Critique The Solution to a Plain-Jane Moon Image

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Sawfish Bay offered a nice view of a nearly full moon last night, while I was waiting for the birds to do something interesting. I captured a number of unremarkable images of birds and some clear images of the moon. Here is one of each combined in Photoshop - please offer suggestions on how to make the image look more realistic:
Sawfish_Bay_21D_3844-3884 Composite.jpg
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The Moon is a little out of shape. Hard to capture it in its correct shape since it's moving. So that could be cropped a bit. The bird is without any kind of shadow which may be fine but it does seem to have a bit of a Halo so working a little bit more on refining the edge of the bird might be helpful. The bird also seems a little big. And you might consider not having it centered so completely on the moon.is it possible to bring out any more detail in the bird? It's a fun shot but you ask for suggestions and those are mine.
 
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Thanks for the critique!
The Moon is a little out of shape. Hard to capture it in its correct shape since it's moving. So that could be cropped a bit.
Actually, I believe I captured the moon accurately - it was 92% full last night, so not completely round yet. As for the rest of your suggestions...
The bird is without any kind of shadow
The sun was low in the sky at camera left, so I definitely agree that the lighting does not look right for the moon backlighting the heron. How would you approach fixing this?
it does seem to have a bit of a Halo so working a little bit more on refining the edge of the bird
The bird also seems a little big. And you might consider not having it centered
These two I can definitely improve and will post the results below...
 
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The main problem for me is that the image is not believable due to the lighting. In this situation, the moon would be acting as a backlight and there would be very little if any light on the front of the bird (in reality a silhouette)

The bird size and position may need some experimentation to get a pleasing comp.

A very quick play with your image (hope you are ok with this) to illustrate one way you may deal with the bird.

Make a selection of the bird mainly the neck, head, and beak, and use a Curves adjustment to bring down the tones and also tame the contrast - how dark or light you want to go is up to you, mine is just an example.

For the moon, you may want to consider making a selection and burning the area (Black brush on a Soft Light layer) so that it is in shadow.

Hope this of some help to you
Moon_Bird.jpg
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The main problem for me is that the image is not believable due to the lighting.
This articulates the “fake” look precisely. Thanks for taking the time to reply and even take a crack at fixing it.

Can you elaborate a bit on how to follow this suggestion?
For the moon, you may want to consider making a selection and burning the area (Black brush on a Soft Light layer) so that it is in shadow.
I’m looking forward to giving it another whirl this evening.
 
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This articulates the “fake” look precisely. Thanks for taking the time to reply and even take a crack at fixing it.

Can you elaborate a bit on how to follow this suggestion?

I’m looking forward to giving it another whirl this evening.
For the moon the quick and dirty way I.e. just give an impression of roundness - you need to get it a little rounder than I did😉.

Photoshop
1. You need to use the selection tools and pick the oval shape
1a. Optional. To make selection of the moon easier drag ruler guides from the top and both sides to just touch the moon limits.

2. Now click and drag around the moon while holding down shift to make a circular selection which covers the whole moon image. You should now have a dashed circle around the moon.

3. You now need to subtract from the circular selection to form a horizontal crescent shape. Once again repeat the above step to form the same shape but hold down the ALT key and drag down until you reach the edge of the moon image area then release. You should now have a dashed crescent showing at the bottom of the moon.

4. There are other choices but I just burned the area in until it looked about right?
Create a new layer and select Soft for layer type and with a black paint brush set at a low opacity paint within the dashed crescent until you reach an acceptable density. Once there get rid of the selection - CTRL +D.

5. Your new layer should give the impression of a rounder moon. But the outline will be too well defined. To soften it just apply a Gaussian blur until it looks OK and experiment with the opacity of this layer until satisfied.

I do also think that the bird would be better being smaller and made as a silhouette and moved to the left. Think of Spielberg’s ET posters

Hope that helps - took a lot longer to write than actually perform 😄
 
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Maybe like this?

9591D8B1-5A7B-4EE5-B58A-2C7C08B6B939.jpeg
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For the moon the quick and dirty way I.e. just give an impression of roundness

OK. I was busy working on it and didn't see your reply until just now. Here is an improved (hopefully) version with a resized, repositioned and darker bird along with some additional edge refinement. Still haven't de-noised (sorry @Butlerkid - I know it needs to be done) and I haven't tackled the burning of the moon yet.
Sawfish_Bay_21D_3844-3884 Composite-2.jpg
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SOOC??? That is a new one... but that could be part of the fake look... subconsciously the moon does not look right so may be a contributing factor. Well... maybe...
SOOC is forum-speak for "straight out of camera," meaning I didn't manipulate the orientation in post. But I did do a little online research as well as a quick review of my moon images from Illinois. It seems that the moon's apparent orientation changes with the time of day and latitude (and possibly with the seasons, but I didn't get that far in my reading). Referencing key features such as the Tycho crater and the Sea of Tranquility, I can see that the orientation is somewhat different between my Illinois photos and this one from Florida. Good catch by you, and thanks for prompting me to learn something new!
 
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OK. One more iteration. This time, I've rotated the moon so that Tranquility is at 1 o'clock and Tycho at 5 o'clock. Also a slight decrease in exposure, a little sharpening, a little noise reduction, a looser crop, and an attempt to follow the burning instructions by @TonyW:
Sawfish_Bay_21D_3844-3884 Composite-3.jpg
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Getting better. You are getting to the point that only photographers can really tell them apart.
The general population really does not care what we do to get an image, they only care about the image.
With the bird in front of the moon you would need some backlight on the portion of the bird over the moon, and it would look different than the bird projected over the darker sky.
There also appears to be more detail in the moon than on the bird, which would not happen in real life.
But I may be overthinking this.
Nice idea for a shot
By the way, I would move the moon and bird off to the left and rebuild some blue sky, rather than the moon bullseye in the middle.
gary
 
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You are getting to the point that only photographers can really tell them apart.
Well that's a start!
With the bird in front of the moon you would need some backlight on the portion of the bird over the moon
I would move the moon and bird off to the left and rebuild some blue sky
Both great suggestions. Obviously I can handle the second one, but I could use some guidance on the first. Any suggestions on how to proceed?
 
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SOOC is forum-speak for "straight out of camera," meaning I didn't manipulate the orientation in post. But I did do a little online research as well as a quick review of my moon images from Illinois. It seems that the moon's apparent orientation changes with the time of day and latitude (and possibly with the seasons, but I didn't get that far in my reading). Referencing key features such as the Tycho crater and the Sea of Tranquility, I can see that the orientation is somewhat different between my Illinois photos and this one from Florida. Good catch by you, and thanks for prompting me to learn something new!

I never researched it, but the light hitting the Moon is coming from the top which caught my attention. You can see the detail on the craters on the left and right side off the Moon as well which would say the same. When I first saw it I thought maybe it was taken in portrait vs landscape. My D5300 attached to my telescope was notorious for 10 photos being landscape then next ones in portrait. I never could figure out why.
 

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