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26/09/2015 - 12:30 PM

Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-breasted rollerIt doesn't look too bad, in fact better than my old Canon 7D in most cases.

I would suggest using f5.6 to f8 at the short end of your zoom and f8 to f11 at the long end of the zoom. This is because most lenses used for full frame or APS-C sized sensors are sharpest closed down by one or two stops. A consumer grade lens will not be at its sharpest wide open or shot at its longest focal length. In the case of your lens it will probably be sharpest at 55mm and still usefully sharp at around 150-170mm.

The shutter speed seems high enough to reduce camera shake but be careful about your hand-holding technique if you suspect this may be the issue.

23/05/2015 - 7:27 PM

web on petal

web on petalThe photo is at least 2 full stops under exposed, according to the histogram. This means either shooting at ISO 1600 rather than ISO 400 or shooting at 1/8th of a second at ISO 400 instead of 1/30th to achieve a correctly exposed photo.

My main criticism is the very poor lighting leading to an unsuitable ISO and shutter speed combination. If you have flash then use it and modify it using reflectors and/or a diffuser to light the flower more sympathetically.

The cobweb is a distraction as it isn't a good example of a picturesque orb web. It's just a lumpy line of web. If the web is important then find a perfect example of one and, possibly, spray water on it to make it more visible.

Always use a tripod if you have one. This will reduce camera shake, making your photos sharper and allow for longer shutter speeds, if necessary. Hand holding at macro magnifications can only be successful if the shutter speed is high enough or you are skillful with perfect technique.

When I do macro photos I use a sturdy tripod, reflectors and a cable release to reduce camera shake. The selection of the subject is very important and I usually look for perfect or unusual specimens. If there are insects or bits of leaf litter on the plant then remove them. They will not improve your photo.

This is only an opinion and not meant to offend.

04/11/2014 - 9:00 PM

Bewick's Swan

Bewick's SwanThis is a very good close shot of the swan.

I altered the white balance to warm up the photo a little bit.

There is a green line of CA around the back of the head of the swan. I chose a Saturation layer and desaturated the green colour. If there was more green in the photo I'd have used a layer mask to protect the green I would not have wanted to desaturate.

I thought the beak had more detail to show, so I processed the photo again and increased the exposure very slightly and upped the Shadows slider in PS Bridge. This allowed the detail to come through but it needed a slight increase in contrast, which I did. I then placed this version on top of the first version and added a black layer mask to the top layer. I painted white on the mask to expose the lighter beak and reveal the detail.

I selectively sharpened the eye, beak, water drops and in focus feathers.

You've taken a good photo and my processing for the mod isn't necessary, it just shows that it can be tweaked if you wish.

10/08/2014 - 1:41 PM

A Not So Golden Eagle

A Not So Golden EagleI like the very close portrait shot you've taken. It could be the cover of a book.

The mono is a good idea, but ( imo ), I think the b/g and the bird's feathers could be darkened further so the lightness of the beak and eye create a greater impact for the viewer.

06/04/2014 - 7:00 PM

Fort st Elmo

Fort st ElmoThe horizon is off, as spotted by Nick, so I straightened it and the wall line below it by making a rectangular selection of the area and Free Transforming it with the Warp tool. This means the rest of the brickwork doesn't need to move and remains horizontal.

I sharpened just the wall and left the sky, sea and b/g alone using a layer mask.

I very slightly coloured the lights with yellow and the darks with blue to give it a warm/cool bias.

This may or may not work and is only a possibility for processing this image.

I think this is a strong, graphic photo.

21/03/2014 - 6:36 AM

Laura's eyes.

Laura's eyes.The mod's a bit late but I had a go at retouching the face and hair to sort out some blemishes and stray hairs. I lightened the face and eyes and darkened the top part of the hair. I sharpened the eyes, lips and hair.

11/03/2014 - 6:39 PM

Still Life with Pearls

Still Life with PearlsLooking at your exif data you used a 40mm lens, which I'm assuming is the one I've linked to below.

Micro Nikkor AF-S DX 40mm f/2.8 G

If you have a look at the MTF graph ( this gives an indication of lens sharpness ), you'll see that at f22 there is very little sharpness left. This is due to lens diffraction and happens to all lenses at high f-stops. The DOF will be greater at f22 so more will be in focus, but due to diffraction this gain is wiped out by a lack of sharpness.

Where you choose to focus can have an affect on your front to back sharpness. Simply speaking, acceptable sharpness ( DOF ) extends both in front of and behind the plane of focus, roughly, a third in front of and two thirds behind the plane of focus. You could try focussing to a point about a third of the way into the photo and taking a photo. See if this helps to get everything in focus.

You may find it better to use an aperture of f8-f11 for a sharper photo. If you want front to back sharpness you can take more than one photo at different focal points in the set up and process them in Photoshop or Focus Stacking software.

Focus Stacking.

Another explanation of Focus Stacking by someone we may all knowSmile
23/02/2014 - 2:01 PM

Nail art

Nail artTo start with I think this is an excellent photo. The idea and execution are very good. It does look obviously processed, but it's perfect in the context of where it's most likely to be seen, which is advertising and magazines.

I have done a mod, so there were a couple of things I thought could clean up the photo.

The first was to clean some small blemishes on the skin using the clone stamp tool and the healing brush.

The next was to clean up all the stray and angled strands of hair. This was done using the healing brush and clone stamp tool.

One thing that seemed to draw my eye were the small shadows on the model's knuckles. I lightened these so they weren't so eye catching.

The exposure and shadows were upped very slightly.

Above both brows there is a patch of yellowish colour that doesn't fit with the rest of the colour and tones in the skin. I selected both areas and changed the tone and colour using curves, going into each channel to modify the curve. The selection was feathered so the changes blended into the rest of the skin tones.

The eyelashes on the left have a light patch showing which looks as if it needs another lash to fill the space. I selected an eyelash, duplicated it ( Ctrl J ) so it appeared on its own layer and moved it into position over the small space on the eyeline. I used the transform tool and rotated and scaled the lash to fit. I then used a layer mask to modify the edges so it blended with the rest of the eyelashes.

The lips were lightened along the highlight line and darkened in the shadow areas. This, I hope, gives the lips more of a full, rounded look.

I finally sharpened the details and left the skin and soft areas alone using a layer mask. I may have overdone the sharpening now I come to look at the mod.

These are only suggestions and by no means right or wrong.

08/02/2014 - 10:56 AM

Speed Limit Shadows

Speed Limit ShadowsThe histogram indicated this was under exposed by a full stop, although the green channel was almost over exposed. If you use a Hue and Saturation adjustment layer you can choose the over exposed colour and slide the Luminance slider to the left to darken it to the point at which it is no longer over exposed. Some other adjustments may be needed to keep the colour relationships together, but this is done by desaturating or increasing saturation, changing the Hue of individual colours or playing with the Luminance slider.

I also cloned out the lamp post under the 30 MPH sign.

26/01/2014 - 8:13 AM


RobinI think this is a good initial capture but could be improved a little with some processing.

I reduced the contrast, desaturated the b/g slightly, reduced the noise in the b/g, added a slight vignette, sharpened just the Robin and stump and finally, selectively sharpened the small feather details on the Robin.

25/01/2014 - 1:14 PM

Blue Tits

Blue TitsFirstly, the photo I did a mod for was under exposed. This is because your camera meter was fooled by the brightness of the sky. In a situation like this dial in some positive exposure compensation so it lightens the image. Always look at the histogram ( which is only a representation of the tonal values in that image ) to see where the bulk of the tones are. If they are bunched to the left, this means the image will be mostly dark. If they are bunched to the right, then the image will be mostly light. The idea is to get the histogram as far right as you can WITHOUT blowing the highlights. If you see a sharp spike on the right and 'blinkeys', then the image is over exposed. Either dial back the exposure compensation or adjust the exposure via the shutter speed or aperture to darken the photo so the spike on the histogram lowers.

I use AV ( aperture priority ) for almost all my photography as I find the DOF is what I'm largely trying to control. If I want higher shutter speeds I know I need a wide aperture and maybe an increase in the ISO. This is why I never use shutter priority.

The photo was cropped, had a slight white balance adjustment, a decrease in the contrast, an exposure adjustment to lighten it and sharpened.

The lens you're using will be a little soft at the widest aperture of f5.6 and at 300mm. To get the best out of this lens it may be sharper at f8-f11 and at a focal length of between 250mm-280mm. Most lenses, no matter how much they cost, will be sharpest stopped down by one or two stops. Also, consumer lenses tend to be sharper at the shorter end of their zoom range and softer at the long end, that's why going for 250mm-280mm instead of the full 300mm will yield slightly sharper photos.

Hope this helps,

11/01/2014 - 9:05 PM


TurnstoneIn the mod I upped the exposure, protecting the highlights, then I reduced the grain in the background and the foreground. I used a black layer mask then painted the b/g and f/g with a white brush to soften these areas.

I thought the photo had too much contrast which was 'clumping' the shadows. When the contrast was reduced it showed more detail in the photo and gives it ( imo ) a more pleasant feel to the light.

I sharpened the bird and the in focus pebbles only.

I think the low POV, light and composition are spot on.

31/12/2013 - 3:05 PM

Gundogs in training

Gundogs in trainingI think the shot is excellent and is a great silhouette but I would say it has been over-sharpened as there are obvious white lines around every part of the silhouette. This shows clearly in the grasses and has had a detrimental effect on the look of them.

As the contrast between the darks and lights are going to be high enough to start with the photo will only need minimal sharpening.

This is only an opinion and not meant to offend.

23/12/2013 - 3:53 PM


snowI have changed the colour balance to make the snow look white, reducing the blue colour cast and I've increased the exposure to make it look lighter and not so grey or under exposed.

When photographing snow or anything very light in tone your meter will be fooled and expose as if it were a scene of mid grey. This leads to slight under exposure and your snow will look darker than it should be. If you dial in some +ve exposure compensation of between 1 and 2 stops your snow will be lighter and look more natural to the eye.

22/12/2013 - 12:59 PM

Fennel Blue Tit 2

Fennel Blue Tit 2I think all this needs is the left side and bottom cropped slightly and the exposure of the dark and mid tones lightened a little. The histogram shows most of the tonal information is to the left of the graph indicating an under exposed photo. You can use the Shadows/Highlights tool in PS to open up the shadows and the exposure tool to lighten the exposure globally. A layer mask can be used to protect the highlights, which will be close to being blown out if not careful.

The noise in the b/g can be dealt with by reducing the noise then adding a layer mask and painting out the bird, perch and anything else that has detail.

I have been told by various bird photographers that shutter speed is everything and that 1/1000th sec is the lowest speed you should aim for. Obviously if conditions and camera settings don't allow then go for the highest speed you can get away with and still come back with a decent shot.

I find that there are times when a bird will pause to listen or stop its frenetic activity for a time and this, if it can be anticipated, is a good time to take a photo.

Looking at your other bird photos it seems that your focus is generally pretty good. I wouldn't expect to get 100% of my shots to come out perfectly focussed so there are always a percentage that miss the mark. If your camera has the option of microadjusting the focus for your camera and lens then use it. It works and stops front or back focussing issues with your equipment.

As with most things it comes down to practice and analysing why some photos don't work and why some do.

This is an excellent site that will give far better info than I can give you on all aspects of bird photography and processing.
08/12/2013 - 9:25 PM

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed GullThe photo needs straightening. You can gauge how much it needs straightening by using the ripples made by the gull. Looking from the top a ripple will be a perfect circle. Once the plane of view becomes inclined that circle will look like an ellipse. An ellipse has a major and minor axis, shown in the second mod. The axes should be at 90 degrees to each other and the major axis should be horizontal. If you look at the third example on the mod then you can see the major axis is at an angle and, therefore, not level. The fourth example shows a view that is from a shallower angle of view than the second so the ellipse is flatter looking. The major axis is still horizontal, so the photo is level.

01/12/2013 - 10:50 AM

Wintery lakeside walk

Wintery lakeside walkI feel this would be a stronger image if it were cropped from the bottom and the light poles were cloned out. The inclusion and placement of the figure is very good and helps give a sense of scale and animation to the silhouette.

20/06/2013 - 6:36 PM

Male Greenfinch

Male GreenfinchA lovely shot.

If it's just the yellows that are OE then use a Saturation layer, choose the yellows and use the luminance slider to lower the lightness of the yellows. The other colours won't be affected. You need to be able to balance the reduction in brightness of the yellows to the other colours so it still looks natural.

30/03/2013 - 11:04 AM

new and old

new and oldI have to disagree with the others comments and say this is an alright photo that has been ruined by an incredible amount of over sharpening. The halos are some of the most extreme I've seen for ages. Every bit of detail has a white line around it, particularly around the roof tops and the bushes on the right side on the horizon.

If you toned down the sharpening this could be a decent photo and would be better as a high contrast mono imo. There is obviously a lot of detail to be had in the original file, it's just you need to coax it out rather than give it a high dose of gamma radiation.

Try selective sharpening using a layer mask to target the sharpening to the houses and grasses. The clouds don't need sharpening as they're supposed to be soft looking. By sharpening everything you have increased the graininess in the clouds giving the perception of increased noise.

There are also two dark spots in the sky which I feel could do with cloning out.

Sorry to sound negative about this, but if you can control the sharpening then you'll have a good photo.

This is only an opinion and not meant to offend.

Huge bug on an everglades tree!This is underexposed by around one and a half to one and three quarter stops judging by the histogram. It's also not pin sharp so the focus is either slightly off or there is some camera shake. Not too bad though. If your shutter speed is looking a bit low then up the ISO to 400-800. This will raise the SS to 1/250th to 1/500th of a second. This will minimize camera shake. I think it needed a boost in contrast and saturation. The mod shows this and the increase in exposure.