Building on my last post about the benefits of using a flash bracket I thought that I would post about some of the techniques that I use to “clean up” the eyes of the birds that I photograph using Adobe Photoshop.
Before moving forward it is important to recognize that, in most cases, the birds eye is where our attention isfocusedin the photograph. It is what is compelling and draws us in. So it is very important that the eye looks as natural as is possible.Let’s take a quick look at an image where two quick edits in Photoshop can really improve the eye of the bird.
Problem #1 – Strange catch lights from the flash
We often encounter problems from unnatural looking flash catch-lights in the birds eye. This can happen even when using a flash bracket. It may be that there is a natural catch light from the sky or sun and then a second catch light from the flash. Depending on the image this could look very strange. Luckily this is usually a very easy fix (especially if you used a flash bracket).
In Photoshop – Simply zoom in on the eye and clone out the undesired catch light. You could use the clone brush or the patch tool to achieve this. Note that sometimes you simply want tore-positionthe catch light and in this case you could use the patch tool but on the “destination” instead of the “source” setting. You would then select the area of the catch light, left click and hold, and drag the catch-light to a more desirable position. You could then switch back to “source” and remove the original catch light.
Problem #2 – Noise and “murky” looking eyes
One of the edits that I often make to my bird images is to remove the noise from the birds eyes. If you think about it when you look at an animals eye it looks clear and shiny. But because birds eyes are often black or dark brown they often accumulate some digital noise (due to the fact that they can easily become underexposed).
An easy fix for this is to simply select the birds eye using one of the various selection tools (perhaps the elliptical marquee tool). Next you will want to feather the selection by a few pixels. Then simply use the noise reduction filter on a moderate setting (Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise). This should really help to make the birds eye look more natural.
A second step that you may wish to perform here is to actually darken up the birds pupil. Pupils should look very dark and not have anynoticeablenoise. Because of this you may wish to select just the pupil, feather the selection, and then darken the pupil through a levels adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels).
Lets take a look at an example of a before and after…