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Do you retouch your "natural" photos?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Uncle Frank, Mar 1, 2005.

  1. 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:

    If he only knew 8)

    Here's the resized original.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    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?
  2. Flew


    Jan 25, 2005

    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:

  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. Your work in PS pays off with some really dramatic images. I wish I could do half as well.
  6. Gordon, your new avatar is a real mystery shot. What is it?
  7. I don't know but its got blue eyes and four feet. :wink:
  8. Gale


    Jan 26, 2005
    Viera Fl
    Pussin Boots

  9. That is the way I work too Frank. It is all in the disclosure as far as I am concerned.

    Beautiful job BTW.
  10. 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.
  11. gho


    Feb 7, 2005
    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:
  12. 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...!
  13. NeilCam


    Feb 21, 2005
    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.

  14. gho


    Feb 7, 2005
    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.
  15. 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:
  16. gho


    Feb 7, 2005
    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.
  17. Gregory, it's amazing that we're both so anal about our images, and both such slobs about our gear :p  .
  18. 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.
  19. 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?


  20. Probably so, Melissa, but some lenses suck in dust when you zoom them.
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