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Thread: Help refining a wildlife shot (Lacking polish or pop)

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    Help refining a wildlife shot (Lacking polish or pop)

    When I was away on work recently I managed to capture this Rock Wallaby

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/accesser/5890082935/

    http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...a-Rock-Wallaby


    The more I go back to this photo the more I like it form a photographic point but its lacking polish in post I’ve been tinkering about for some time (CS5) and need a little guidance, I'm after a much more natural & finished looking image.

    I want him to pop more and the colors to be more natural as I would like to print this soon at the lab I’m having trouble with his coat he has dark and light shades getting him to pop is proving difficult.

    Lots of tinkering with softlight layers & curves have not quite yielded me the results I'm after

    Any help would be really truly appreciated if you’re willing to have a go you can find a medium resolution PSD here
    Jason / Brisbane QLD flickr
    Canon 5D Mk II 40D, 17-40mm f/4L, 24-70mm f/2.8L, 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS.

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    White balance is the key here, Jason. Your WB is a mile out, and sorting that fundamental problem will probably be the key to doing the other things you want to do with the shot.

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    is it too warm ?
    Would you cool it ?

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    Bird Nerd Richard Hall's Avatar
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    Have to agree with Tony, the WB looks totally off here. Looks too warm and magenta-tinted to my eyes.
    www.richardhallphotography.com


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    Ok doke thanks guys I think I may start over as WB is much easier to do in Bridge

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    Yes indeed, Jason.

    Compare with these examples of other rock wallabies (different species but both in the same genus as the Mareeba Rock Wallaby, and very similar) -

    Allied Rock Wallaby: http://tannin.net.au/page.php?image=...-140737rmc.jpg
    Unadorned Rock Wallaby: http://tannin.net.au/page.php?image=...-082853-vc.jpg

    The first one is a bit dull - it's from my old 2002 model 4MP P&S Nikon and was shot in heavy shade. Nevertheless, the colours are pretty close to correct. the second one is from 2009 and although I shot it in raw & JPG (as is my habit) I used the JPG and didn't change the in-camera colours to speak of. Note that I shot it with the white balance set to DAYLIGHT, which is another habit of mine, and one I strongly recommend for available-light nature photography. Nothing else gets the colours so reliable.

    Remember too that most mammals (and nearly all Australian mammals) are dull coloured and rather similar to one another. With a lot of birds you can simply let the magnificent plumage catch the reader's eye and make the picture for you. With mammals, just have to catch them at their best - they don't have natural "pop".

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    Quote Originally Posted by accesser View Post
    Ok doke thanks guys I think I may start over as WB is much easier to do in Bridge
    Just set it to "daylight" in Camera Raw. If Camera Raw does the same to your 5D as it does to my various other Canons, that will be just slightly too warm - and a slight over-warming often looks nice anyway (which is presumably why they do it). Or you could try "as shot" but that will be a bit of a lottery - it relies on the in-camera auto WB which is chancey.

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    Here is an adjusted version. All I have done is switch off all the PP layers in the .PSD file and save the base layer as a TIFF so that I could open it in Camera Raw.

    In Camera Raw I selected DAYLIGHT white balance, then adjusted by eye a small amount. At the same time I made small changes to the exposure. Sorry, I can't tell you exactly what - as usual, I just fiddled with it till it looked about right.

    OOPS!~ I just told a complete lie. There was no DAYLIGHT setting available to me because I didn't have the raw file! So I selected AUTO in the hope that it would be a sort of poor man's daylight. (Auto WB quite often works OK, but quite often not. Daylight is much more reliable so long as you are using natural light.) Auto gave me -35 -25 WB settings - i.e., the Camera Raw auto WB thinking engine reckons that you put in way too much yellow (35!) and way too much magenta (25). Then I adjusted by eye and wound up with -32 -33 - i.e., my eye produced a picture that was a little warmer than the AUTO version (3 clicks back towards the yellow end of the yellow-blue) and quite a lot greener (8 clicks more green/less magenta than the AUTO version).

    You can look at these numbers in a different way and, assuming that my final WB is about right, which the rock wallabies I posted links to earlier and the ones Ozzietraveller posted in this thread all seem to agree on, work the numbers backwards to say that your original raw conversion put way too much yellow and magenta in (just over 30 clicks worth of each). Or, possibly, you shot in JPG using auto WB in-camera and the camera got it wrong.

    No matter. We now have the WB right.

    At the same time, I adjusted the exposure. The first thing I did was hit AUTO to see if it looked OK (auto is always worth a try; it can save you work if the software gets it right) but it didn't. As nearly always with auto adjustments, it went too far - blacked the blacks too much, upped the contrast too far, and so on. (Why isn't there a button that says "give me auto, but only half as much of it!"?) I wound up starting with auto, then halving the black increase, reducing the "brightness", increasing the "exposure" (stupid names ACR has for those controls, they are quite confusing) and making some minor tweaks to the tone curve.



    I haven't made any other changes - no sharpening or noise reduction or anything else like that. I only used Camera Raw, not Photoshop.

    Now ......... where is our "pop"?

    I'll come to that in another post. I have to go to work now!

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    That's really really helpful thank you
    This has made me realize where I'm going wrong I'm trying to get too much pop out of the first adjustments in Bridge before I've even imported into PS

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    No expert here but this is what I would do to make the Wobbly POP, I have tried this method but have not refined it as yet.
    In cs5 select the Wobbly and sharpen it a little then invert the selection and blur the back ground a bit more that's the only method that I can think of ACC. let's see what Tony suggests
    Canon 7d efs 15-85mm, Sigma 150-500mm. Nicon coolpix 5400


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    Amor fati! ving's Avatar
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    now that WB has been settled (thnx to tony), i think duane has it right... sorta.

    in order to make something pop kyou have to watch the backgrounds. a background of a different colour would have made this little bugger pop for sure as it would have stood out like a sore thumb. unfortunately the rocks are its natural habitat and it is supposed to blend into it (reads camouflage). you could with a little effort try and blur the BG more and that could be all you are after....

    best of luck.

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    Rev 2.0
    I've used the Daylight WB advice from above and also the blurring of the background. I also used the D&B tool to lighten his face & eye

    Only I can't help but wonder if I'm still favoring a too warm WB


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    Something is seriously wrong, Jason. That's very nearly as bad as your original example.

    Maybe your monitor is way, way, way too blue (some monitors are truly dreadful out of the box) and you are getting it to look right on your screen but wrong on all the other screens out there? I don't know what else to suggest, as the colours above are hopeless.

    We need to nail this fundamental problem before you can move on to the finer touches.

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    I think I may switch to a different screen thanks for the hoist feedback
    I've got a 24" Calibrated but the calibration shows it being quite bad I'll switch to an older 19" and see how I go

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    UPDATE: we still have the WB problem, so this isn't relevant. But seeing as I have already written it (I wrote most of this yesterday), I'll post it anyway.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Well Jason, that was the good news. Now the bad news

    Where is our "pop"?

    Well, what is "pop"? Among other things, it is clarity, sharpness, brightness, contrast, and rich, eye-catching colour - all the things that make an animal stand out. And those are very things that mammals generally go to a lot of trouble to avoid!

    The last thing most mammals want is to stand out, they want to blend in, be part of the scenery. The one that stands out is the one that ends up inside the Dingo! This little rock wallaby has spent the last 20 million years learning how not to stand out! (Yes, Dingos have only been here for 5000 years, but before the first humans in Australia wiped them out there were several broadly similar native predators. And we humans have been hunting wallabies ourselves for 50,000 years.) So we shouldn't expect the same "pop" with a rock wallably that we like to see with a parrot or a honeyeater. Indeed, it would probably be doing a disservice to the creature to try too hard for "pop".

    Nevertheless, as photographers we want to see something compelling, we want something that grabs and holds the interest of the viewer. In this case we can't do it with colour or contrast - we probably can't even have the creature posed in front of a contrasting background because, as Ving points out, this dull reddish rock is its natural habitat and really ought to be part of the picture if we are serious about recording the creature as it really is.

    That leaves us with just one tool left in the post-processing drawer: depth of field. You have already used that tool in-camera by shooting wide open. As Duane suggests, you could artificially increase that effect. I'm not really in favour of that. It's a lot of work for an uncertain outcome, and is always difficult to bring off successfully.

    But why are you reaching for post-processing tools to get the standard you want? Why doesn't this delightful little creature just catch your eye as-shot?

    Because every image needs good PP? No! That is rubbish, whatever you may have read elsewhere. Good PP can be handy, but the fundamental work of making a good image takes place in-camera.

    Because it's brown and the rocks are brown? Well, yes, at least to some extent. But your subject-background separation doesn't have to be total. Subtle shades are good too.

    Because the head is soft where the body is sharp? Yes. This is where our f/2.8 has come back to bite us. I know you aimed to focus on the head, and that is exactly what you should be doing as a rule, but in this particular shot, the head is soft. It's not wildly out of focus, and maybe there is a motion component as well as a DOF component, but in the end it is not as sharp as the rest of the creature, and consciously or not, the eye knows this and slides off looking for something more compelling to fasten on. You can't fix this completely without reshooting, but you could try masking off the head and neck and selectively sharpening, then blending the two results. [i]Keep it subtle![/b] Don't over-do it.

    Because we don't have eye contact? This is the big one. This is the key. No matter what you do with sharpening and dodge and burn and colour adjustments, nothing you do in PP is going to get that rock wallaby to turn its head back towards the camera. (Nothing short of taking another picture, that is.) The reader's eye will always slide off to the right and out of the picture, looking for the satisfaction that isn't there. My guess is that a large part of what you are looking for in this picture, perhaps not entirely consciously, is actually tied up in those few degrees of head turn.

    So have we been wasting our time? No! We are learning. We are getting to grips with your WB problem and (eventually!) solving it. And everything we do with this picture will apply equally to other pictures in the same session, and to other sessions if you return to take more. So stick with it!

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    Thankyou once again some very very good info

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    Turns out some of my problems may be related to me tinkering with PS
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images...oncs4open.jpg/
    Or at lesast another issue was identified

    Thanks to Damien for helping on this one too
    Last edited by accesser; 20-07-2011 at 10:34am.

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    Nailed it! Well done gentlemen!

    With most graphics cards, you'll actually get almost perfect results on a Samsung 244t without any colour management at all. The Samsung S-PVA screens are very close to spot on straight out of the box. (Not that you would ignore callibration if you have the tools, simply that this particular screen is very, very good quality and you can get away without it - something that isn't true of 90% of monitors on the market.)

    Simple advice: get rid of that Adobe RGB setting in your camera! Unless you know exactly what you are doing and have a particular reason for it, it will only lead to tears. Meanwhile, it sounds as though Damien is giving you good advice for dealing with the present issues.

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