend a fairly hard edge brush. In Lightroom it is not as easy but still can be done, just de-saturate an adjustment brush and paint the entire area to lose color being sure to turn on auto mask when you are painting close to the subject.

While this technique may have become a cliché in other genres of photography I will add that I very seldom, if ever, I see it used in bird photography, so don’t feel shy about giving it a try once in a while.

Just as a footnote, one other things I would do to this photograph is clone out the one straight line in the entire frame. See that straight branch to the lower left of the Hawk? It should be gone.

Thanks so much for reading, I hope you find this and all my other tips valuable and until next time have a great day.