Do you retouch your "natural" photos?

Joined
Jan 26, 2005
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San Jose, CA
I love nature photos, but I'm not a documentarian, so I have no compunctions about (hopefully) enhancing
them in Photoshop. I posted a hummingbird picture on the Photosig critique site recently, and received the
following comments from an enthusiastic reviewer:

Couldn't be better! Outstanding shot that requires tons of experience, patience and a bit of luck.
Shots as good as this one do not require any PS work. Pure photo art.
If he only knew 8)

Here's the resized original.

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My workflow was as follows:

First, the crop. I tried to place the eye and the glowing red gorget in a "power" position, about 1/3rd down from
the top of the frame, since these are the most dramatic element in the frame. It wasn't possible to find a crop that
didn't include the plastic feeder tube, which takes "nature" out of a hummer pic, so careful cloning was the most
time consuming step. Then I cloned out all but one of the multiple catch-lights in the eye.

The next step was levels. The original was dull, and I adjusted for greater separation between the bird and
background, and some pop to the gorget.

Sharpening is a bit tricky, as it tends to increase the noise in the background, so I created a duplicate layer,
sharpened it, and added a black layer mask to it to hide the sharpening. Then I used a white paintbrush to expose
the sharpening on selective parts of the hummingbird only. Even after this careful treatment, I ran the picture
through NeatImage to make sure the background was "creamy".

Here's the result.

View attachment 5731

I takes me about 15 minutes to finish a hummer picture these days, which is down from the 45 minutes it took
when I first started doing them. That's why the comment about "not requiring any PS work" tickled me.

So, back to the question. What are your standards and limits for retouching your nature pictures?
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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Alabama
Frank,

I think it is unrealistic to expect to get the kind of results that you, Mike Mac, Yves, Ron, Harris, etc, etc get without any PP.

What you get right out of the camera is the best a pretty smart piece of hardware and software can come up with. The 'wetware' that does the PP (i.e., our brains), is still a little more sophisticated that the cameras of today. Maybe in a few years the cam will be able to do it all, but not now.

Of course, you already knew all of that.... :wink:

Frank
 
Joined
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Brooklyn, NY USA
I'm totally with you Frank..uh, and the other Frank...I'm not out to "document" but to create (I don't presume to use the word "art", but...a photo to me is something that is created...call it "craft" ;-) I do what it takes to make the shot look its best. One thing I love about digital is how "rescuable" and forgiving it can be (at least if shooting RAW). Of course its better to nail the shot in the camera, but sometimes you just don't, or can't. As Frank says "if they only knew", lol. I am amazed at how off a shot can look in the field and how salvageable it may be once I see it in NC. I don't think I want to show you the before and after photos of some of my shots, I'll lose all my mystique ;-)

BTW Frank, I did get one hummer shot for ya on my recent trip to Puerto Rico...in fact its one of these salvage cases. Those darn hummers sure are difficult when there is no feeder around...I was running all over a parking lot chasing this guy. I will post it tonight!
 
Joined
Feb 9, 2005
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Penryn Cornwall England
Oh heck.

This is a very very contentious issue for us natural history photographers.

In fact I have known people come to blows over it. When I was judging Internationals there was a box that you ticked to confirm that the subject was LWF. ie Living, Wild and Free. If it wasn't and you said IT WAS then all your work was banned from any further participation. I can remember one very specific instance when a slide of a raptor won Gold Medal after Gold Medal until somebody got very suspicious and they proved it was a fake.

Heavy Digital Manipulation like the removal of a feeder would be considered as being acceptable as long as this was stated if it was entered for a competition and photomanipulation was allowed. Otherwise no-way would this be accepted as a "straight shop." It instances like this I think that it greatly enhances the picture and brings the bird beautifully into focus.

BW. Bob F.
 
Joined
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Huntsville, Alabama
Good shots. I have a couple of hummers flying around my backyard during the warmer periods. Very colorful. I look forward to getting some shots to share with you.
 

gho

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Feb 7, 2005
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California
UF - that's almost exactly what I do with my photos too. The only thing is that I also need to clean up "marine snow"

Takes me anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to clean up a shot.

A before and after pic from one of my shoots:
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Joined
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Brooklyn, NY USA
wow Greg, now that's impressive! I had no idea you had to clean up all those bubbles...you must have the patience of a saint...!
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2005
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Ottawa, Ontario
Geez Gregory, I start to get toey when I've got to heal three dust bunnies. :lol:

As far as my "natural" portraits go, I tend not to clone out much. However, I'm no saint, it's simply because my abilities with the clone tool could best be described as "limited", although that description is really post-processing the English language.

Neil
 

gho

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jczinn: Patience? Nah, I'm so impatient, I'm always looking for shortcuts. Unfortunately there are really none. The biggiest help is if the client kils the circulation pumps, but many are unwilling to do that, which doubles my post processing time and yields crappy pics.


NeilCam: Ah, a few dust bunnies, I'm so lazy, I don't ever clean my imager. In fact, all this time I've been shooting digital and maybe 50K exposures, I've yet to clean an imager.
 
Joined
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gho said:
Ah, a few dust bunnies, I'm so lazy, I don't ever clean my imager. In fact, all this time I've been
shooting digital and maybe 50K exposures, I've yet to clean an imager.
I'm just as lazy. I discovered a huge dust bunny on my sensor a week ago, and haven't done a thing about it. I'm
hoping Philippe Roger will need to clean his first. Then he can help me figure out how to do ti :roll:
 

gho

Joined
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I actually have the same thing. Talk about lazy, I have a gigantic dust bunny the on one of my cameras and I'm too lazy to even open the shutter and try blowing it out.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2005
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North Carolina, USA
Although I do understand that there's a place for the "strictly unaltered documentary photo", in practice I routinely edit my photos for content with no compunction. As Bob and others have mentioned, intended use and context are the key indicators here for when it's appropriate or not. I've never entered any competitions or sold a photo for publication, so maybe that makes me just a bit more likely to edit out the distractions as I see fit. For me, it's more about whether the image portrays what I wanted it to than whether it accurately depicts a natural scene -- I see myself more in the role of "art director" than "photojournalist" in this respect.
 
Joined
Feb 4, 2005
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Virginia Beach, Virginia
UncleFrank said:
gho said:
Ah, a few dust bunnies, I'm so lazy, I don't ever clean my imager. In fact, all this time I've been
shooting digital and maybe 50K exposures, I've yet to clean an imager.
I'm just as lazy. I discovered a huge dust bunny on my sensor a week ago, and haven't done a thing about it. I'm
hoping Philippe Roger will need to clean his first. Then he can help me figure out how to do ti :roll:
Uncle Frank,

I know this might sound like a crazy question but if a person does not change lenses often, are they more like not to get dust bunnies?

Thanks,

Melissa
 
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