Continuing with the theme of showing both the original and the final image, this is one that I took at Dublin Zoo over the weekend.
As you can see from the colour original it’s not the sharpest image in the world, the colours are a bit flat and there are a lot of bits of straw in the animals hair. All in all, it looks like an alright shot taken at the zoo, nothing special. Below you can see the few simple steps taken to get a better image. In general, I prefer black and white fo most things but I think it certainly works best here. The orangutan’s orange hair against the grey of the tree are not the most striking so best to get rid of them altogether.
First of all, I shoot in RAW. If you shot in JPEG you can use the channel mixer or black and white options in Photoshop. If you don’t have Photoshop, GIMP 2.8 is a great free photo editor.
When I open a RAW file in Photoshop I have a huge number of options to begin with. From here I change to black and white. As you can see in the original image, oranges and reds are very dominant so this will have the greatest effect when toggled. Change your settings until you are happy with the image. you’re not going to get it perfect here, we’ll touch up the contract later on using levels.
Next, I’ll sharpen up the image using the unsharp mask. Like I said before, I like a crisp punchy picture and tend to over sharpen, well, comparing to most people’s likes. Sharpening will increase contrast and as a result, the bits of straw on the animals hair are beginning to look a bit stark. I’ll fix those later.
At this early stage, I’ll crop away anything I don’t want. I’m not interested in fixing up anything that’s not going to be in the final image.
To increase the contrast in the overall image I’ll use levels. the histogram shows there are no true blacks. 100% black is shown on the far left of the histogram, going through to 100% white on the right. Reading the histogram we can see that there is nothing in the image that is 100% black, some very very dark greys but no black. To increase the contract I’ll move the slider in a bit so what was almost black is now black. The eyes, under the chin and darkest shadows are now black and the image overall looks a bit better.
One of the downsides are the bits of straw in the hair really stand out and look a bit out of place. I’ll remove those using the clone stamp tool. I don’t want to remove them all, I don’t want him looking perfectly clean. I’ve also cleaned up some of the bits of food on his lips.
And that’s it. A soft, flat and, sorry Mr Orangutan, not very colourfully appealing image looks better as a tighter, sharper black and white in a few simple steps.