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Enhancing Nature Photos in Photoshop

Photoshop is the nature photographer's friend. While you're at the mercy of the elements when you're shooting outdoors, you can correct for nature's mistakes when you get back inside, at your computer.

Cropping Wildlife Shots

Photoshop's Crop tool is useful when you're shooting wildlife shots. With active animals, it isn't always possible to keep them properly framed; you may not be able to get close enough to them for a proper composition. As you can see in Figure 23.15, this is where the Crop tool comes in. Crop the photo to make the animal larger in the frame, or to provide better composition. It's not cheating.

Figure 23.15

Figure 23.15 Crop a shot to better frame an animal—in this case, a seal at play in the ocean.

Correcting Exposure in Landscapes

Cropping generally isn't a problem with landscape photography, but exposure is. Here's the problem—if you expose for the sky, the foreground is too dark; if you expose for the foreground, the sky is too bright. Unless you use a graduated filter on your camera, you end up with half your photo either under- or overexposed.

The solution is to adjust the exposure for the bad part of the shot in Photoshop. Select that area of the photo you need to fix, and then add an adjustment layer to adjust either exposure, brightness/contrast, or levels.

I prefer to adjust the exposure. After selecting the area to fix (using whatever selection tool you prefer), select Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Exposure; when the Exposure dialog box appears, move the Exposure slider to the left (to decrease the exposure and darken the selected area) or to the right (to increase the exposure and lighten the selected area). Figure 23.16 shows the before and after effect, in this instance adjusting the exposure for an overexposed background.

Figure 23.16

Figure 23.16 Fix an overexposed background (top) by editing only that area of the photograph (bottom).

Depending on the particular photograph, you may get better results by adjusting the levels of the selected area. In this instance, select Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Levels; when the Levels dialog box appears, adjust the shadows and highlights sliders as necessary.

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