Do you retouch your "natural" photos?

Jan 26, 2005
San Jose, CA
Just in case you didn't see this post in the General Discussion forum, I'm spamming it over here :wink:

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.

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 elements in the image. It was impossible 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 5734

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?
Jan 25, 2005
East Norriton, PA

I see no problem with enhancing shots int eh digital workflow, no different than film based work done in a darkroom, just more tools to help you along. So I agree with you the end result is to put your best foot forward and suing the digital darkroom is one way of getting there.
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