Orangutan and Dublin Zoo – Original and Edited

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.

Making Passport Pictures, The Hassle Free Way

We’re off on holidays soon and in my typical last-minute fashion,  I decided to check if the kid’s passports are still in date. Well, it’s a good thing I did as Adam’s passport was expiring just before we were due to set off.

Last time we got him a passport he was just 2 and I thought it would be much easier if I took the picture myself and made the passport photos. Trying to convince a 2 year old to “stand still, look at the camera, please look at the camera, Ah stand still would you? put your tongue back in, you need to do what?, alright, we’ll be back later….” didn’t fill me with joy.

To take this round of shots I just got Adam to stand in front of a white wall and used the natural light coming in from a large window nearby. Using a flash can cause red eye, bleach out parts of the skin, and worst of all, constant flashing is no fun for the child. After firing off a bunch of shots it was then time for editing. Adam could go out playing with his friends again.

Now, passport picture requirements differ from country to country so make sure you check out yours before doing this yourself. In Ireland they are pretty straight forward, 35x45mm, A light background, colour or black and white, look straight ahead etc. All pretty basic stuff. Once you know what you need, then it’s time to get editing.

I use Photoshop but you don’t need to pay out for an expensive application like that, especially now that they use a subscription model. GIMP 2.8 is a great program with the vast majority of what you need. Best of all it’s free.

First since black and white is an option for me I’ll go wth that.


There are lots of ways to convert to black and white. For me, using the channel mixer is the best for getting a lot of control without getting too finicky about it. Usually for best results, your numbers should add to 100 when using this tool so you’re not blowing out the image but if you like the results then it doesn’t matter what the settings are.


Next, I want to remove a little dribble under the nose. I do this using the clone stamp tool and copy an area of the image that matches the tone over the part I want to remove. This can take a while to get right and you are better off doing this in small steps to get it right.


The passport requirements are that the image must be a light background and a clear definition of the face must be seen. To make the image a bit more contrasty I use levels to bring up the blacks and white areas.


I like an image to be punchy so I tend to sharpen them quite a lot. This is done usng the unsharp mask


Now I’m happy with Adam in the shot,  I’m going to crop it to 35mm x 45mm and at 300 dpi.


Next I need to create an image I’ll be printing and as 6in x 4in is the common size over here I’ll create a new 6×4 blank image. Make sure your dpi matches the edited image so it will copy over and stay the same size


Now just drag and drop the passport image onto the new print a few times depending on how many you need or will fit. Flatten the image and save as a JPG for easy printing.


Down the nearest camera shop I pop and a few minutes later I have my pictures ready to go. Cost, well almost nothing as individual 6×4’s are just 40 cent near me. Adam will have a cute passport picture and it was completely fuss free.